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According to my understanding from a book I'm currently re-reading, "三下" means "the final semester". I'm guessing 下 here means the latter half of something, but why 三? If it's at all relevant, the book is set in 1970's Taipei.

间部三下丙班学生

a night-school student in the final semester of his senior year

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"三下" in the school system means "三年級下學期 - third grade second semester".

Note that Chinese education uses a semester system, each school year consists of two semesters - the first semester (上學期) and the second semester (下學期). The grade classification for grades one through twelve are:

  • 小學 - 1 thru 6

  • 初中(初級中學) - 7(初ㄧ) thru 9(初三)

  • 高中(高級中學) - 10(高ㄧ) thru (高三)

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  • So 丙班 does not mean "third grade", as I interpreted it, but rather Class 3? That is, third grade, second semester, class 3.
    – timseb
    Jul 16, 2022 at 12:27
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    Yes, 丙班 means "the class 丙". Note that "甲,乙,丙,丁..." is one of the class naming systems for the classes in the same grade.
    – r13
    Jul 16, 2022 at 12:39
  • btw, 丙班 of third grade can be simply referred to as '三丙'
    – Clay Hsu
    Jul 17, 2022 at 13:06
  • In fact, even today we still often say "三下" to mean "三年級下學期". But it is a little strange to use "上/下學期" when talking about a class, because every grade and every class is in the same semester. It is impossible that a class is at the first semester when another class is at the second semester. Maybe in 1970's Taipei there is something different.
    – Krahmal
    Jul 18, 2022 at 6:49
  • Now days Chinese have March~July as 上學期, September~January/February as 下學期. Others are summer/winter holiday. Some university has the third semester 小學期.
    – Krahmal
    Jul 18, 2022 at 6:57

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