Kids in China start school generally at six years old. They have six years of what we would call elementary school followed by three years of middle school, but they call it junior secondary. Compulsory education in China is only through ninth grade. Not everyone goes to senior secondary for three years, but most choose to do this, about ninety percent.
Senior secondary (high school) students get broken into two groups based on a test they take called the Zhongkao. They all have to take it. Those academically inclined head towards an academic high school experience leading to college. The others head towards a more vocational experience leading to work.
For the wealthy the international schools are an option like the school I work in (Hangzhou International School). China has the second most international students in the world second only to the U.S. in order to attend an international school you have to have a foreign passport. It's not that hard to obtain if you have money. Parents can live in Macau or Hong Kong for a bit and obtain a passport. Some others have purchased them from poorer African countries. The Chinese government cracked down on this practice, but it still happens. Greece is now the hot spot for purchasing a foreign passport. Apparently Greece needs the money. I have several students from Greece that don't exactly look Green. Go figure.
In general completing high school and getting into college is 100% backwards from the states. High school kids work like crazy to graduate and even harder to be accepted into a "good" school. It's super competitive. When they arrive in college here in China it's a breeze and the rigor isn't on par with other school worldwide. Virtually all of the kids with means are headed to schools in Europe or North America.
In some personal news... my hopes of getting to Beijing during my break are starting to look dim. I think I'll be stuck here in Hangzhou. I might be able to do something crazy like fly to New Zealand. Apparently it's the only cheap ticket to and from China. It would mean a ten day quarantine on the way back. I don't know. Just spit balling at this point. I'll be off for a full month and don't want to just sit here in my apartment. I'll update as we get closer to the new year.