China's Compulsory Education: Primary to Junior High - Research Paper

Paper Type:  Research proposal
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1403 Words
Date:  2023-03-22


The education system in China requires all students to complete compulsory basic education, which begins from primary school to junior high school. The majority of students take six years in primary school, but a few others attend primary schools using a five-year cycle (Andersson & Nordstrom, 2014). Most children begin primary school at the age of six (Wang, 2013). Many of them go through the pre-school before joining a primary school, though it is not a mandatory requirement. Students who complete primary school attend junior secondary for three or four years.

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China has well-established regulations and laws upon which its education policy and practice are based. The legislations are often drafted by the Ministry of Education, which submits them to the National People's Congress for approval. The State Council passes the law after its adoption (Li & Li, 2019). Finally, the National People's Congress leads to formalization and implementation of the policies.

Research Questions

  • What are the trends of Chinese primary education policy and practice?
  • What are the rationality and challenges of Chinese primary education policy development and practice?
  • What are the views of primary school teachers in China about the practice in the country?

Research Objectives

  • To explore the trends of Chinese primary education policy and practice
  • To determine the rationality and challenges of the Chinese primary education policy development and practice
  • To assess the perception of Chinese primary school teachers about the practice in China

Literature Review

Trends of Chinese Primary Education Policy

In 1986, China enacted the Compulsory Education Law, which has been a significant milestone for its education system (Viennet & Pont, 2017). The law made primary school and junior high school education compulsory for all children with Chinese nationality within the school-going age. It assigns the parents the responsibility to ensure that their children complete the first nine years of schooling. The law described school rules for learning and teaching. It also outlines the legal roles of social sectors as well as education financing. According to Zou (2019), China revised the law in 2006 to exempt all students in primary schools from paying tuition and miscellaneous fees (Wang, 2013). Moreover, Zou (2019) stated that in 2015, it was further revised to stipulate that booksellers have to only price textbooks at a marginal profit.

Sometimes, the Chinese government uses regulations to supplement education laws. For example, in 1995, it issued the Regulations on the Qualifications of Teachers to supplement Teachers Law of the People's Republic of China (Li, 2017). The regulation detailed the more acceptable standards of teaching prerequisites, exams, credentials, and qualifications. The law also enabled the practical implementation of the policy.

The Ministry of Education developed a new system for basic education relevant in the 21st century in 2005 (Shparyk, 2018). It allowed children to enroll in primary schools at the ages of six or seven. It also universalized compulsory education, doing away with entrance examinations for primary school graduates joining junior high school. However, students are still expected to take end-of-semester examinations at both levels. The Chinese language and mathematics are the only compulsory subjects in primary schools.

Trends of Chinese Primary Education Practice

Primary schools in China have two semesters in a school year. Each primary school year runs for 38 weeks of teaching, one reserve week, and 13 weeks of vacations and holidays (, 2019). In all primary schools in China, each teaching week comprises of five days. Since 1993, primary schools began to follow the Full-time Primary Teaching Scheme that outlines the arrangements of teaching subjects and their syllabuses. The scheme has two categories of subjects - those that are locally arranged and those arranged by the state (Zhou, 2011). Provincial authorities determined the locally-arranged subjects to reflect their local needs and realities.

The 1986 Law on Compulsory Education codifies respect for teachers from the entire society. China gave the Teachers Law in 1993, which did not only state teachers' responsibilities but also guaranteed protection for their rights (Shen, 1994). The profession is mostly popular in big cities despite the moderate payment because teachers' jobs are stable and they attract good benefits. According to the 2014 national statistics, China now has about 5.6 million primary school teachers working on a full-time basis (National Bureau of Statistics of China, 2014).

Rationale and Challenges of Chinese Primary Education Policy Practice

The critical themes upon which China's recent education policy development has been based were conceptualized on a rationality framework. The rational thinking approach comes from economic models. Rationality refers to value-maximizing, logical choice under specific constraints (Allison and Zelikow, 1999). The rational framework is based on the assumption that in the process of making, implementing, and evaluating policy behaviors are at least rational.

