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People's Daily Online>>Special Coverage >> China Studies >> Cooperation >> Marine Economy

The Bottleneck of the Blue Economy: Maritime Education

(People's Daily Online)

14:28, December 31, 2011

The blue economy based on marine industry is leading a new wave of Chinese economy. However, compared with the coastal countries worldwide with developed blue economy, the Chinese maritime education is far behind. At present, there are only five institutions named after the concept of "ocean" or "maritime", with only 100,000 currently enrolled students. Colleges and universities with maritime majors are as few as 38 in a total of over 2,000. Lack of talents has become the primary bottleneck in developing blue economy, and enhancing the maritime education has become a top priority. Maritime education carries the important missions of cultivate talents, developing marine technology, serving blue economic development, and should play a leading and supportive role in developing the marine industry.

Maritime education is generally small in scale and slow in development

According to the National Statistic Gazette of the Educational Development 2009, among 2305 colleges and universities nationwide, there are 5 institutions named after the concept of "ocean" or "maritime", accounting for 0.21% of the total; 38 colleges and universities with maritime majors, accounting for 1.65%; 24 vocational colleges with maritime majors, accounting for 1%; all the colleges with maritime majors account for 2.65% of total colleges. The development of China's maritime education institutions is insufficient not only on college numbers, but also on number of currently enrolled students in the 62 institutions. According to statistics by the end of 2009, there were only about 100,000 enrolled students, far behind the need for human resource reserves to build a strong maritime country.

In recent years, although the total enrollment of formal education has been growing, the proportion of students related to maritime majors has been declining. In 2008, the proportion of enrollments related to maritime majors was only 0.35%. On the one hand, there is a serious shortage in maritime talents: it can be seen from the table below that the total enrollment of maritime major students was 166 thousand in 2008, of which 2,025 are PhDs, 5,214 are masters, 80,784 are undergraduates, 25,552 are adult students, 52,842 are vocational secondary students. College level education makes up the largest share of 48.54%, followed by secondary vocational education with accounting for 31.75%. On the other hand, high-level maritime education and training remains poor, reflected by undeveloped graduate education. The total number of graduate students is less than 10 thousand, with a proportion of less than 5%, which could be a hidden danger for development of China's marine economy and even the entire national economy. For the Chinese education system, the maritime education does not have enough advantage considering its current strategical position, and does not match the need for building a strong marine country.

Data source:China Marine Statistical Yearbook 2009

Structural problem in major settings with vacancies on new and featured specialties

Structural problem in China's maritime major setting is another crucial bottleneck that undermines development of maritime higher education. Currently, distribution of China's maritime majors at college level is very narrow. According to the Directory and Introduction of Majors in Higher Education Institutions promulgated by the Ministry of Education in 1998, there are 71 subdirectories and 249 majors, but only 8 specialties (Marine Science, Marine Technology, Port Navigation Channel and Coastal Engineering, Navigational Technology, Marine Engineering, Ship and Ocean Engineering, Aquaculture and Marine Fishery Science and Technology) was set in 5 subdirectories (Marine Sciences, hydraulics, Traffic and Transportation, Marine Engineering, Aquaculture). Lack of maritime majors directly results in a serious shortage of marine professionals, which restricts development of marine economy and progress of marine science and technology.

In this paper, we take maritime education at college level for an example, which accounts for nearly 50% of the total students, to analyse the structure of China's maritime education. In 2008, 31% of the college students majored in marine engineering, 24% majored in marine technology, 15% majored in Aquaculture,12% majored in ship and ocean engineering...There are structural problems in setting of current oceanic disciplines with a narrow distribution. These specialies mainly focus on traditional marine industry with offering basic and traditional majors. This results in duplicate specialty setting and relative surplus of talent supply. In contrast, there is a shortage in new high-tech, applied and featured specialties which are closely related to the blue economy.

Figure 1. Professional composition of students studying maritime majors at college level in 2008

Data source: Calculated with data from China Marine Statistical Yearbook 2009

Qualified teachers, matriculation quality and practice teaching condition involved in marine majors are relatively weak

Due to limitation of specialties, present teacher troops in marine higher educational institutions are weak and its structure is also unreasonable. In recent years, efforts to attract talents from abroad is tremendous but with limited success because of insufficiency in the supply of senior talents on marine science and technology. The predicament results in further problems including a low base of teachers,academic polarizations, a serious brain drain, restricted development of the discipline, difficult to establish famous disciplines and limits the college to a relatively low level.

Maritime higher education institutions belong to agricultural colleges and universities. This result in widespread problems such as low matriculation quality compared with high education standards. Some key colleges and universities owns high standard faculty, but have to lower the entry score to recruit students with lower admission standards, which in a sense is a waste of educational resources. Maritime careers usually require a long-term retention on islands with poor working condition and low payment, so high school students are often reluctant to apply to marine colleges, so that marine colleges could not recruit high standard students, thus affecting the cultivation of high quality marine talents.

To develop the ocean, develop marine education first

Development of the blue economy depends on high-quality maritime talents. Since the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea went into effect in 1994,on every conference of the UN, resolutions have been made to advocate for the coastal countries to take developing human resource, strengthening comprehensive ocean management and realizing sustainable use of oceans as a top priority for the country.

United States, Canada, Australia, Korea, India and other coastal countries have made national marine strategies and human resources development plans facing the 21st century, in which all emphasized that training and recruitment of maritime talents, enhancing the capacity of exploring the sea and keeping the strategic interest of the sea are crucial for survival and development of the countries. Developing and competition for marine human resource have become one of the focuses of international developments in current international marine affairs.

In recent years, China has promulgated Outline of National Marine Affairs Development Plan and Outline of National Marine Science and Technology Development to make strategic plans to accelerate the development of marine industry. In implementing the National Marine Science and Technology Development strategy, 3 strategic tasks are given an especially high priority, namely, cultivation of marine talents, marine scientific research and technological innovation, and education on marine-related knowledge and skills for all. As a large developing maritime country, Can China win the competition of talents to keep up with the development of international marine affairs? Marine talent cultivation has become an undeniable responsibility of the education ministries. To develop the ocean, develop marine education first.


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