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China's vocational schools seek enhanced ties with companies

Reporter: Meng Qingcheng 丨 CCTV.com

11-10-2016 14:43 BJT

It has been a year since China unveiled the “Made in China 2025” plan. It aims to reinvigorate the manufacturing sector and promote growth.

China’s vocational education scene is shaking things up. A vocational school in southern Chengdu trains more than 20,000 students.It provides 19 different skills crucial for industrial growth. For years, the school has been trying to foster market-oriented workers.

“We signed quite a lot of cooperative deals with companies to train students. But, except for some internship opportunities, most of them failed to be properly implemented. There’s still much more to be done for companies to participate in vocational education. I think that’s the biggest problem now,” said Ke Ling,president of Chengdu Industrial Vocational Technical College.

Experts come together to discuss how to upgrade the vocational education system, and work out a scenario to fulfill China’s manufacturing ambition.The first step is to identify the problem, and one expert says it lies within the system itself.

“Many vocational schools in China like to copy the curriculum of higher education. The pedagogy, as well as some of the courses, is almost the same. That’s the main reason why vocational education remains disjointed with companies and the working world in general,” said Prof. Cheng Yu, director of China Institute for Occupation Research.

Experts agree that Germany’s dual-education model is a good example to emulate. It combines classroom lessons with hands-on learning. And this experiential learning might just bridge the gap between the school and working world.

“One of the key features of any vocational education system is to have a direct line of site of employment. It’s going to be focusing on employment, it’s going to be focusing on the skills. The individuals need to be successful in their careers. That means very close relationship with business, industry, employment at every level. And the more you can do that the more effective the system will be, and the more people will use it,” said Andrew Smith,deputy vice-chancellor of Federation University Australia.

For a long time in China’s vocational education system, there has been a mismatch between what students learn and the skills employers are looking for. This imbalance has resulted in the wastage of resources, creating a less productive labor force. But China has now decided to modernize the system by training more high-skilled workers, to meet the rising demand of industrial growth.

Chengdu Industrial Vocational Technical College is now piloting a program to localize such a dual-vocational education system. It has signed contracts with companies to deepen cooperation, and is preparing its students and faculty members to brace for a change.

But it comes with its own set of difficulties. The school’s president says a law might be necessary to cement that cooperation.

“I think to build up a mature vocational education system in China, the country needs to formulate a law requiring companies to participate. This is what we should learn from Germany’s dual-education system. The process can be very difficult if schools work alone,” Ke Ling said.

Currently, 20,000 vocational schools across the country are training nearly 40 million students. They would come to contribute greatly to China’s industrial ambition, but for now, a successful transformation remains a top priority.

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