Chemical Education in Asia Pacific


Hua Tongwen
Department of Chemistry, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China

WU Yongxing, LI Wending
Curriculum and Teaching Materials Research Institute, Beijing 100009, China

Han Jiaxun
National Education Examinations Authority, State Education Commission,
67 Hai-dian Road, Beijing 100080, China

Chen Zufu
Department of Higher Education,State Education Commission,
Beijing 100816, China

ZHANG Jianru, HU Meiling, Wang Yue
People's Education Press, Beijing 100009, China

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The Chinese education system is as follows:

Children go to school at the age of six or seven and spend six years for primary education, three years for junior secondary school, while another three years for senior period.

China has adopted progressively a compulsory education of nine years, that is to say, every citizen must go to school, six years in primary school and three in junior secondary school.

As for senior secondary school, there are ordinary and vocational ones and also specialized secondary schools. Three years for ordinary senior secondary schools these students are ready for entering universities or colleges; two to four years for vocational and specialized schools and their students are ready for employment.

As for higher education, four to five years are required for the degree of bachelor and another three to five years for degrees of master and doctor. There are also postdoctoral education, and the duration depends on the progress of research work.

Besides, there are various forms and levels of sparetime and adult education, such as radio, TV, correspondence and evening schools. Levels vary from literacy class, adult secondary school to sparetime college and advanced courses for post graduates. Whole-life education is paid more attentions gradually, it is set up and perfected step by step.

Children learn some basic knowledge of chemistry in nature studies such as oxygen, nitrogen and petroleum when they are in primary school. The systematic chemical teaching begins in the third year of junior secondary school. In the first two years of senior secondary school, chemistry is the required course for every student, and it is also the examined course in the Minimum Competency Test. In the 3rd year of senior secondary school, chemistry is an optional course for the students, who are ready to participate the National Entrance Examination of science, engineering, agriculture and medical science. The test contents cover the syllabuses of all three years of chemistry courses.

There are chemistry or chemical engineering courses in specialized secondary and vocational schools with the aim of training technicians and technical workers in chemical industry. Such schools have more chemistry lessons with a higher level than those of ordinary secondary schools, these students learn inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, analytical chemistry and principles of chemical engineering.

Figure1. Levels of China's Chemical Education

The purpose of universities and colleges is to train advanced specialists. There are two kinds of chemical education in universities and colleges: the first is for non-chemical specialities, such as biology, geology, engineering, electronics, material science, architectural, metallurgy, light industry, agriculture, medical science, economy and laws. Freshmen and sophomore learn some basic chemistry courses such as general chemistry, analytical chemistry or organic chemistry according to their own requirements of different specialities. Another kind is for specialities in connection with chemistry which can be classified into three aspects: chemistry, applied chemistry and chemical engineering.

Institutions of higher education in China can be classified as comprehensive universities, universities of science and technology, teacher training institutes and colleges of engineering, agronomy, medicine, commerce, economy, laws and arts etc. Chemistry specialities are set up in comprehensive universities, teacher training instates and some of the poly-technical institutes, train scientists, teachers and other professionals mainly. Chemical engineering specialities are set up in engineering institutes and some institutes of science and technology with the aim of training chemical engineers. Applied chemistry specialities are offered in universities and various colleges, mainly train experts in applied research and technical development of chemistry.

When entering 1980s, the State has been shifted to socialist modernization, the status and role of education has been steadily raised and its work gradually strengthened. Chemical education among all the fields has gained a considerable growth recently.

There are at present about one hundred thousand ordinary secondary schools in China with 60 million students and near two hundred thousand chemistry teachers. There are also 1054 universities and colleges, with 3 million students and four hundred thousand teachers, among them the number of chemistry teachers is about twenty thousand. Among these 1054 universities and colleges more than 300 have set up chemistry speciality.

Besides, various forms and levels of adult and sparetime education are also very active in chemistry field. There are more than one thousand adult higher educational institutes all over China with a total number of two million students and one eighth of them learn chemistry courses. Chinese Radio and TV University and Satellite TV Education offer chemistry lessons every week.

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In China, much attention is paid to basic education. The State promulgated "Law of Compulsory Education" in 1986. Afterwards according to the overall arrangement of the State Education Commission, the "Curriculum for Nine-Year Compulsory Education" and "Curriculum of Senior Secondary School" and many syllabuses of different courses for primary and secondary schools have been issued.

2.1 Curriculum

In the national "Curriculum for Nine-Year Compulsory Education" the fundamental requirements of the course of " nature " are clearly indicated: to enable pupils to have a preliminary knowledge about common objects and phenomena in nature; to understand initially the utilization, reformation, conservation and investigation of nature by mankind; to cultivate pupils' interest to love, study and use science and to develop their abilities to observe and work by hands and to let pupils be educated to love their native place, motherland and nature as well as believe in science and do away with superstitions or blind faith.

