Live from China: Education
Dr. Salehuddin Ahmed
Since we started living in Beijing on December 1, 2009, I have been trying to understand the Education System of China. Today let me brief you on what I have gathered and understood so far.
In China, education is divided into three categories: basic education, higher education, and adult education. The Compulsory Education Law stipulates that each child has nine years of formal education. This law was passed in 1986. The present Adult Literacy Rate in China is 95% (Male 97%, Female 93%).
Basic education in China includes pre-school, primary and regular secondary education.
Preschool, or kindergarten, can last up to three years, with children entering as early as age three, until age six, when they typically enter elementary school.
Secondary education is divided into academic secondary and specialized/vocational/technical secondary. Primary and Secondary education take a total of 12 years. Technical education can vary from 2 to 4 years.
Higher education at the undergraduate level ranges from two to four years. Universities and Colleges offer programmes in both academic and vocational subjects. Many colleges and universities also offer graduate programmes leading to the Master's and Ph.D. degrees.
The adult education overlaps all of the above categories. Adult primary education includes Workers' Primary Schools, Farmers' (Peasants') Primary Schools, and literacy classes. Adult secondary education includes radio/TV specialized secondary schools for cadres, for staff and workers and for peasants. There are in-service teacher training schools and correspondence specialized secondary schools. Adult higher education is provided through radio/TV universities, cadre institutes, workers' colleges, peasant colleges, correspondence colleges, and educational colleges. Most of the above offer both two-and three-year short-cycle curricula; only a few also offer regular undergraduate curricula.
Let me focus on the Higher Education in China. China has been emphasizing higher education for the last several of decades after they opened up and took reform measures. The goal of the Education Policy of Chinese Government is to eradicate illiteracy, alongside intensive support and promotion of technical and vocational education.
To provide the country with needed knowledge and skills they have employed state-of-the-art educational facilities to a batch of 100 top universities in China (Programme 211, which is interpreted as "21" for 21st. Century and "1" for 100 universities). The universities are spread all over China. There are more than 2000 colleges and universities in China. These higher educational institutions are administered through a unified control system by the Central Government and managed at two levels: the Central Government and the Provincial governments.
China encourages international students to study in the Universities and Colleges. However, as the medium of instruction is Chinese, any student willing to study in China has to learn Chinese language at least for a year full time and pass the Chinese Language Proficiency test called the HSK test, similar to TOEFL for English, before they start the main course in a university. As I mentioned in previous write-ups, the Chinese language is difficult, but from my experience of learning this fascinating language, it is not so difficult for Bengalis, because our Bangla language is very rich, and we have many sounds in it, allowing our tongue to be quite flexible in adopting foreign sounds and syllables. However, learning a language means progressive practice. One has to work very hard to learn Chinese. There are no short cuts.
I was looking at a ranking of top 100 universities in China. Let me mention the top 10 : 1)Tsinghua University, Beijing, 2) Beijing University, 3) Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, 4) Shanghai Jiao Tong University, 5) Nanjing University, 6) Fudan University, Shanghai, 7) University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, 8) Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, 9) Huazhong University of Science and Technology and 10) Wuhan University. The last two are in Wuhan city. Tsinghua and Beijing Universities are the top two Universities in China, and Beijing (Peking) University is known as the Harvard of China, while Tsinghua is the MIT. Many of the universities in China provide comprehensive education in Arts, Science, Medicine, Engineering etc.
Economically speaking, it is much cheaper to study in China than in the West and the standard of education is very high. But one needs to muster Chinese language skills to really absorb high quality education in China. For international students (undergraduate), annual fees are around 20 to 40 thousand Yuan (¥1=Tk.10) depending on the subject one is going to study. Fees for Masters programmes would be higher. However, fees for studying in MBA, Law, Architecture are very high. Dormitory charges would be around 12 thousand Yuan per year. To cover for food and miscellaneous you can add another 3000 Yuan per year. Let me also clarify that accommodation costs would be much lower in the cities other than Beijing and Shanghai. In China, everyone has to pay for their study in a University or College. Of course, that is much less than what foreign students pay. However, the government and the universities have a large number of scholarships and financial aid for the students who are coming from low income groups or areas, and students who are meritorious and deserving.
There are several options for foreign students in China to get full or partial scholarships. The majority of scholarships are provided by the China Scholarship Council (CSC) of the government. Then city governments and universities also have scholarship schemes. Information technology is profusely used in China, so the best thing for students eager to study in China would be to visit the websites of the government and the universities. All information is available there. Then, of course,the Chinese Embassy or the Confucius Institutes in the countries concerned can also assist in providing genuine information about education programmes. It is to be noted that there are no private mechanisms to come to China and study. One has to go through the government of China. Universities and Confucius Institutes are also government institutions. Therefore, one should be aware that private institutions promising to provide information on Chinese education may not have up-to-date or accurate information.
I have tried to provide a brief overview of the education system of China. For students coming to study in China, they will surely be able to broaden their horizons, increase their knowledge, and learn from the history and culture of China. Students will also learn about other countries from the international student body that they are bound to meet here. This process would be enlightening for any individual, and I believe it will increase their worth and enhance their future careers.
Dr Salehuddin Ahmed is Chief Technical Advisor, IPRCC-International Poverty Reduction Centre in China,
Beijing, February 22, 2010
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