The Vocational and Adult Education Department under the MOE recently organized a workshop on how to implement the National Vocational Education Reform Program, bringing together over 150 heads of multiple provincial departments. The aim was to explore how to translate educational spending into higher quality education, broader enrolment in vocational schools to increase the number by one million, and more elite vocational colleges and professional associations.
Putting money where most needed
Wang Xudong, from the Shandong Provincial Finance Department, thought it essential for local finance departments to put money where it was most needed for optimal educational cost-effectiveness as part of the effort to implement the Reform Program. He said that the Shandong provincial government had delegated financial powers to the Education Department, giving it discretion on funding allocation across basic education, vocational education and higher education institutions. Meanwhile, governing bodies had stepped up their performance evaluation activity on the use of the funds.
A representative of the Dalian Municipal Finance Department noted that the city government had recently adopted a similar approach, delegating financial powers to schools with a focus on capital performance instead of actual sums invested. In terms of educational service provision, funds were mostly invested in teacher training, and student support and development, he added.
Expanding enrolment by one million
In his annual report to the NPC this year, Premier Li Keqiang urged decision makers to introduce measures aimed at increasing the number of vocational school enrollments by one million. He said this could be achieved by, for example, encouraging ex-servicemen and women, laid-off workers and migrant workers to apply to these schools. In practice, vocational institutions are faced with limited resources and a lack of candidates.
Zhang Mingdong, director of the Adult Education Office of the Shanxi Provincial Department of Education said, “In response to this call, we convened a meeting to assess our current position in relation to the one million goal. Currently, vocational schools have achieved 70% of their recruitment target. Attracting migrant workers, laid-off workers and ex-servicemen and women to attend vocational schools, however, remains a challenge.”
Shi Wensheng, deputy director of the Adult Education Office of the Henan Provincial Department of Education, said that local vocational schools faced a shortage of teachers and up-to-date textbooks, and inadequate course scheduling to accommodate the needs of increasingly diverse applicant groups. He suggested putting more focus on attracting high school graduates.
Leading vocational colleges and professional associations
The Reform Program sets out another goal to establish around 50 elite vocational colleges and 150 professional associations by 2020 to meet intellectual and human resource demands in key growing industries.
Dong Gang, Chairperson of the Joint Meeting of Presidents of Vocational Schools and Colleges, urged institutions tasked with reaching this goal to explore new development models, institutional arrangements and standards for vocational education. Chen Qiuming, Party Secretary of Shenzhen Polytechnic University, argued that it was important for designated institutions to strengthen traditionally competitive programs and support emerging ones in order to play a leading role in the reform.