Chemistry, one of the sciences closely related with mankind, is already treated as part of the teaching contents in the " nature " course for primary schools. Some fundamental knowledge in chemistry is included in its syllabus and required to be understood and mastered. The contents related to chemistry amounts to about 11% of the whole " nature " course, and are arranged in Grades 3-6.

The requirements of "junior secondary school chemistry" are: to study some fundamental concepts and principles in chemistry; to learn some basic knowledge about several most common and important elements and their compounds as well as to understand initially their practical uses; to cultivate students' preliminary abilities to observe and experiment. In the junior secondary school curriculum the "chemistry" course is arranged in Junior III, 3 hours per week, 96 hours in total.

Ordinary "senior secondary school chemistry" should be studied by every student. The required course is offered in Senior I and II, 2 hours per week, altogether 140 hours. The fundamental requirements of this course are: to enable students, on the basis of the junior secondary school chemistry course for compulsory education, to learn further the basic knowledge and fundamental skills in chemistry; to know the important uses of chemistry in practice, and conscientiously care for problems that have to do with chemistry in the modern society, such as environments, energy resources, personal hygiene and health, etc.; to cultivate and develop students' abilities and also spirit of bringing forth new ideas; to train them with scientific methods, and let them use their knowledge to explain or solve some simple problems involving chemistry. After taking the required courses students should choose optional courses, which lay emphasis on preparatory education for entering universities or taking up an occupation. Optional chemistry courses are offered in Senior II, 1 hr per week, and also in Senior III, 3 hours per week, altogether 113 hours. In addition to raising students' quality and widening and deepening their knowledge, the demand of the optional courses is to provide more and efficient cultivation of students' abilities to analyze and solve problems.

The Syllabuses of primary school "nature" and secondary school "chemistry" were drafted by the compiling group consisting of various specialists. After soliciting opinions from all sides the draft must be passed by the National Committee for Evaluation of Primary and Secondary School Teaching Materials (NCEPSSTM) and finally approved and promulgated by the State Education Commission (SEdC), and then put into effect in primary and secondary schools all over the country.

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2.2 Development of teaching materials

In order to enable the Curriculum, Syllabus and teaching materials compiled on the basis of these two documents geared to actual circumstances, according to the relevant regulations delivered by SEdC, teaching materials must be at first trial used in less than 200 teaching classes before popularized all over the country. The purpose of the trial use is to examine whether these teaching materials fit in with the requirements or not. Under the prerequisite of trial use and good results the compiling unit should send the teaching materials and the report on trial use to NCEPSSTM. Only when they are evaluated, examined, approved and passed, can they be offered for selection by schools for use all over the country. Now there are several series of teaching materials with distinguishing features based on the Curriculum and Syllabus and compiled by different institutes. Among those being approved, passed and offered for selection, junior secondary school chemistry (PEP edition) compiled by the People's Education Press is selected by most schools in the whole country.

The contents concerning chemistry in the textbooks for primary school "nature" chiefly are: "Dissolution", "How to quicken dissolution?" "Purification of water" and "Water pollution and protection" in the 3rd and 4th grades, and "Composition of air", "Oxygen", "Carbon dioxide", "Combustion and fire-extinguishing" and "Air pollution and protection" in the 5th and 6th grades.

The chemistry textbook for junior secondary school (PEP edition) is composed of the following chapters:

Chapter 1: Air and oxygen Chapter 5: Carbon and its compounds
Chapter 2: Molecules and atoms Chapter 6: Iron
Chapter 3: Water and hydrogen Chapter 7: Solutions
Chapter 4: Chemical equations Chapter 8: Acids, bases and salts

The Characteristics of this textbook is: to focus on raising students' quality and to pay more attention to the links between chemistry and life, production, technology, environment, society, etc.; to integrate theory with practice; to handle correctly the relationship between the logical order of knowledge and the pattern of students' cognition as well as their psychological development; to introduce the contents with air and water and to teach alternatively concepts and principles as well as elements and compounds; to enhance the teaching of basic knowledge and basic skills; to cultivate the students' abilities; to pay attention to teaching the students dialectical materialism, patriotism and scientific methods; to note the combination of unity and flexibility in order to suit the circumstances in different schools and the characteristics of individual students; to attract the students' enthusiasm for learning by improving the design and presentation of the materials; to keep the study loads at a reasonable level, so as to enable the students to develop in an all-round way morally, intellectually and physically.

