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Achievements and the way ahead for China’s vocational education

2018-02-03 13:40:00

In a speech given at the 2016 National People's Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Chen Baosheng, the then Party Secretary and Deputy President of the China National School of Administration and incumbent Minister of Education pointed out that: “The new technological revolution and China’s rapidly developing manufacturing industries have created an urgent need for a more suitable vocational education system.”

The past 40 years have witnessed a remarkable progress in China’s vocational education. China has built the world’s largest modern vocational education system, which helps to produce a large and well-trained labor force and highly-qualified professionals. In 2015, there were 1,341 higher vocational education institutes with 10.486 million full-time students, an increase of 420,000 students over the previous year. In 2016, there were 12,300 vocational education institutes at all levels, with 9.3078 million newly enrolled students and 26.8021 million current students. There were also 93,000 vocational training institutes with 53.256 million registered students, with more than 100 million students attending the training courses on offer every year. By 2016, 56.569 million students had graduated or finished their course of study in these training institutes.

According to Wang Jiping, a department head at the Ministry of Education (MOE), secondary and higher vocational education have now become important pillars of China’s secondary and higher education system. A flexible and open education structure has taken shape, with a good balance between degree programs and vocational education.

China’s vocational education will be further adapted to keep pace with new trends, such as Internet plus, big data, and artificial intelligence. According to a report issued by the MOE, of the 34,000 programs offered by higher vocational education institutes in 2016, 60.7% were closely related to local core industries. Meanwhile, there was a marked increase in programs specializing in emerging service industries, the internet of things, ecological agriculture, rehabilitation services, health care and elderly care.

According to another report issued by the MOE in 2016, school-enterprise cooperation and integrated work-study programs have become the foundation of secondary vocational education. More than 60% of secondary vocational education institutes offered specific training programs customized to enterprises’ needs, and 40% of their graduates were directly employed by the cooperating enterprises. There was also a notable improvement in school equipment and facilities. According to the MOE statistics, the value of equipment and facilities for teaching and practice provided by enterprises to secondary vocational education institutes in 2016 was 76.6% higher than in 2014. And in terms of those provided to higher vocational education institutes, the total value reached RMB 4.4 billion. Among these institutes, 456 received more than RMB 1 million, and 123 received more than RMB 10 million.

The collaboration between vocational education and other sectors of education has also been strengthened. Some local governments took measures to build stronger ties between secondary and higher vocational education institutes, and to increase student enrollment in higher vocational education institutes, thus offering students in vocational programs more opportunities to pursue further study. According to the MOE’s 2016 statistics, 25.10% of the graduates from secondary education institutes (excluding those from technical schools) went on to study at a higher level education institute, showing an increase of 5.08% over the previous year.

As vocational education becomes more tuned to market demand and undergoes significant improvement in terms of quality, it has become more widely-accepted in society and well-recognized by parents and children. Also, in recent years China has launched a series of overseas programs to train professionals and offer support for school construction, and the responses have been very positive. In sum, China’s vocational education has made noteworthy achievements both at home and abroad.

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