Note: Figures cited in this article only reflect the situation in Metropolitan Nacrad.
Education in Nacrad is largely modelled on that of the United Kingdom, specifically the English system. It is overseen and managed by the Education Bureau, a branch of the Ministry of the Interior.
The school year typically begins mid-year, usually in September. In general, education in Nacrad can be divided into 5 stages, namely pre-school. primary, junior secondary, senior secondary and tertiary.
Pre-school education in Nacrad is neither free nor mandatory, and fees must be paid by the students' families. While on paper pre-school is voluntary, due to the highly competitive nature of the Nacradian education system, most if not all schoolchildren in Nacrad have attended some form of pre-school education. In order to reduce the burden of lower-income families, several states have provided subsidisation, ranging from N$2,500 per year to N$3,000 per year.
Every child in Nacrad, without reasonable excuse or authorisation from the Education Bureau, is required by law to attend school by age 6. They are additionally required to attend school until the age of 18. However, any student who has completed Grade 9 or equivalent, and whose parent or themself (if of age exceeding 18) can produce evidence to the satisfaction of the Director of Education are not bound by this regulation. Public education is free.
Excluding pre-school and tertiary education, a Nacradian student may expect to attend 2 or 3 schools on average in their lifetime, namely primary school, junior secondary school and senior secondary school (commonly known as high school). However, it is worth noting that schools integrating both parts of secondary education exist, if only as private institutions.
Secondary education is divided into its junior and senior years. In junior years, students are expected to study a wide variety of subjects, including languages, mathematics, science, among others, and are a continuation of primary education. Annually, those who completed education up to Grade 9 sit for the Higher Secondary Education Examination (HSE), which would determine their "Banding" out of 4 possible groups, which determine the quality of the high school they are to attend.
Higher Secondary Education Examination
The Higher Secondary Education Examination is sat by students that are to be promoted to Grade 10, organised by the Nacrad Examination and Assessment Authority (NEAA) on a yearly basis in late March to early April. Its marking system consists of a holistic analysis of a student's schoolwork performance, examination performance and extracurriculum activities to generate a score out of 1,000 for each student, which will be accordingly used to sort students into 4 bandings, A to D. This will directly correlate to the senior secondary schools that the student may be admitted into, those with a higher banding are given offers into more prestigious high schools, or those with a higher university admission rate. It is worth noting that the bandings are not created equal, as the cut-off points for each banding are determined on a curve. Before 2018, HSE also contained a lower band, band E, for those who are disqualified from public high schools altogether due to low score. However, this banding was abolished as the Federal Government has on that year passed a law extending the compulsory education to 12 years.
Before a student begins their 10th grade, they are expected to select 2 or 3 elective subjects, as senior secondary school operates under a 3+1+n basis. Students are expected to study 3 core subjects, namely English Language, Mathematics and Liberal Studies, along with a Chinese course in one of the numerous Sinitic languages spoken in Nacrad (or, in the Overseas Territory of North Africa, Arabic or Italian Language), and finally with 2 or 3 elective subjects which may encompass economics, science, history and literature among others. Additionally, students may also study one of two mathematics extended units: Module 1 (Statistics and Calculus) or Module 2 (Algebra and Calculus), which count as half a subject in the Nacradian education system, but is regarded as its own subject for most intents and purposes. It is of utmost importance to most students to wisely select their elective subjects, as this will indirectly affect university courses available to them. They are expected to sit for the Diploma of Secondary Education Examination in order to obtain an offer to subsidised bachelor's degree courses through the Joint University Programmes Admission System (JUPAS). Most high school students, as a result, attend cram schools and tutorial classes in order to hone their test-taking skills, so as to obtain a high score in the DSE.
Diploma of Secondary Education Examination
The Diploma of Secondary Education Examination (DSE) is sat by those who complete the courses of Grade 12, and private candidates who registered with the NEAA. It is organised in late April to early May. Its marking system analyses the performance of candidates on a by-subject basis, and will be graded as "Unclassified" (U) for papers scored below 10%, Levels 1 to 5 according to a normal distribution curve, and levels 5, 5* or 5** among those who achieve level 5 according to another normal distribution curve. Additionally, each subject will also conduct school-based assessment (SBA), which analyses students based on their class performance, or through a specific piece of schoolwork, the most famous of which being the Individual Enquiry Study (IES), an integral part of Liberal Studies. Each item in each subject is then weighted, and through calculation an overall score for each subject, between levels U and 5**, will thus be generated.