The present senior secondary school chemistry textbooks were developed according to the Syllabus promulgated in 1991. Now PEP is compiling a new set of textbooks according to the "senior secondary school chemistry syllabus" (Which will be promulgated in 1997). These textbooks are designed for most schools all over the country. The chief contents are: atomic structure, periodic law and periodic table, chemical bond, amount of substance, energy change in chemical reactions, reaction rate and chemical equilibrium, electrolyte solutions, colloid and its applications, oxidation and reduction reactions, principle of electromotive cells and their applications, halogen group, oxygen group, nitrogen group, carbon group, general properties of metals, alkali metals, aluminum and its compounds, magnesium, iron and its compounds, copper and its compounds, organic compounds, hydrocarbon,derivatives of hydrocarbon, sugars, protein and synthetic materials. Some selective contents for Senior III students are: crystal pattern and its relations with properties, principles of electrolysis and its applications, production technology of sulfuric acid, test of substances, design of a chemical experiment, etc. The teaching materials of the above-mentioned five items should be formed as identical topics. This set of textbooks will be trial used from 1997 to 1999 in Senior I, II and III respectively. Then after being evaluated and approved, these textbooks can be selected and used by most senior secondary schools in the whole country from 2000.

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2.3 Teaching of Chemistry Experiments

Chemistry is a subject based on experiments. Teaching experiments can stimulate students' interests for studying chemistry, and help them to form chemical concepts and to get knowledge of chemistry and skills in doing experiment, to cultivate abilities of observation and doing experiments; and it is favorable for the cultivation of practical and realistic as well as serious and conscientious scientific attitude and scientific study methods. The improvement in teaching experiments is an important link to raise the chemistry teaching quality. Much attention has been paid to the teaching of doing experiments in primary school "nature" and junior school "chemistry" courses. There are more than ten chemistry experiments in "nature". Pupils must do these experiments by themselves, and it is required that they should obtain definite results from these experiments. In the junior secondary school chemistry course (96 hours), there are 84 experiments to be demonstrated by the teacher (or done in class by students simultaneously according to the real circumstances). Every student must do 10 obligatory experiments (each at least for 1 hr) and 9 optional ones as well. In order to encourage and direct students to carry out experiments by using their own hands, 13 home experiments are arranged. In the optional chemistry courses for senior secondary schools (253 hours), there are 68 demonstrative experiments (or partly by students and teachers together in class), 26 obligatory experiments and 13 optional ones done by students, and also some home experiments. It ought to be mentioned that in the last year of the senior school, there are 7 special experiments which not only have special requirements, but also suggest the design of some experiments done by students themselves. Through all these activities, students may be well trained in scientific methods and raise their abilities to analyze and solve problems.

Typical experiments :

Primary school "Nature"

Example: Put a glass plate cohered with a small candle in a water trough and pour into some water. Light the candle and cover it with a cup. Observe what happens. (Write the results in the experiment caption.)

Experiment Caption __________________

Secondary school "Chemistry"

Example 1: "A small ballonet can expand automatically" ( See the right picture). An interesting experiment designed on the fact that CO2 can react with alkaline solutions.

A small ballonet expands automatically

Example 2: From the right picture, which shows that white phosphorous combusts, study the combustible conditions of flammable substances.

Experiment for combustible conditions

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2.4. Teacher-training

In October 1993, China promulgated "Law of Teachers", which clearly stipulates: the State carries out the teacher's qualification system, puts forward the basic requirements for the teaching profession, and formulates that different teacher's qualifications require different academic credentials, that is, primary school teachers must at least graduate from normal schools (which enrol students graduated from the junior secondary school, and adopt the 3-year system), junior secondary school chemistry teachers must at least graduate from normal colleges (which enrol students graduated from the senior school, and adopt the 2-3-year system), and senior school chemistry teachers must at least graduate from normal universities (which enrol students graduated from the senior school, and adopt 4-year system).

Now China has 894 normal schools for the cultivation of primary school teachers, and there are 784 thousand students in these schools. Besides, education, psychology and other common courses, pertinent natural science subjects are also offered in these schools, such as physics, chemistry, biology, earth science, etc.; and also the teaching methodology for "nature". All these courses may enable students to have capabilities to teach the primary school "nature" course after their graduation.

The task for the cultivation of secondary school chemistry teachers is chiefly undertaken by 241 normal colleges and universities (about 22.3% of all the colleges and universities in China). Now there are 77 normal universities with 203 thousand students, and 164 colleges with 383 thousand students. The chemistry department of the normal universities and the chemistry section of the normal colleges cultivate senior and junior secondary school chemistry teachers respectively. In addition to the fundamental courses (with chemistry experiments), such as inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, analytical chemistry, physical chemistry, etc., and chemistry education course, these colleges or universities also offer structural chemistry, life chemistry; chemical engineering, radioactive chemistry, environmental chemistry, chemical literature, specialized foreign languages and computer courses, etc. All these courses may meet the needs of cultivating future chemistry teachers.

