6.2 Education and Work Culture in China

7 min readjanuary 3, 2023



AP Chinese  🇨🇳

53 resources
See Units

Education in China

China's education system is characterized by a strong emphasis on academic achievement and a competitive entrance examination system for tertiary education. Its highly organized and structured system that aims to provide education to all citizens. It is divided into three main levels: primary, secondary, and higher education.
Primary education in China typically begins at the age of six and lasts for six years (grades 1 to 6). It is compulsory for all children and is free of charge. During this time, students learn basic subjects such as Chinese language, mathematics, science, and social studies.
Secondary education in China is divided into junior and senior levels. Junior secondary education lasts for three years (grades 7 to 9) and is also compulsory for all children. Senior secondary education (grades 10 to 12) lasts for an additional three years and is not compulsory, but it is required for admission to higher education. During this time, students can choose to specialize in a particular subject or area of study.
The Chinese education system places a strong emphasis on rote learning and memorization, and students are expected to study hard and perform well on exams. The national college entrance examination, known as the gaokao, is a highly competitive and stressful event that determines which university a student can attend. Students typically begin preparing for the gaokao in middle school and spend long hours studying and attending after-school classes.
In addition to the public education system, China also has a growing private education sector, which includes both private schools and tutoring centers. Many parents choose to enroll their children in private schools or hire private tutors in an effort to give them a competitive edge in the highly competitive education system.
The Chinese education system is highly centralized and controlled by the government, with a focus on academic achievement and preparing students for the workforce.

China’s University Entrance Exam: Gaokao

The gaokao, also known as the National Higher Education Entrance Examination, is a standardized test that is administered annually in China to all high school students who wish to apply to a university or other higher education institution. The test covers a wide range of subjects, including mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, literature, history, and politics. The test is highly competitive and is considered to be a major determinant of a student's future success and social status.
The gaokao is typically taken by high school students at the end of their senior year, and is a critical factor in the admissions process for universities in China. Students typically begin preparing for the gaokao in middle school and spend long hours studying and attending after-school classes. The test is administered over the course of two days, and scores are used to determine which universities a student is eligible to attend.
The gaokao is highly stressful for students and their families, as it is seen as a critical opportunity for students to secure a place at a good university and improve their future prospects. The test has been criticized for placing a heavy emphasis on rote learning and memorization, and for the high level of pressure and stress it places on students. Despite these criticisms, the gaokao remains an important and influential part of the Chinese education system.
If a student does not do well on the gaokao, they may not be eligible to attend the university of their choice or may not be accepted to any university at all. This can be a significant disappointment for students and their families, as the gaokao is seen as a critical opportunity for students to secure a place at a good university and improve their future prospects.
However, it is important to note that not doing well on the gaokao does not necessarily mean that a student's educational or career aspirations have to come to an end. There are other options available to students who do not do well on the gaokao, such as attending a vocational school or enrolling in a two-year associate degree program at a junior college. Some students may also choose to take a gap year or retake the gaokao the following year in an effort to improve their scores.
It is also possible for students to attend universities outside of China, although this may not be a practical option for everyone due to the cost and other logistical considerations. Ultimately, the decision about what to do after not doing well on the gaokao will depend on the individual student's circumstances and goals.

Education in Rural China

In China, education in rural areas can differ from education in urban areas in terms of access, resources, and quality.
Rural students may face challenges in getting to schools, as some rural areas may not have good transportation infrastructure. This can make it difficult for students to get to school, particularly if they live a long distance from the nearest school.
Rural schools may not have the same level of resources as urban schools. This can include things like textbooks, computers, and other teaching materials. Rural schools may also have fewer teachers, which can lead to larger class sizes and less individualized attention for students.
There can be discrepancies between the quality of education in rural and urban areas. Urban schools may have more experienced and well-trained teachers, as well as access to more advanced teaching resources and facilities. As a result, urban students may have a higher level of education compared to rural students.
That being said, the Chinese government has made efforts in recent years to improve education in rural areas and to reduce the gap between rural and urban education. These efforts include investing in teacher training, building new schools, and providing scholarships to rural students.

