Life Of An Elementary School Kid In China

There is no easy way to say it. Elementary school kids in Longyan, China have it rough. We are currently living just a few blocks from a local elementary school, here in Longyan and my heart goes out to them. It’s hard.

The school system here in China is different from the states. There are elementary school, Jr. High and High Schools but that is where the similarity ends. Here school is long and taken very seriously (not saying it isn’t that way in the states, but we are talking on a different level). In China there are not 5-6 universities or junior colleges 30 mins from you house to choose from, with limited college opportunities the pressure to excel in schools is intense. Those families who are financially stable have the option to send their kids to American or Canada for college, but with costs near $250,000 this is only a dream for most locals. For those in more rural areas the dream is impossible. The schools are better in the larger cities and families will pay thousands of dollars monthly for a boarding school to get a better education for their kids. Some families, of those in larger cities where the school are better, will rent out rooms in their homes for those in the more poor areas of China, We are not talking about high school aged kids, but rather 3rd and 4th graders.

Typical school uniform in China. All the kids wear the same thing everyday, boys and girls. Most kids usually have 2 sets of the uniform. During the hot summer days there is a collared short sleeve shirt they can wear.
One of four wings of this Elementary School in Longyan, China. Each wing has 6 levels and is home to more than 2,000 students ages 5-12.

Elementary school starts here at 7:30am here in Longyan, China. Sitting at the park my wife and I enjoy our favorite breakfast and watch student after student pass by us. All in the same uniform. Slick sweat pants with a matching zip up jogging top (looks like a jogging outfit during a cool morning in the states) Their backpacks all drop down to below their waist heavy with books, binders and pencils. Some even use a carry on suitcase and pull it behind them as they rush to school. In elementary school they have a “home room teacher” who accounts for them and makes sure they have what they need. As the day goes on each subject is taught by a different teacher. Same classroom, but different teachers specializing in math, english, Chinese, history, art, science and fitness. The one thing that threw me off was lunch is not served at school. At 11:30 parents (or in most cases grandparents) meet outside the school. Most students will go home for a 2 hour lunch break and won’t return until 1:45. It’s your typical madhouse of parents meeting up with students and rushing them off for lunch. When the kids return  they complete the rest of their schedule and school gets out at 4:45. Food vendors line the street with parents awaiting (saw this Chinese sushi vendor and couldn’t resist taking a video). No bells here, a simple children song plays to let the kids and parents know that the school day is over. Then the madhouse begins again.


Parents picking up kids at an elementary school in Longyan, China for lunch
Food vendors wait for kids to get out of school in Longyan China

School here and it’s teaching is much more advanced. Being there is a teacher who specializes in one field of study, the kids get a better education. 15 years ago I had nieces and nephews that came over from Hong Kong to go to school in the states. They were in 3rd grade and 5th grade respectively, yet their maths skills were that of students 2 years ahead of them. They were thrilled and shocked when they learned the level their classmates were at (both of them are now grown and succesful, one of them is a stats analyst for Primary Childrens Hospital). Same with the english.  Kids in China can break down an english sentence (noun, pronoun, verb etc…) quicker than my 9-year-old can fireup the computer for Minecraft on a Saturday morning. They know their subjects and kick our American kids butts at it. The speaking is where they struggle. As a few of the school kids walked by I would say a simple “hello, how are you?” most of them understood what I said, but weren’t sure how to answer as they ran off in fear and total shock wondering why is there a 300lb “Fat Gwailo” asking me how I am.

View from the 3rd floor of this elementary school in Longyan, China. Place is like a university.

I love the whole school uniform idea. When my kids were older they had a year or two where the schools in the US required a uniform (actually far from an actual uniform, more like khakis and a blue or white shirt). It was great. Everyone looks the same, no competition on who is wearing the popular brands and most importantly for us parents, school shopping is easy. America should really look into requiring this nation wide, especially in elementary schools.

As the last of the kids passed by us, while we were enjoying our favorite breakfast in china, My wife and I were talking about her elementary school years, which were in China, and she expressed the amount of pressure that is on these kids. A lot parents in China just have 1 child and a lot is on their shoulders to excel. The parents try to give everything they can to give their child the best chance to succeed, but reality is the choices are very limited.  To all you kids in the US (none of whom are reading this), you have it easy, for school kids here in China it’s rough, real rough.

When I am not blogging my real job is a fortune cookie maker. We make custom fortune cookies, with your personalized message inside. Visit us at or!

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3 thoughts on “Life Of An Elementary School Kid In China

  1. I knew of the school systems being more strict on kids in China but I had no idea it started at such a young age. It is amazing how different it is here from over there. This has actually taught me a few things I may not have known. And I agree, the uniforms thing should be a standard here in all schools to keep children from being singled out. It makes sense for bullying as well.


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