From 1994, the beginning year for the implementation of the teacher's qualification system, SEdC claims that all primary and secondary school teachers must get certain academic credentials or pass the national examination for qualification in five years. Now through various channels, including satellite television education, educational colleges, teacher training schools, learning through correspondence, etc., all in service primary and secondary school teachers are being trained and their abilities raised step by step in a planned way.

According to the demands by SEdC, PEP and Higher Education Press have published teaching materials for satellite television education to train primary and secondary school teachers respectively. These teaching materials have been used in programs broadcasted by China Education Television (CETV). All the district education departments and schools have been asked to organize teachers concerned study the respective programs so as to raise their quality.

In China, there are 245 educational colleges set up in all provinces and districts (cities) and 2065 teacher training schools in all counties. These colleges and schools are responsible for the cultivation of secondary school and primary school teachers respectively. Teachers will be able to reach the qualified academic level after studying there. For in-service teachers who have already got the certificate of qualification, these colleges or schools are responsible for the raising of their political consciousness, morality, educational theories, educating and teaching capabilities, etc. The chief purpose is the training for all teachers.

China has put forward a new goal: "To the end of this century, the percentage of primary school and junior secondary school teachers reaching respectively the college or university levels should be raised year by year". SEdC strives to focus on the reform in education and training of teachers for the nine-year compulsory education, especially in the rural areas. At the same time, SEdC also pays attention to experimenting the offering of pre-service training to teachers with college degree. Now there are 65 five-year experimental schools, enrolling students graduated from the junior secondary school and studying for 5 years. On the other hand, SEdC lays stress on the in-service training work. Every year there are about 110 thousand teachers studying for academic credentials of college or university level. In the mean time, in order to quicken the pace of raising teachers' academic level effective methods have been used, such as satellite television education, higher normal education through correspondence, self-instruction and examination, etc. The various difficulties in teacher training and raising teachers' level can be solved by these measures.

For the sake of enlarging the teachers' contingent, and guaranteeing their quality, the "Law of Teachers" stipulates that the State encourages non-normal university graduates to be engaged in the primary and secondary school teaching work. For the special requirements of the teaching profession, it is necessary for these students to have an interview or do some trial teaching. So that their educating and teaching abilities are examined. If necessary, they should study education, psychology as well as teaching methodology as supplementary courses. Each year there are quite a few non-normal university graduates who will hold the post of chemistry teachers.

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The role of higher chemical education is not only to cultivate a large number of excellent chemists, but also to spread the modern chemical knowledge to students of many other specialities, so several kinds of chemistry courses are offered every semester. Students may elect these courses according to their own requirement.

3.1. Types of Chemistry Courses

There are three types of chemistry courses in universities and colleges.

  1. Chemistry for non-science students: This course focuses attention on the relation between chemistry and social needs, some important chemical events and history also are introduced. Total lecture hours are about 40 .
  2. General Chemistry for engineering students: Their interesting points are structures-properties-functions of chemical materials, and the relation between chemistry and technology. The total class hours are 60-80, in which 1/3 is laboratory hours.
  3. A series of chemical courses for students majoring in chemistry, chemical engineering, biology, medicine, agriculture and environment science: These courses are general, inorganic, organic, analytical, physical, structural, biological chemistry and their experimental training. The class hours of each course is arranged according to the requirements of different specialities.

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3.2. Cultivated Object and Basic Requirement

State Education Commission promulgated the document of cultivated object and basic requirement for chemistry major students in March 1992. It pointed out: The cultivated object is comprehensive of moral integrity, intelligence and physical fitness to meet the need of social development and state construction. Students must master the fundamental principles, knowledge and technics of chemistry. They can gain the degree of BS and apply the job to do research, teaching, development or management in institute, university, secondary school, factory and administrative department, and they can apply graduate study of MS or Ph.D., as well.

The total class hours for chemistry major are between 2500-2800 in 4 years, the curriculum is shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Curriculum for Chemistry Major



class hours.




Pubic required politics, social science
foreign language
physical training



Science required advanced mathematics
general physics and lab
application of computer




Chemistry required inorganic chemistry and lab
quantitative analysis and lab
instrumental analysis and lab
organic chemistry and lab
physical chemistry and lab
structural chemistry and lab
chemical engineering and lab




Specialized elective inorganic, organic, analytical,
physical,polymer, biological, applied or educational chemistry etc.




