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China learns to love vocational education

(Xinhua)    09:44, July 01, 2015

BEIJING, June 30 -- China's vocational education system is now the largest in the world, with nearly 30 million students, according to a report presented to the top legislature.

While acknowledging some achievements, Monday's report by Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, pointed out many problems the system faces, including poor public recognition and fluctuating funding.


The report, a result of the NPC Standing Committee's first survey of the vocational education, highlights the poor public perception of vocational education as one of the principal impediments to its development.

It is a widely accepted practice that universities cream off the best students, and after the big players have satisfied their hunger for new admissions, vocational colleges pick up the scraps.

When it comes to finding a job, vocational graduates are often excluded from applying for top vacancies. The report said that while more than 90 percent of them will secure jobs, salaries for most are far from decent. Statistics from Jiangsu Province show that in 2014, vocational school alumni were paid about 1,900 yuan (about 300 U.S.dollars) per month on average, 40 percent of the average for all workers.

Promotion prospects are no less grim. "This year's intake do not need to worry about jobs because some state-owned enterprises have already reserved vacancies for them," said Jing Baoxian, Party Chief of a vocational school specializing in railway equipment. "But their lives will be spent on the production lines, with little hope of being promoted to management."

The report suggested honoring skilled technical workers and stated that technicians' salaries should be increased. It also proposed new regulations to ensure fairness for vocational students in the job market.


Wu Jiang, vice chairman of the China Talent Research Society, described vocational education as a weak link in the national education system.

"To upgrade industrial structure, China needs a large number of skilled technical workers," he said. There are about 157 million people with technical skills in China. Some 43 million of them are skilled workers, only five percent all employees. Wu believes vocational education is crucial to the "Made-in-China 2025" plan to reform the manufacturing sector and change the reputation of China's manufactured goods.

"Made-in-China 2025" lays out strategies for switching from low-end manufacturing to more value-added production, with domestic manufacturers expected to make technological breakthroughs in a number of emerging industries, from numerical control tools and robotics to aerospace equipment and new energy vehicles.


China has about 13,300 vocational schools and colleges. In 2014, there were about 18 million students in secondary vocational schools compared with 12.7 million in 1996. The number of students enrolled at vocational colleges stood at 10 million last year, compared to 1.23 million in 1996.

Along with the increasing number of students, investment in vocational education has expanded in the past 19 years. According to the report, annual spending rose from 114 billion yuan in 2006 to 345 billion yuan in 2013, an increase of 17 percent per year, still short of government expectations.

The State Council, China's cabinet, wants vocational colleges to account for more than half of all institutions of higher education, but according to Minister of Education Yuan Guiren, the number is closer to 46 percent.

The ministry plans to change the picture by turning some universities and colleges into application-oriented technical institutions, and encouraging enterprises to run vocational institutions.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Zhang Qian,Yao Chun)

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