Vocational education reform made major national goal

Updated: Jan 19, 2023 By ZOU SHUO China Daily Print
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New guideline mandates closer cooperation with private sectors, increased financing, sharing of expertise and better training for teachers nationwide

China plans to advance the reform and development of its vocational education sector to be able to train greater numbers of highly-skilled technicians, according to a new guideline.

Recently issued by the general offices of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council, China's Cabinet, the guideline is intended to boost the capacity of vocational schools and increase the quality, adaptability, and appeal of the education they offer.

The reform of national vocational education will focus on developing a multiform, multichannel, and sustainable education and training system, as well as a cooperation mechanism for governments, industries, businesses, and schools.

Vocational education for sectors such as information technology, computer-controlled machine tools and robots, aviation and space equipment manufacturing, and biomedicine, will be prioritized, and the guideline encourages leading businesses and schools in these sectors to boost cooperation.

More effort will be placed on raising faculty standards in vocational schools devoted to manufacturing, agriculture, and the service sector. The guideline encourages the hiring of core experts from businesses in these sectors to teach at schools.

More policy support for vocational education has also been promised. The guideline encourages local governments to explore new mechanisms of cooperation with the private sector, and to attract more private and industrial investment in vocational education. Financial institutions are also welcome to offer their services and support.

A group of high-level vocational schools and majors will be created to contribute to social and economic development. The vocational college enrollment system will be improved, and colleges offering bachelor's degrees should work to expand enrollment.

The guideline also stressed the need for innovation in terms of international communication and cooperation. China must establish a number of high-level international vocational schools and create globally influential standards for vocational majors, curricula, teaching resources and teaching equipment.

Chen Ziji, director of the Ministry of Education's Department of Vocational Education, said the guideline is the first to be issued by central authorities on vocational education since the 20th Communist Party of China National Congress last October.

The Congress placed great emphasis on the importance of vocational education, which has been given unprecedented weighting in the overall education system, Chen said at a recent news conference, adding that since the Congress also stressed the importance of education, technology and talent in building a powerful country, deepening the reform of modern vocational education is an ever more challenging and important task.

Chen said that the guideline dismissed misconceptions that belittle vocational education by stressing that it promotes the fully-rounded development of students.

By promoting the integration and balanced development of vocational education with general education, students with different abilities and needs have greater choice and any anxiety parents feel about vocational schools should now be alleviated, he added.

"Vocational education is not 'low-level education' nor is it 'education for the less able'. It is a form of education with its own distinct characteristics," Chen said. "Vocational education students can choose to pursue further studies or enter employment, and we will try our best to help expand their choices for self-improvement."

The guideline also stressed the importance of public sector participation, stating that industries, businesses, governments and schools should coordinate resources to advance vocational education.

Ou Xiaoli, an official at the National Development and Reform Commission, said that vocational education is key to the development of human resources and the economy, and to protecting and improving livelihoods.

Vocational education is as important as other forms of education. In recent years, enrollment has risen sharply, with secondary and higher vocational schools turning out around 10 million technicians every year.

Responding to social demand, vocational schools have adjusted their majors and created more than 1,300 new courses that essentially cover every sector of the economy.

In order to deepen integration of industry and vocational education, 21 cities have been selected as pilot zones, and local governments have set up 4,600 businesses deeply integrated with vocational education, he said, adding that the commission has increased investment and funding for vocational education, and has encouraged local governments to issue special bonds to fund school infrastructure.

Jin Hongyang, director of the Tianjin Municipal Education Department, said that to promote international cooperation in vocational education, Tianjin has set up 21 workshops around the world, which are named after the deity Lu Ban, who is known as the "father of carpentry" in China, and who exemplified craftsmanship and creativity.

The Luban workshops not only train professionals, but also serve the development of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Tianjin will continue to open more workshops and to train more qualified technicians in countries and regions participating in the BRI, he said.

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