Other elective math-equation, theoretical physics, electronic technology, 2nd foreign language, Chinese history, management etc.



factory practice or social survey
military training
3 -- 6 weeks
14 -- 16 weeks
fit days

Some explanations about this curriculum are as follows:

  1. The public required foreign language are examined by the national unified rank test every year, student must pass the 4th rank to gain the degree of BS. So the student's actual learning hours are very different from one to another, due to their own level.
  2. The outlines of science required and chemistry required courses are introduced. For example, the inorganic chemistry for freshmen includes general chemical principles (such as the states of matter, chemical thermodynamics, chemical equilibrium, reaction rate, oxidation-reduction, acid-base theory, atomic-molecular-crystalline structure etc.), and chemistry of elements, in which the focus points are properties-reactions-synthesis-usage; the structural chemistry includes quantum theory, bond theory, crystallography and the principles of some structural analysis. The teaching quality is evaluated in accordance with these outlines.
  3. he laboratory class is arranged independently with the lecture and marked separately, this is favorable the reform and enhance the experimental training.
  4. The specialized elective courses are different between universities according to their own key point and local social need. Both theoretical and experimental courses are arranged in each area. For example, in the inorganic area there are bioinorganic, advanced inorganic, solid inorganic, coordination compounds, inorganic synthesis and inorganic laboratory etc., the students may elect some courses from inorganic area, mean while elect others from organic or physical area, to make the total lecture 144 hours and lab 120 hours.
  5. Other elective courses are so manifold, it is favor to widen the scope of knowledge.
  6. Factory practice is a good way to link the education with labour work, and the theory with practice, as well as to cultivate the applied ideas.
  7. Thesis is a comprehensive training to read up the literature, to foster the creative ability and realistic spirit. Some outstanding students often join in some research group when they are sophomore or junior, then do the theses successively, and gain more good result to write the papers.

The document of cultivated object and basic requirement for applied chemistry major also was promulgated in 1992, it was similar to the chemistry major, especially the required courses, but the specialized elective courses are quite different. They pay more attention on the applications, developing and management.

In the curriculum of chemical engineering speciality, the public and science requirements are similar to chemistry major, but the class hours of chemical requirements are lesser and more engineering courses are arranged.

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3.3 Research and Progress

Chemistry develops quickly in recent half century, it is interrelated and infiltrated with many other disciplines of science and technology. " The reforming of chemical teaching to meet the social need " is an important program for us, we face many questions about it. For instance, the main contents of traditional general chemistry is about solution system and main group of elements, but some knowledge about solid state, organometallic, instrument analysis seems to be added now, in that case, which original contents should be curtailed? Another concerning problem is that how to enhance the relationship between chemistry knowledge and society focuses items(such as environment, source of energy, new materials)? Inorganic, organic, analytical and physical chemistry are the four fundamental courses for chemistry major students, such arrangement was adopted near a century, although their contents were changed gradually, whether it must be changed or not? Molecular biology is the fundament of modern life science, it means to probe the secret of life at the molecular level. The development of molecular biology depends upon the close correlation between chemistry and biology, thus, what kind of basic knowledge should be learned by the student of these two specialities? Although the application of computer is a required course now, but what would be the main contents of teaching? There are so many problems of chemistry teaching that should be studied urgently, during the arrival of 21st century.

In 1995, the Department of Higher Education, State Education Commission put forward a research project about the reforming of curriculum and teaching content of science specialities for 21st century. The project pointed out that among the various kinds of reformation of higher education, the promotion of teaching is the kernel to advance the quality of qualified persons and the efficiency of education. The State government offers some foundation for this project, then a lot of applications made by various universities and colleges, among which 27 programs were approved in 1995, there were 3 programs relating to chemistry major, non-chemistry major and applied chemistry major respectively. Their research points involved a number of aspects:

  1. Cultivated object and basic requirements: In order to meet the social development, we need flexibility in curricula, so as to teach students in accordance with their aptitude. We must strengthen the fundament, widen the scope of knowledge, emphasize the comprehensive and initiative abilities. The undergraduate education is universal while graduated study is professional to expert, most of them will take part in many other field to do work relating chemistry.
  2. The reformation of curriculum and teaching content: This is a detailed and very hard task, it can't be perfected in a short period, we should do it step by step. Many professors often introduce some popular topics into their class to excite the learning interest, we pay attention to accumulate and exchange all of these experiences, every little makes a mickle. Some ideas of new curriculum are suggested, which would be discussed and tested in few classes and revised gradually.
  3. Experimental training: This is an important part of chemistry teaching, the basic laboratory courses have been set up independently in many universities for chemistry major students. Training of basic technics should be emphasized, experiments of test and verification will be reduced while those of probing and comprehension are increased. Short of equipment and funds are still a common situation in many universities, it will be a difficult task in a long period to reform and improve experimental training.
  4. Publication of new textbooks: It will produce great beneficial and social effect only when the results of research are written in text book. Some professors are invited by State Education Commission from various fields to organize a publishing committee of textbook. They make plan, examine, revise, and evaluate these textbooks.
  5. Modernization of teaching methods and mediums: The application of computer in classroom and laboratory are developing quickly. There are some special foundation to develop the soft ware of CAI and multiple medium, the interface of computer and transducer of chemical experiments.
  6. Comparison with international development: We not only exchange information through the national meetings and periodicals, also we pay close attention to the international trends, and compare with each other.

