The first written mention of a “school” in China appears in the oracle bones of the Shang dynasty (about 1800-1050 BC), which constitute the first written records in China and the main historical record for that period.
1046 BC - 221 BC
With the expansion of productive forces and the prosperity of culture during the Zhou dynasty (1046-221 BC), more and more schools were established. During the Western Zhou dynasty (1046-771 BC) slave society was at its peak. Schools were divided into state schools and village schools.
State schools were established just for children of the nobility; and consisted of elementary schools and higher-level colleges. Village schools, also known as local schools, were divided into four levels: shu, xiang, xu and xiao. Generally speaking, students who studied well in shu could enter the next level and proceed upwards. If determined and persistent, they even stood a chance of studying in college.
The Warring States Period
475 BC - 221 BC
The Warring States Period saw the rise of several influential philosophies, including Confucianism, Mohism, and Daoism. One educational institution that existed during this period was the Jixia Academy. The open and tolerant atmosphere in this academy attracted Confucian and Daoist scholars from across the country for debate and study. (Qin Dynasty)
221 BCE - 206 BCE
After the unification of the Qin Empire (221-206 BC) in 221 BC, Qin Shi Huang (the first emperor of China, who reigned from 259-210 BC) forbade private schools of any form in his kingdom, so that he could exert strict control over the common people. Following the advice of Li Si, secretary of the Qin Empire (221 BC-206 BC), Qin Shi Huang ordered the promulgation of legalist education. He forbade the common people to read privately or collect Confucian classics, and he even gave orders to burn books and to bury Confucian scholars alive.
206 BC - 220 CE
Emperor Wu of Han favored Confucianism and made it as the national educational doctrine. In 124 BC, The Origins of Statecraft in China was set up to turn out civil servant for the state, which taught the Five Classics of Confucianism
220 CE - 1368 CE
Imperial examination began at 605, which required the competitors to pass their local cutting score before the final examination in the capital. So the private school prevailed. White Deer Grotto Academy and Donglin Academy were their models.
The invention of paper and movable type greatly boosted the educational industry.
Sui and Tang Dynasty
569 AD - 907 AD
The civil service examination system for selecting officials was established by Emperor Yang (569-618 AD) of the Sui dynasty (581-618). It was further refined by Emperor Taizong (598-649) of the Tang dynasty (618-907).
1644 - 1911
It was not until the late Qing dynasty (1644-1911) that the civil service examination system was dismantled by Yuan Shikai (1859-1916), and replaced by a more western education system. Since the foundation of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the Chinese education system has been modeled on the Russian system, with perhaps more spoon-feeding and rote-learning than in some other countries.
1985 - 2020
In 1985, the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party issued the "Decision on the Reform of the educational Structure", laying down the principle that local governments should be responsible for basic education. The new policy was an incentive for local governments, especially those of the counties and townships. In 1986, the National People's Congress promulgated the "Compulsory Education Law of the People's Republic of China", thus placing basic education in the country on a firm legal basis. China started a system of 9-year compulsory education.