Education is highly valued in Chinese culture, and academic excellence is emphasized from a young age. So it’s no surprise that Chinese students spend a significant amount of time in school each day.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Primary school students in China are required to attend school for about 5-6 hours per day, while middle and high school students attend for 8-9 hours daily on average. This is longer than students in most Western countries.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the school schedule and class times in China in detail for primary, middle and high school students. We’ll look at the number of hours spent in academic classes versus extracurriculars, examine after-school studying expectations, and compare China’s academic system to other top-performing countries.

School Hours for Primary Students

Chinese students are known for their dedication to education, and the amount of time they spend in school each day reflects this commitment. The school hours for primary students in China may differ slightly depending on the region and school, but there is generally a typical day structure that is followed.

Typical Day Structure

A typical day for primary students in China starts early in the morning and extends into the afternoon. The school day usually begins at around 8:00 AM and ends at 4:00 PM, with a break for lunch in between.

This means that students spend about 8 hours in school each day, which is longer than the average school day in many other countries.


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Morning Session

The morning session is usually focused on core subjects such as Chinese language, mathematics, and science. Students engage in various activities and lessons designed to develop their knowledge and skills in these areas.

Teachers follow a structured curriculum and employ different teaching methods to ensure that students grasp the concepts effectively.

Afternoon Session

The afternoon session typically covers subjects like social studies, art, music, and physical education. These subjects provide a well-rounded education and allow students to explore their interests beyond the core subjects.

The afternoon session is also a time for students to engage in group activities, presentations, and discussions, fostering teamwork and communication skills.

Enrichment Activities

After the regular school day ends, some primary students participate in enrichment activities that go beyond the traditional curriculum. These activities can include extracurricular classes, such as painting, calligraphy, dance, or martial arts.

These activities provide students with additional opportunities to develop their talents and interests.

It’s worth noting that while Chinese students spend longer hours in school compared to students in some other countries, the education system also places a strong emphasis on self-study and homework. This means that students often have additional assignments to complete at home, further contributing to their overall study time.


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Time Spent in School for Middle School Students

Chinese education is known for its rigorous academic standards, and this is especially evident in middle school. Middle school students in China typically spend a significant amount of time in school each day, immersing themselves in a highly structured and demanding educational environment.

More Rigorous Academics in Junior High

As students progress from elementary school to middle school in China, they experience a significant increase in academic workload and intensity. Middle school curriculum focuses heavily on core subjects such as Chinese language, mathematics, English, and sciences.

The coursework becomes more challenging, with an emphasis on memorization and problem-solving skills. This increased academic rigor contributes to the amount of time students spend in school each day.

Full Day Schedule

Chinese middle school students typically have a full day schedule, similar to their high school counterparts. Their school day often starts early in the morning and ends in the late afternoon. Students attend classes in different subjects, with short breaks in between.

The length of the school day can vary but is generally around 8 to 9 hours.

After-School Tutoring

In addition to the regular school day, many Chinese middle school students also participate in after-school tutoring sessions to further enhance their academic performance. These tutoring sessions can be held at school or at external tutoring centers and may last for several hours.

The goal of these sessions is to provide additional support and help students excel academically.

Weekend Classes

Chinese students’ commitment to education extends beyond the regular school week. It is not uncommon for middle school students to attend weekend classes to further supplement their learning. These classes may focus on subjects such as English, math, or extracurricular activities like music or art.

While not mandatory, many students choose to participate in these classes to gain a competitive edge and excel academically.

According to a study conducted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Chinese students spend an average of 54 hours per week on learning activities, including time spent in school and on homework.

This is significantly higher than the global average of 40 hours per week.

Daily Hours for High School Students

Chinese high school students are known for their rigorous academic schedules, often spending long hours in school each day. The education system in China places a strong emphasis on academic achievement, leading to a demanding workload for students.

Longer School Day

Compared to many other countries, Chinese students typically have longer school days. On average, high school students in China spend around 8 to 12 hours in school each day. This includes both classroom instruction and extracurricular activities.

One reason for the longer school day is the extensive curriculum that Chinese students must cover. The education system in China places a heavy emphasis on core subjects such as math, science, and language.

As a result, students spend more time in school to ensure they have enough time to cover all the required material.


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Academic Pressure Ramps Up

The longer school day also contributes to the intense academic pressure that Chinese students face. With limited time for relaxation and leisure activities, students often find themselves constantly studying and completing assignments.