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Environmental protection is one of China's fundamental policies. The enhancement of environmental education is a long-period and the whole people's task. After the United Nation's "Conference on Man's Environment (1992)" and "China's Environmental Protection Conference (1993)", Chinese environmental education has developed progressively and cultivated a number of specialists for environmental protection.

In the different levels of chemistry education in China, great attention has been paid to environmental education.

In primary education, environmental education is proceeded chiefly with the course of "nature". The contents related to chemistry in the course roughly are:

Air, chief cause of air pollution and some protective measures, safe use of fire, water, uses of water, saving on water, filtration, precipitation and sterilization, the chief cause of pollution in water areas and some protective measures, food-chain, importance of conservation of ecological environment, water and soil conservation, afforestation, energy resources and minerals, etc.

In chemistry education of the secondary level, we pay more attention to permeating of environmental education through all the courses.

In the secondary school chemistry syllabus, contents of environmental education are definitely regulated. In chemistry textbooks used all over the country, contents related to environmental protection are introduced in many topics. For example:

Junior secondary school:
Pollution of atmosphere and its harm ; water is a valuable natural resource, saving on water, water pollution and its harm ; hydrogen energy resource ; carbon dioxide and greenhouse effect, carbon monoxide and human health, harm of tail gas of automobiles ; waste water and correct use of fertilizers.

Senior secondary school:
Pollution of chlorine, purification of water, acid fog, origin and harm of halogen simple substances ; pollution of hydrogen sulfide, pollution of sulfur oxides, acid rain, pollution of industrial waste water, gas and residue, importance of environmental protection, ozone and protection of the ozone layer ; arsenic and human health, pollution of nitrogen oxides, photo-chemical smog, pollution of ammonia, correct use of fertilizers, nitrogen oxides and human health, eutrophication of water, and pollution of pesticides and chemical fertilizers ; pollution by dust and its prevention ; magnesium, aluminum and human health ; pollution by heavy metals, and utilization of waste materials ; methane and rural environment, pollution by aromatic hydrocarbons, petroleum and coal tar products ; pollution by halogenated hydrocarbons, their prevention and cure, freon, alcohol and human health, pollution by phenols; and pollution by waste water, oils and organic wastes .

In the teaching material for senior secondary school optional chemistry courses, "Chemistry and environmental protection" is treated in a special chapter.

In some ordinary secondary schools, "environmental education" is offered as an optional course.

In the secondary level, there are 5 schools specialized in environmental protection around the country, as well as more than 80 specialized schools offering special field of study for environmental protection and 160 vocational senior secondary schools specialized in environmental protection. There are about 12000 students studying in these environmental protection specialized schools and institutes.

Courses related to chemistry and offered in these schools are: Introduction to environmental protection, environmental chemistry, environmental monitoring, atmospheric chemistry, controlled engineering of atmospheric pollution, atmospheric monitoring, water chemistry, controlled engineering of water pollution, water quality monitoring, disposal and comprehensive utilization of solid waste, disposal of the three industrial wastes, etc.

In the higher education level, we pay more attention to universal education of environmental protection. In Tsinghua University, Nanjing University, Beijing Normal University, Zhejiang University, China Textile University and also in some agricultural, financial and economic universities or colleges, the common optional courses of environmental protection have been offered for both undergraduates and postgraduates, which are warmly welcomed. Contents of environmental protection are added in the general chemistry courses of these universities or colleges. For example, "General chemistry (4th ed.)" compiled by the general chemistry teaching and research group of Zhejiang University is composed of 8 chapters, in which the 2nd chapter is "Basic principles of chemical reactions and atmospheric pollution", and the 3rd chapter, "Water chemistry and water pollution", etc.

In higher education, environmental education is the regular environmental education. From the beginning of 1970s, Peking University, Zhongshan University and Beijing Industrial University, etc. started to set up 16 special fields of study related to environmental protection, and developed progressively year by year. From statistics, till 1990 in 79 universities and colleges, there are 16 special fields of study concerning environmental protection with 91 specialized subjects, including science, industry, agriculture and forestry, medicine and teacher training, and about 12000 students are majoring in these subjects. There are 107 master-degree awarded units with 21 subjects on environment, 36 doctor-degree awarded units with 14 subjects on environment. There are more than 500 postgraduates now studying in these units. And a number of post-doctoral mobile stations have been established.

There are five colleges specialized in environmental protection, with 5 kinds of special field of study and 15 specialized subjects.

