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Educational attainment, China

Codes and Frequencies

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This variable indicates the highest educational level in China that the person had attended or completed.

Comparability — General

A nine-year compulsory education system has been in place in China since July 1, 1986. The system is composed of primary and junior middle school (lower secondary school). In most provinces, primary school lasts 6 years and junior middle school lasts 3 years. In some rural areas, primary school lasts 5 years and junior middle school lasts 4 years.

Graduates from junior middle schools must pass an entrance examination to continue to upper secondary school, which lasts 3 years. The data reported in the 1990 and 2000 samples distinguish between two upper secondary tracks: general (academic) and technical/special training.

Universities and other tertiary institutions offer skill-based practical programs, lasting 2-3 years, as well as bachelor's degree programs, which generally last 4 years. Graduate school, which is identified separately in the 2000 unharmonized source variable, includes master's and doctoral programs.

In the 1982 and 1990 samples, the "Illiterate or semi-illiterate" category includes people age 6 and older who knew fewer than 1,500 words or were unable to read simple books or write a simple sentence. In 2000, illiterate or semi-illiterate are persons age 6 and older who had never been to school or who attended literacy classes but no formal education.

The 1990 and 2000 samples report highest level attended and completion status in separate input variables. This information is combined in EDUCCN. In 2000, the unharmonized source variable distinguishes persons who had completed the school curricula but failed to pass the graduation exam from persons who graduated or dropped out. These individuals are included in the "Did not graduate" subcategories in EDUCCN.

The 1982 sample identifies whether or not the respondent had completed their studies for tertiary education only.


  • China 1982: Persons age 6+
  • China 1990: Persons age 6+
  • China 2000: Persons age 6+


  • China: 1982, 1990, 2000