This pressure is further intensified by the highly competitive nature of the Chinese education system. Students are constantly striving to achieve top grades and secure spots in prestigious universities.

As a result, they may feel the need to dedicate even more time to their studies, leading to longer hours spent in school.

Cram Schools and Self-Study

In addition to the regular school day, many Chinese students also attend cram schools or engage in self-study. Cram schools, also known as “zhongkao” or “gaokao” training centers, provide additional instruction and exam preparation outside of regular school hours.

These schools often operate in the evenings or on weekends, adding even more hours to a student’s daily study schedule.

Furthermore, self-study is common among Chinese students, with many spending several hours each day reviewing material and completing homework assignments. The combination of regular school hours, cram schools, and self-study can result in an exhausting schedule for students.

Summer and Weekend Enrichment

Even during school breaks, Chinese students often participate in summer and weekend enrichment programs. These programs aim to enhance students’ academic skills and provide opportunities for further learning.

While not mandatory, many students choose to attend these programs to gain a competitive edge.

These programs can add additional hours to a student’s daily schedule, with some students attending classes and activities for several hours each day during breaks. While these programs can be beneficial in terms of academic development, they can also contribute to the overall workload and exhaustion experienced by students.

It is important to note that while the hours spent in school by Chinese students may seem excessive to some, it is a reflection of the value placed on education in Chinese culture. Chinese students are known for their hard work and dedication to their studies, and the demanding schedule is often seen as a necessary sacrifice in pursuit of academic success.

Study Habits and Extracurricular Activities

After-School Study Time

Chinese students are well-known for their dedication to their studies, and this is reflected in the amount of time they spend on after-school studying. On average, Chinese students spend around 3-4 hours each day on homework and additional studying.

This additional study time is often necessary due to the rigorous curriculum and high academic expectations placed on students in China. It is not uncommon for students to have to complete multiple assignments and prepare for tests each day.

Participation in Extracurriculars

Despite the substantial amount of time spent on studying, Chinese students also find time to engage in extracurricular activities. These activities can vary widely, ranging from sports and music to art and debate clubs.

While the focus on academics remains a priority, participation in extracurriculars is encouraged as it helps develop a well-rounded individual. It also provides students with an opportunity to pursue their interests outside of the classroom and develop important life skills such as teamwork, leadership, and time management.

Sleep Habits

Due to the demanding study schedule, Chinese students often find themselves sacrificing sleep in order to complete their assignments. It is not uncommon for students to stay up late into the night to finish their homework or study for exams.

This lack of sleep can have negative effects on their overall well-being and academic performance. However, there is increasing awareness about the importance of sleep and the need for a balanced lifestyle.


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Schools and parents are now encouraging students to prioritize their sleep and find a healthy balance between studying and rest.

How China Compares Globally

When it comes to the amount of time students spend in school each day, China stands out among the global community. Chinese students have a reputation for spending long hours at school, and this has been a topic of interest and debate around the world.

To understand the extent of this phenomenon, let’s take a closer look at how China compares globally.

Contrast With UK and US

When comparing China’s school hours to countries like the United Kingdom and the United States, the contrast is striking. In the UK, students typically spend around 30 hours per week in school, while in the US, the average is closer to 35 hours.

This significant difference in instructional time highlights the unique approach to education in China and the level of dedication and commitment shown by Chinese students.

Cultural Emphasis on Education

The cultural emphasis on education in China plays a significant role in the amount of time students spend in school each day. Education is highly valued in Chinese society, and there is immense pressure on students to excel academically.

This cultural belief, combined with the competitive nature of the education system, drives Chinese students to invest more time in their studies, both inside and outside of school.

Country Average Instruction Time (per week)
China 55 hours
OECD Average 38 hours
United Kingdom 30 hours
United States 35 hours


In conclusion, Chinese students spend significantly more time in academic study compared to many of their peers around the world. The heavy focus on education starts young, with full school days for primary students and mandatory after-school study time.

The workload ramps up even more during middle and high school, with school hours extending into the evenings and weekends.

While Chinese students excel academically with this rigorous approach, there are also drawbacks in terms of creativity, social-emotional development, and overall wellbeing. Still, education remains a top priority culturally in China.

The many hours students devote to academic study and enrichment activities reflect the high educational aspirations of Chinese families.

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