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China is a populous country. Every year, there are about 2.8 million senior secondary school graduates applying for admission to colleges and universities, but the number of students to be recruited is about 30% of the total number of applicants. This has made the annual university entrance examination a keen competition. The principle for admission is the " comprehensive assessment of moral integrity, intelligence and physical fitness and admission by merit ". The assessment of moral integrity is done by the school of the applicants. The physical conditions are assessed by designated hospitals according to the standards set by the State Education Commission and the Ministry of Public Health. The scholastic aptitude testing is carried out mainly by the National Entrance Examination (NEE). The NEE has therefore become the focal point for competition and also a hot spot that has the most extensive social concern.

Beginning from 1985, the country introduced the Minimum Competency Test (MCT) at senior secondary schools and it will become official throughout the nation in 1996. This is a performance test of senior school graduates taken at the provincial level and recognized by the State. It is a means for testing and assessing the teachers achievements of regular senior secondary schools. Those who pass the test in ideology and moral integrity, cultural courses and physical culture will be given diplomas, by which they can participate in the NEE. In this sense, NEE is a selective test on the basis of the MCT. It is organized and executed in a unified manner, with nationally unified selection of test items. The scores are an important basis for admission.

The State Education Commission has authorized the Examination Center to design test items and keep them in confidence, undertake to manage and supervise the affairs concerning the examination, formulate scoring norms and conduct supervision over the marking of test papers, collect information and conduct analysis of the scores and file a report. The center also undertakes the study of matters concerning NEE. All provinces and counties have special NEE organizations, which are charged with the arrangements of examination. After the test scores are made public, the provincial special NEE organizations fix the minimum score for admission according to the performance of the nominees who have been qualified morally and physically and the number of planned admissions or slightly more than the number of planned admissions. Colleges and universities will then recruit from among the applicants with scores above the minimum norm according to the sequence of choices by applicants. China's NEE is the largest university entrance examination in the world as it has to make nearly three million applicants to sit in a nationally unified examination all at the same time, maintain the examination discipline, read the test papers and file test report, admit qualified students all within a prescribed time limit. Through repeated exploration, it has become a highly centralized management and operational system, playing an extremely important role in the selection of students for institutions of higher learning. A minority of students(about 5%) who have excelled themselves in their performances morally, intelligently and physically and admitted into universities without going through the examination.

Apart from the NEE, separate test items are designed for applicant students from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.

To set test items is the heart of the examination. It has to facilitate both admission and the improvement of the teaching levels of secondary schools. We stress the competency testing. The current examination is conducted in two categories, each with five courses.

Literature and history, economics and laws: Chinese, mathematics, foreign language, history and politics;

Science and engineering, agriculture and medicine: Chinese, mathematics, foreign language, physics and chemistry.

The test items for the seven courses are designed under the guidance and with the participation of "Disciplinary Item Design Committee" (covering seven disciplines, each made up of about ten persons). The committee also undertakes to provide "Test Syllabus" to be issued six months before the NEE after the approval of the State Education Commission. The Test Syllabus reveals the scope of contents to be covered by the test, requirements of knowledge and competency, ratios of different types of items. The Test Syllabus has a sample test attached. It serves not only as the basis for item designing but also as a reference for the preparations by applicants. This has reduced the mystery of the test.

Chemistry is one of the courses to be tested for the category of science and engineering, agriculture and medicine. The number of applicants for chemistry examination is nearly two million. The time for examination is 120 minutes. The top mark is 150 points. The test papers are divided into Paper A and Paper B. Paper A contains multiple choices, with the score accounting for 55%. The paper is checked by optic-electric reading machine. Paper B contains items for filling blanks (with scores accounting for 25%), questions and answers (with scores accounting for about 10%) and items for calculation (with scores making up about 10%), totaling 45% of the total score. This paper will be marked by teachers organized by the examination committees of various places according to the standards fixed by the items designing committee. The contents of the items are divided into five parts:

Basic concepts and basic theories with scores accounting for 40%
Elements and their compounds with scores accounting for 20%
Knowledge about organic chemistry with scores accounting for 15%
Chemical laboratory tests with scores accounting for 10%
Chemical calculation with scores accounting for 15%

As there are too many applicants, it is difficult to do laboratory tests in laboratories. So the basic operations and skills have to be tested through writing and drawing diagrams only. The requirements for knowledge points are divided into three levels: knowing, understanding and comprehensive application. The higher level requirements contain the requirements of the lower levels.

In order to enable the scoring to have a bigger standard deviation and a higher level of discrimination, the item designing groups control the proportions of items with different degrees of difficulty. Easy items account for about 20%, items with average difficulty account for about 60%, and the number of items with greater difficulty account for about 20%. Through years of practice and experiments, the total analytical results of the test papers over the past five years show that the levels of difficulty of the test papers range from 0.55 to 0.60, the standard deviation is between 24-28. These indices are suitable both for admission selection by different types of colleges and universities and for promoting the improvement in the teaching of chemistry at senior secondary schools.

