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The models of the nursing education systems of a country influence the quality of nursing care the nurses provide. Consequently, this paper analyzes and compares nursing education in China and Sri Lanka. I am interested in China because of the ease with which it affords its large population and adequate access to quality health care. I expect China to have an exemplary nursing education system. I am also interested in the Sri Lankan nursing education system because it attempts to combine traditional medicine and teaching with contemporary ones. Since Sri Lanka is exposed to Western influence and it cooperates with the West, I expect it to have an advanced nursing education system.

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Political History and Development of Nursing Education

China. The contemporary nursing education started in the 1920s when the Western missionaries arrived in the Chinese coastal cities. By 1890, several nursing schools had been established. However, it is not until 1920 that the first baccalaureate program was introduced at the Peking Union Medical College (Wong & Zhao, 2012). Between the 1950s and late 1970s, little progress was made in the nursing education sub-sector, but the developments continued after 1979. By 1992, China had already devised its first master program that was offered at Beijing Medical University. It introduced the doctorate program in 2004 at the Second Military Medical University (Wong & Zhao, 2012).

Sri Lanka. The contemporary nursing education in Sri Lanka started in 1876 when two maternity hospitals built by the British started offering midwifery training programs to address high maternal and infant mortality rates in the country. The first institutionalized nurse training commenced in 1939 when the first school of nursing was established under the Department of Health Services (Jayasekara & McCutcheon, 2006). In 1994, the government attempted to introduce university education for nurses. The shift has barely been successful as nursing is still considered a vocational course. The Open University offered the first baccalaureate degree program in Sri Lanka in 1994, which remains the only baccalaureate program (Jayasekara & McCutcheon, 2006). From time to time, the Ministry of Health looks for postgraduate level opportunities and sponsors some students to go abroad for master and doctorate level education.

Comparison. Comparing the two countries, it is evident that China has made extensive progress in the nursing education arena. By the time Sri Lanka was offering its first baccalaureate degree, China had designed master programs. Worse still, Sri Lanka is yet to introduce master programs in nursing, not even to mention the doctorate ones. In fact, the nursing profession in Sri Lanka is yet to be moved to the university setting.

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Government and Nursing Organizations Influencing Nursing Education

China. The major organizations influencing nursing education in China are government agencies, specifically the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Higher Education. They provide guidelines for nurse training and administer examinations through various agencies (Wong & Zhao, 2012). The Instructional Committee for Nursing Education remains the primary accrediting institution.

Sri Lanka. The Ministry of Health is the main agency influencing nursing education in the country. Through the department of health, it designs the nursing education curriculum and regulates the nursing education sector (Jayasekara & McCutcheon, 2006). Apart from the ministry, the National Institute of Health Sciences plays a crucial role in nursing education as it provides training to nurses with an aim of improving human resources required for primary health care.

Comparison. In both countries, the government wields the most influence in nursing education. It plays a major role in designing and regulating nursing education. However, it is not clear from the articles whether there are nursing societies or other alternative groupings that influence nursing education in China and Sri Lanka.

Current System of Nursing Education

China. The current nursing education system in China follows a lean, multi-tiered model established in the 1970s. There were health institutes occupying the lowest tier, which were scrapped by 2010 as the government sought to improve the quality of nursing care by ensuring that all nurses are university-educated (Wong & Zhao, 2012). There is the university diploma tier in the middle, and the baccalaureate degree tier occupies the upper level. From there, nursing students may pursue postgraduate programs.

Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan nursing education system comprises hospital-based learning institutions and the Open University. Most of the nurse training is administered at the health institutions where diploma certification is issued (Jayasekara & McCutcheon, 2006). These institutions offer specialty courses for nurses, for instance, in intensive care, pediatric care, and infection control, among others. Nevertheless, the nursing profession is still considered a vocational undertaking. There only one baccalaureate program offered by the Open University and, at the time the paper was written, no master or doctorate programs in Sri Lanka.

Comparison. It can be stated that the nursing education system in China is more developed than in Sri Lanka. China has upgraded its nursing training such that all nurses have a minimum qualification of university-issued diploma certification. Sri Lanka still admits those who have had 13 years of formal education, an equivalent of a senior high school in the West (Jayasekara & McCutcheon, 2006). Furthermore, the country is yet to transfer its nursing education to the university system. Consequently, nurses are not able to adequately appropriate evidence-based nursing interventions and keep up with the best practices in their areas of specialty.

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Postgraduate Education

China. There is a variety of postgraduate nursing programs in China. The first master program in nursing was introduced in 1992 at the Beijing Medical University. The first doctorate in nursing program was established at the Second Military Medical University in 2004 (Wong & Zhao, 2012). Since then, China has made monumental steps towards affording postgraduate education to its nursing students.

Sri Lanka. There are no postgraduate nursing programs in Sri Lanka. During the 1990s, the Ministry of Health had arranged for the master program to be offered through distance learning by the Athabasca University in Alberta, Canada (Jayasekara & McCutcheon, 2006). However, the arrangement had only lasted for five years. In 2000, the Ministry tried a similar arrangement sponsored by the WHO and offered by the University of Adelaide. However, it was discontinued because of the funding issues (Jayasekara & McCutcheon, 2006). Currently, the government sponsors a few students to undertake postgraduate programs abroad.

Comparison. It is clear that China has a better nursing education system as it affords the nursing students an opportunity to specialize and further their education. On the other hand, Sri Lanka remains far behind from the level of China with respect to nursing education.


China and Sri Lanka could not have had more contrasting features in their nursing education systems. China’s is developed while Sri Lanka’s is not, and this backwardness manifests in the quality of nursing care the residents receive. What surprised me the most about these countries is the value they attach to their traditional medical approaches. Even as they adopt more Westernized, contemporary nursing education systems, both countries have found a way to integrate traditional curative, preventive, and rehabilitative interventions. Of the two, Sri Lanka’s system, though less developed, is the one that remotely resembles that of the United States as it allows a combination of nursing programs.

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