• More than half of pre-primary children in China (57%) enrol in private institutions compared to about a third on average across OECD and G20 countries. In 2019, there were 17 children per teacher, 16% less than in 2015. The decrease in the number of children per teacher is driven by the rise in the number of pre-primary teachers by 37% over this period, twice the increase in the number of children enrolled (15%).

  • In China, 0.1% of students in upper secondary initial education repeated a grade in 2019, compared to about 3% on average across OECD countries. Boys are more likely to repeat a grade at upper secondary initial education than girls. In China, 52% of repeaters at upper secondary level were boys, lower than the OECD average of 57%.

  • The 9-year free and compulsory education in China targets children from age 6 to age 15. It encompasses primary and lower secondary education. Despite the efforts to bring children to schools, the quality of the learning environment still needs to be improved in China. In 2013, in China, there were on average 38 children per class in primary school and 50 in lower secondary school, while the OECD averages were 19 and 21, respectively.

  • Tertiary education has been expanding in the last decades. In China, 28% of 18 year-olds, 39% of 19 year-olds and 40% of 20 year-olds were enrolled in tertiary education in 2019 compared to 18%, 34% and 39% on average across OECD countries. However, adults in China are less likely to enrol in tertiary education at higher age groups. Only 1% of 25-29 year-olds do, compared to more than 10% on average across OECD countries. Women are more likely than men to participate in tertiary education across most OECD countries. There is a similar trend in China where women represent 55% of first-time entrants to tertiary education, a similar share as the OECD average.

  • China is the largest contributor to the OECD pool of international tertiary students, representing 22% of international students across the OECD region. Despite the strong presence of Chinese students in the international student market, only 2% of Chinese tertiary students study abroad.  Similarly, in 2019, international students represented less than 1% of tertiary students enrolled in China (Figure 1).


OECD (2021), Education at a Glance 2021: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris,

OECD (2021), “Regional education”, OECD Regional Statistics (database), (accessed on 27 July 2021).

OECD (2021), “The state of global education – 18 months into the pandemic”, OECD Publishing, Paris,

For more information on Education at a Glance 2021 and to access the full set of Indicators, see:

For more information on the methodology used during the data collection for each indicator, the references to the sources and the specific notes for each country, see Annex 3 (

For general information on the methodology, please refer to the OECD Handbook for Internationally Comparative Education Statistics: Concepts, Standards, Definitions and Classifications (

Updated data can be found on line at and by following the StatLinks 2under the tables and charts in the publication.

Data on subnational regions for selected indicators are available in the OECD Regional Statistics (database) (OECD, 2021). When interpreting the results on subnational entities, readers should take into account that the population size of subnational entities can vary widely within countries. For example, regional variation in enrolment may be influenced by students attending school in a different region from their area of residence, particularly at higher levels of education. Also, regional disparities tend to be higher when more subnational entities are used in the analysis.

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The data on educational responses during COVID-19 were collected and processed by the OECD based on the Survey on Joint National Responses to COVID-19 School Closures, a collaborative effort conducted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS); the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF); the World Bank; and the OECD.

This work is published under the responsibility of the Secretary-General of the OECD. The opinions expressed and arguments employed herein do not necessarily reflect the official views of OECD member countries.

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