In order to admit students with solid basic knowledge, strong abilities and great potential for learning into colleges and universities, the ability testing has become a major subject of study by the Item Designing Committee. It is now at the turn of the century in the rapid development of science and technology. The ability of self-teaching should indeed by one of the tests for the quality of personnel. The time of schools learning is limited. One would hate to have learned too little when in application, as a Chinese saying goes. The people in the future must have a strong ability of self-teaching and thinking. The acquisition and development of ability inseparable from knowledge and skills. It is, therefore, necessary to pay attention to testing the knowing of the inner relationship of knowledge, the understanding and application of basic principles and the acceptability of new information on the basis of what the students have learned. In recent years, there are some test items related to C60 , carbocation, 10 millionth compound, dendritic molecules, chlorinated polyether, which are not included in textbook, it is favorable to test the ability. Some other test items which are related to the environment or energy source also are enjoyed.

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The activities of chemical education are manifold. Some of them are national, while the others are regional. These activities are organized by some academic committees.

The first is the " Chemical Education Instructing Committee ", the members of this committee are invited by The State Education Commission for a term of 5 years. These professors discuss the training objective and curriculum, evaluate the teaching qualities, plan the publication of textbooks and make suggestions about the reformation of chemical education. This committee plays the role of academic advisory for State Education Commission and provide instruction to promote higher chemical education for whole country.

The second is the Education Committee of Chinese Chemical Society(CCS), which was founded in 1979 with a term of 4 years. This academic organizations is consisting of some members of Board of Directors of CCS and some enthusiastic professors from all over the country. They organize meetings every year. For example in 1994, a national conference of university chemistry was held in Shanghai, with the theme " Chemical Education in 21st Century ". More than one hundred participates from 62 universities attended the conference, about 150 papers were collected in the proceeding, involving teaching contents, teaching method and teaching technique. They organize some small scale meetings on special topics as well, such as a discussion about the reformation of the chemical courses for biology department will be held in Wuhan, 1996. Meetings of chemical education on secondary school were also held every year, such as " National Chemical Micro-Lab for Secondary School (1994) " and " The Continue Education for Chemistry Teachers (1995)".

The third one is " Chemical Teaching Committee of Chinese Education Society", which was founded in 1983, with a term of 4 years. They face the chemical education of secondary schools and held many activities both education ideological and various aspects of chemistry teaching and teaching materials.

Conference is good for exchange ideas, but the financial support and number of participant is limited. Therefore it is another important task to publish periodicals, The Journal of Chemical Education(Chinese) and University Chemistry are edited and published by Chinese Chemical Society. These periodicals open a vast field to chemical educators for exchanging and discussing, it is very appreciated by them.

"The Journal of Chemical Education " was published from 1980, bimonthly, and had been as a monthly magazine since 1994. The main columns involve Chemistry and Society, Investigation of Courses and Teaching Materials, Teaching Research, Experiment Teaching and Aids Research and Chemistry Olympiads, etc. Their main readers are the educators of secondary school and teachers college. The number of issues is more than 10 thousand.

"The University Chemistry " was published from 1986, bimonthly. It is edited and published by the cooperation of Chinese Chemical Society and the Research Center of Higher Chemical Education. The main columns are Chemistry Today, Survey of Chemistry, Study and Reform of Chemical Education, Chemistry Laboratory, Computer and Chemistry, Chemical Education-International etc. The main readers are both of professors and students in universities and colleges. The number of issues is about 4 thousand.

Some other periodicals such as Chemistry Teaching , Research of Chemistry Teaching, Math-Phy-Chem for middle school students edited by some local agencies are also published throughout the country.

Reference and Resources:


CHEN Zufu "Face the 21st Century Reform Chemical Education" University Chemistry, 1995;10(1):11


WU Yongxing "Analysis and survey of the new chemistry textbook for the nine-year programme of compulsory education in China" from International Newsletter on Chemical Education , 1994,No.42:13


HUA Tongwen, TANG Youqi "Carrying Forward and Forgoing Ahead of Chemistry and Chemical Education" Proceeding of Public Speech on the Reformation of Teaching Content and Curriculum, Higher Education Press (1995)


Syllabus for "Nature" in Primary School of Nine-Year Compulsory Education People's Education Press,(1993)


Syllabus for "Chemistry" in Junior Secondary School of Nine-Year Compulsory Education People's Education Press,(1993)


Syllabus for "Chemistry" in Ordinary Senior Secondary School (1996)


Document of State Education Commission, "Cultivated Object and Basic Requirement for Chemistry and Applied Chemistry Specialities", Higher Education Press (1992)


National Education Examination Authority, State Education Commission, "Test Syllabus for Entrance Examination to Higher Education", Higher Education Press (1996)


JIANG Xiangli "Research on Environmental Education in People's Republic of China" (March 1994) included in International Environmental Education Program (IEEP) UNESCO-UNEP

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