Work Culture in China

China's work culture is shaped by a variety of factors, including the country's history, economic development, and cultural values. Some key characteristics of China's work culture include:
  • Emphasis on hierarchy: Chinese organizations tend to be hierarchical, with a clear chain of command and a strong emphasis on respect for authority. Employees are expected to show respect for their superiors and to follow orders and directives.
  • Strong emphasis on work ethic: Chinese workers are generally known for their strong work ethic and dedication to their jobs. Many people in China work long hours and put in extra effort to ensure that tasks are completed on time and to the highest standards.
  • Collectivism: Chinese culture tends to emphasize collectivism and the importance of group harmony. In the workplace, this can manifest as a focus on teamwork and cooperation, and a willingness to put the needs of the group ahead of individual interests.
  • Respect for tradition: Chinese culture values tradition and the importance of maintaining social norms. This can influence the way that business is conducted in China, with a strong emphasis on protocol and etiquette.
  • Focus on relationships: Building and maintaining relationships is an important aspect of business in China. In many cases, personal connections and trust are seen as more important than formal contracts or agreements.
China's work culture is shaped by a mix of traditional cultural values and the demands of a rapidly modernizing and globalizing economy.

Work-Life Balance in China

Work-life balance in China can be challenging for many people, as the country's work culture is often demanding and many people work long hours. The concept of work-life balance is not as well-established in China as it is in some other countries, and many people in China may not have the same expectations around work-life balance as their counterparts in other countries. This can make it difficult for some people to achieve a satisfactory balance between their work and personal lives.
The lack of work-life balance can be clearly shown in the controversial 996 working hour system. 996 work culture refers to a work schedule in which employees are expected to work from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., six days a week. This work schedule is seen as particularly demanding and is not the norm in China, but it has been reported in some high-tech companies and startups in the country.
The 996 work schedule has been controversial in China, with some people arguing that it is necessary for companies to stay competitive in a rapidly changing and competitive business environment, while others argue that it is unhealthy and unsustainable for workers. Critics of the 996 work schedule argue that it can lead to burnout and negatively impact the physical and mental health of employees.
In recent years, there has been growing concern about the prevalence of overwork and burnout in China, with some experts arguing that the country's work culture needs to be more balanced and sustainable. There have been calls for companies to adopt more reasonable work schedules and to prioritize the well-being of their employees.

Most Desirable Jobs in China

In China, some of the most desirable jobs are often considered to be those that are high-paying, have good working conditions, and offer opportunities for advancement. These jobs may be found in a variety of sectors, including technology, finance, education, and healthcare.
In the technology sector, jobs at top companies like Tencent and Alibaba are highly coveted. These companies are known for their innovative products and cutting-edge technology, and offer employees the opportunity to work on challenging projects and be at the forefront of technological development.
In the finance sector, jobs at top banks and investment firms are also highly desirable. These companies often offer competitive salaries, as well as opportunities for professional development and career advancement.
In the education sector, jobs at top universities are often sought after. These institutions are known for their high-quality research and teaching, and offer employees the opportunity to work with leading experts in their field.
In the healthcare sector, jobs at top hospitals and medical institutions are also highly desirable. These institutions often have state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, and offer employees the opportunity to work with leading medical professionals and contribute to improving healthcare in the country.
Browse Study Guides By Unit
👨‍👩‍👧Unit 1 – Families in China
🗣Unit 2 – Language & Culture in China
🎨Unit 3 – Beauty & Art in China
🔬Unit 4 – Science & Technology in China
🏠Unit 5 – Quality of Life in China
💴Unit 6 – Challenges in China
✍️Exam Skills - FRQ/MCQ

Stay Connected

© 2023 Fiveable Inc. All rights reserved.

© 2023 Fiveable Inc. All rights reserved.