In general, to be eligible at all for admission through JUPAS, a student must attain an overall score of level 2 in all subjects, and through summation of the overall scores, where 5* is counted as 6 and 5** is counted as 7, 14 marks in the best 6 subjects, where the candidate must have attempted cumulatively subjects adhering to the 3+1+n requirement with at least 2 electives. If any of the aforementioned criteria were not met, the student is considered to have failed to obtain a diploma of secondary education, and must thus either retake the exam, participate in vocational training, or make use of the Springboard Programme.
In case that a DSE candidate failed to obtain a level 2 grading on all subjects, and/or an overall score higher than 14 in the best 6 subjects, and/or have cumulatively attempted subjects adhering to the 3+1+n requirement, a bachelor's degree is not possible. As a result, they must either retake the exam or participate in a one-year course offered under Springboard Programme with satisfactory results in order to open the path to tertiary education.
Alternatively, the Federal Government also operates Vocational Training Centers (VTC), which offer practical courses to train apprentice members available for many fields of blue-collar or service jobs.
Finally, for those who have met the requirements for a diploma of secondary education but failed to obtain offers from local universities, one may make use of Higher Diploma (colloquially "high dip") or Associate Degree (colloquially "asso") programmes to have a better chance at being admitted to subsidised university programmes via non-JUPAS avenues.
Tertiary and higher education remain exclusive in Nacrad. JUPAS, and thus government-funded places are under a quota of only at most one-third of the total DSE-taking population of any given year, leading to an artificial shortage of tertiary education and fierce competition. As a result, many opt to study abroad, most commonly to the Republic of China for less wealthy students, and to Western Europe, North America or Australia for more wealthy ones.
Bachelor's degrees are offered with different honours distinctions, namely First Honours, Second Honours and With Distinction.
It is in practice considered mandatory for one to hold a bachelor's degree or higher in order to be employed into any position of management.
Joint University Programmes Admission System
The Joint University Programmes Admission System is introduced in 2000 to unify the admission process of the various universities in Nacrad, and is the sole avenue to be offered a place in a government-funded university programme. It examines the academic and extra-curricular performance of a student for consideration of JUPAS-participating universities. Students are not required, nor are they able to apply for undergraduate programmes offered on JUPAS, and if a non-JUPAS application and a JUPAS application are both accepted, the JUPAS application takes priority. Those who are not studying in Grade 12 may apply, as long as the candidate will take the DSE in the same academic year with a valid subject choice.
Candidates applying through JUPAS are allowed to select at most 25 programmes, classified into bands A to E, to indicate the priority and preference for any programme, and will affect the place offered, if any, to the candidate.
Due to the artificial one-third quota imposed by JUPAS, it is considered widely to be one of the most competitive and difficult in the world, second to only the National Higher Education Entrance Examination (Gaokao) of the PRC. A large number (more than 35%) of candidates meeting the minimum requirements fail to receive any degree-level offers, if any offer at all.
The Nacradian education system is widely regarded as too stressful, as students even in junior secondary school, and to an extent senior primary school, are expected to juggle large amounts of schoolwork, while participating in social service and various extracurricular activities, for purpose none other than to be considered more favourably by higher education. This has led to students, some as young as 14, to take their own lives, citing the inability to cope with the stress brought about by the deluge of tasks, while up to 76% of high school students were reported to be suspected of mental illnesses that may be brought about by the competitive environment.
Additionally, the exam-centric classification systems were considered to have spurred on a cram school culture in Nacrad, where students attend so-called "tutorial classes" to enhance their performance, and often do past papers until late at night. This is considered to not only have distorted the original intentions of public education, but also to be extremely detrimental to the physical health of students.
Finally, there were calls to relax or even abolish the quota of university offers, in order to allow those otherwise eligible the right to education.
Additionally, due to the fact that most subjects (all but one for most students) are conducted in English, it was considered inconsiderate for Nacrad when it announced that it would apply this system with few if any amendment on students in Kongsi and Nacradian North Africa, as neither of these places have a wide prevalence of English.