Education System in Wuhan, China
The education system in Wuhan is similar to the education system in Singapore in terms of the number of years (12 years) of compulsory education. They have pre-primary school, primary school (called 小学), middle school (called 初中), high school (called 高中), equivalent to our Junior College standard, and universities. They also have schools catered to the mentally impaired and disabled.
Pre-primary school is a purely optional branch of education, usually patronized by those belonging to the higher class. Pre-primary school in Wuhan does not revolve around subject-based education, but rather, enrichment courses. Children sign up for certain activities, and if they succeed, are presented with certificates as proof of their achievement.
The main objective of pre-primary school is to expose young children to as many different electives as possible, to improve their chances of success when they mature.
Primary school is the basic level of education, which all children must go through in Wuhan. This is the time when children are exposed to the foundations of learning and the lifestyle of a student.
Primary School is the real proving ground for Wuhan students, as the middle schools they go to are based strongly on their own academic merit. The subjects offered are:
At the end of 5 years, students will sit for a major examination and be streamed to different middle schools.
Middle School (Secondary School Equivalent)
Middle school is a step up from primary school. Everything is bigger – classes, subjects, facilities. Some middle schools are attached to high schools (affiliation), one of which is 华中师大一附中初中部. This is where students learn the more advanced subjects. First of all, the classes were very large, with each class containing up to 60 students. Because of this, the classroom is rather cramped and the students have less personal space.
Some learning aids present in middle school classrooms are:
- Overhead projector
- Teacher’s computer
- Models, for use in Mathematics or Science lessons
The basic form of teaching involves the use of a blackboard and chalk. In some classes, the board is movable, i.e. it can move up and down, so as to maximise the use of space on the blackboard.
Periods last around 40 to 45 minutes, with ample buffer time of 5 to 10 minutes in between. School starts very early, around 7am, and ends in the late afternoon/evening depending on the days. The school is based on a communal system, with students attending the flag-raising ceremony once a week. This is followed by two periods of lessons, then a warm up session when the whole school moves to the field to proceed with light physical exercise. Another period follows, and then recess. Two or three more periods follow before lunch. After lunch, most students conduct a form of ‘self-study’, when teachers watch over the class and students either revise quietly or take a short nap. Students may also participate in outdoor activities such as sports or dancing.
In summary, the typical middle school day is as follows:
- 6.30am – 7.00am: Arrive in school (morning assembly once a week)
- 7.00am – 8.55am: Lessons
- 8.55am – 9.15am: Warm up/exercise
- 9.15am – 10.05am: Lessons
- 10.05am – 10.35am: Recess
- 10.35am – 1.25pm: Lessons
- 1.25pm – 2.00pm: Lunch
- 2.00pm onwards: Self study/other activities
The subjects offered are largely similar to those offered in typical secondary schools in Singapore, including:
- Combined Science
- Character education
- Physical education/dancing sessions
The only difference between the curriculum of Wuhan middle schools and Singapore secondary schools is the standard of which the subjects are taught. In China, Chinese is placed with a much greater emphasis than English, with students being taught Chinese from the moment of birth. The students are only taught English at the age of 5 or 6, and it is of a much simpler standard. In contrast, the standard of Chinese in Wuhan is of JC standard.
The school staff population generally organizes large events, as the majority of the students are not at the age whereby they are able to organize events of a certain complexity.
High School (Junior College Equivalent)
High school students range from 16 to 18 years old. A famous high school would be 华中师大一附中, the high school attached to Qinghua University of Wuhan. The school life differs from life in the middle school by a lot, and is therefore seen as a great jump, transiting from middle school to high school.
Firstly and most apparent, the classes are more numerous: There are 30 classes of 60 pupils each, making the student population much bigger than that of even the largest schools in Singapore.
Secondly, the teachers are much more professional in the form and standard of teaching. Foreign teachers are also recruited into the school to provide students with an all-round exposure with regards to different subjects.
The subjects studied by high school students remain the same, but the depth goes deeper and more precise. The topics studied in 高一 Chemistry, for example, is very similar to that of Secondary 4 Chemistry in Singapore.
The school hours have also been extended, with the ending times changing to 10pm at night. The classes are generally more spacious, though still quite cramped, and teachers still use the blackboard. Lessons are extended to a period of 50 minutes to 1 hour, with richer content being taught. Teaching aids have also been expanded to include models for use in Science lessons.
However, the most striking of all differences is the existence of a mass boarding system. Generally, a typical high school student only returns home once a week. From Monday to Saturday, students study till 10pm and then return to their hostels/boarding complexes. They wake up at 6am each day, perform warm ups, and proceed with their lessons. On specific days, they attend flag raising ceremonies. On Saturday afternoon, they are released home and stay there for the night. The next morning, they report to school as usual and spend Sunday night in the school’s boarding complex.
The summarized version of a typical high school weekday is as follows:
- 6.00am – 6.30am: Rise and shine
- 6.30am – 7.00am: Wash up, prepare for lessons
- 7.00am – 10.00am: Lessons
- 10.00am – 10.30am: Recess
- 10.30am – 1.30pm: Lessons
- 1.30pm – 2.30pm: Lunch
- 2.30pm – 5.30pm: Lessons
- 5.30pm – 6.30pm: Dinner
- 6.30pm – 10.00pm: Self-study
- 10.00pm onwards: Wash up, lights out at 11.00pm
The average day of a high school student in Wuhan is much more intense than the day of a Singaporean Junior College student.
The main difference between Wuhan’s education system as compared to Singapore’s is that Singapore is superior to Wuhan in terms of facilities, syllabi and quality of teachers. However, though this may be so, the students there have a better attitude towards learning as compared to Singapore students. We feel that it is because they do not have many luxury items to distract them from work. Because they are of slightly poorer background, they also feel the need to study well, so that they can get better jobs and thus live a better life.
We Singapore students have much to learn from Wuhan students in terms of attitude; we may have the facilities and the resources, but their passion for learning has us beaten.