Education in China: How does it work?

Education system in China

The education in China is best characterized by a strict primary & secondary education as well as a relatively flexible tertiary education. That means primary schools and secondary schools have stringent rules, whereas universities in China encourage creativity more frequently.

That being said, Chinese schools don’t really expect foreign teachers to worry about their strict rules at school.

To take a more holistic view, there are mainly four school types:

Most public schools in China offer high-quality education

Public schools in China

Unlike public schools in western countries, the majority of Chinese public schools are great places for kids to study.

In western countries such as the United States and Australia, public schools are generally for those who can’t afford to go to private schools. In contrast, a very good public school in China is for students who are academically outstanding.

Private schools are very expensive in China

Private schools in China

In fact, there aren’t many private schools in China. More specifically, private schools are for the elite in the Chinese society, but it doesn’t mean these children are better in terms of academic achievements.

Usually, it only means their rich and famous parents are too busy to look after their kids, so they send their kids to private schools where everything is taken care of.

–> Public School vs Private School: A Teacher’s Real Experience

In China, international schools are similar to western schools

International schools in China

Most international schools in China are very similar to western schools in many ways, e.g. the curriculum is more western; the methodology is also more western. That’s because students from international schools will study in western countries when they go to university.

Having said that, students’ workload in a typical international school in China is still more than students’ workload in a western school. But if you are a foreign teacher, your workload shouldn’t be affected in an international school in China.

Training institutes are the most flexible schools in China

Language institutes in China

A training institute isn’t a mainstream school because it’s actually a company. For example, the most common training institutes in China are English training companies. But oftentimes, these institutes are called “schools”. They provide English language programs for learners from different backgrounds. Some of their students are kids; some of their students are adults.

If you work for a training institute, chances are you will need to work at night and on weekends because your students probably have to go to school or go to work from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. In other words, your students can only go to the training institute in their spare time. 

–> The Truth About Teaching English in China

–> 10 Things I Wish I Knew About Teaching in China


No matter which school type you teach in China, you’ll encounter hard-working students who are mostly respectful towards teachers. Often, you’ll be impressed with how much they can sacrifice in order to get a good score.

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