Developing rational education policies goes hand in hand with the broader context of pervasive neoliberal managerialism, accountability movement, and globalization. It is sometimes malignant and sometimes benign to the development of education.

Since 2000, the makers of education policy in China have consistently made five-year national educational development plans (Thomas, 2010). According to Ranjan and Prakash (2012), China borrowed this planning system from the former Soviet Union. The plans include the national budget, the educational agenda, and a five-year cycle evaluation of educational outcomes.

At the same time, other nationwide initiatives to change education have their goal setting, policy formulation, problem identification, and policy guidelines shaped by rationality. For example, China repeatedly highlighted the "Scientific Framework of Development" notion in nearly all its national educational policy actions.

Significance of the Study

The Chinese government highly values education. It believes that education is the foundation of modernization and development. Since it has a large and complex education system, China regards its education policies as effective ways of monitoring and steering implementation and practice (Li, 2017). The laws and regulations enable the government to safeguard access to education and ensure that its quality is high. This study will enable policymakers and practitioners in Chinese primary schools to evaluate the appropriateness of the current policies by looking at their rationality and challenges. It also highlights the perception of teachers, who are the ones legally charged with the responsibility of implementing education. The outcome of the study can, therefore, highlight important areas that might need improvement in the national education system.

Research Methodology

The proposed study will use mixed research methods because it will be based on both quantitative and qualitative data (McKim, 2016). The target population of the study is a primary school in China. The researcher will use purposive sampling to select a sample of participants that represents the whole country. The researcher will use the survey method to collect qualitative data from teachers in the selected schools (Cohen, Manion, & Morrison, 2013). Given the fairly large number of teachers that will participate in the study, the research will use questionnaires to collect data from the participants. Besides the questionnaires, the study will collect and review quantitative data of selected primary schools and their respective local Ministry of Education departments.


Allison, G. T., and P. D. Zelikow. 1999. Essence of decision: Explaining the Cuban missile crisis (2nd ed.). New York: Longman.

Andersson, F., & Nordstrom, E. (2014). How the educational system in China is designed. (2019). 9-year Compulsory Education. Retrieved from

Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2013). Research Methods in Education. London, England: Routledge.

Li, J. (2017). Educational Policy Development in China for the 21st Century: Rationality and Challenges in a Globalizing Age. Chinese Education & Society, 50(3), 133-141. doi:10.1080/10611932.2017.1330992

Li, J., & Li, J. (2019). Educational Policy Development in China in the 21st Century: A Multi-Flows Approach. Beijing International Review of Education, 1(1), 196-220. doi:10.1163/25902547-00101014

McKim, C. A. (2016). The Value of Mixed Methods Research. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 11(2), 202-222. doi:10.1177/1558689815607096

Ranjan, P., & Prakash, N. (2012). Education policies and practices: What have we learnt and the road ahead for Bihar.

Shen, J. (1994). Educational policy in the People's Republic of China: a political influence perspective. Journal of Education Policy, 9(1), 1-13. doi:10.1080/0268093940090101

Shparyk, O. M. (2018). China's school system: contemporary state and lines of development. Ukrayinskii pedagogicnii zurnal, 3, 5-13.

Thomas, S. B. (1950). Recent Educational Policy in China. Pacific Affairs, 23(1), 21. doi:10.2307/2753752

Viennet, R., & Pont, B. (2017). Education Policy Implementation: A Literature Review and Proposed Framework. OECD Education Working Papers, No. 162. OECD Publishing.

Wang, Y. (2013). Education Policy Reform Trends in G20 Members. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-38931-3

Zhou, X. (2011). Early Childhood Education Policy Development in China. International Journal of Child Care and Education Policy, 5(1), 29-39. doi:10.1007/2288-6729-5-1-29

Zou, Y. (2019). OECD and educational policy in China. In The OECD's Historical Rise in Education (pp. 155-173). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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