What is the future of the vocational schools campaign in China? – The diplomat
During the summer of 2021, the Chinese government embarked on drastic policies to reform the education sector. As part of the Common Prosperity Campaign, the goal of the reform, according to the Chinese government, is to make education affordable for all families and to reduce excessive competition among students due to the national exam. university entrance (gaokao). Overnight, the abolition of cram schools turned several large private educational institutions into ruins. In addition to the high-profile crackdown, the education ministry announced an ambitious plan to expand China’s vocational education system. Fifty percent of high school graduates will enroll in technical schools rather than college high schools, he said.
The Chinese government views the lack of a skilled and educated workforce as a major bottleneck in China’s transition to an innovative power. Currently, around 70 percent of the Chinese workforce not only does not have a high school education, but also lacks the potential for human capital development. The shortage of skilled labor in China’s manufacturing sector will reach 30 million by 2025. As a result, the Chinese government has prioritized the training of skilled workers in its development plans. The 14th Five-Year Plan (FYP) stresses the need to train qualified workers. The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security has launched a campaign to increase 40 million skilled workers during the 14th FYP.
The Chinese government believes that the solution to this urgent problem is to expand the vocational education system. Many observers Remark that China learns from the German education system, which successfully trains skilled workers and engineers through a strong technical school system to support an innovative manufacturing industry. The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security plans accelerate the expansion of the vocational education system and train 2 million highly qualified workers by 2025. This policy particularly targets rural areas, where secondary school enrollment rates are below 40 percent. The government has pledged to eliminate tuition fees in vocational schools and provide financial assistance to poor rural students. The government has also reiterated this policy of expanding vocational schools in each number one agricultural document between 2015 and 2021.
To understand the perspective of the technical schools campaign in China, one can compare it to the vocational education system in South Korea. The history of Korean vocational education shares many similarities with China’s ambitious ambition. President Park Chung-hee pushed for the creation of the vocational high school system in the 1960s. Park did not believe that industrialization required a rapid increase in college enrollment. The rapid expansion of colleges and the increase in the number of university graduates also reportedly compounded the problem of student protest it faced. Thus, Park saw technical schools as the solution to providing training in craft trades for thriving labor-intensive light industries. The Korean government established the system of vocational schools based on the German model, and these technical schools have played an important role in providing engineers and technicians for industrial upgrades. During the 1970s, the Korean government strengthened the vocational education system and reoriented the curriculum from craft skills to engineering for heavy and chemical industries. Since the 1990s, technical schools have trained skilled workers adapted to the booming information and communication technology (ICT) sectors.
The vocational education system attracts different audiences in Korea and China. Korea’s vocational education system has attracted the best and brightest students. Many students, especially poor students, viewed entering technical school as a prestigious achievement. Future college students often had to receive a letter of recommendation from their college directors to guarantee entry into technical high schools. The government also extended scholarships to attract outstanding students regardless of their family’s financial situation. Unlike the Korean case, Chinese technical schools have the terrible reputation low academic standards filled with “leftover” students who were not gifted. Technical schools have always been the second choice of Chinese parents. Students take the high school entrance exam after grade 9, and those who exceed a certain score threshold may qualify for college high schools. Students who cannot cross the threshold and are not academically qualified for university high schools can go to technical schools to continue their studies.
Additionally, Korean vocational high schools were known for their rigorous academic standards. Through several curriculum reconstructions, these schools not only teach students technical skills, but also improve their lifelong learning abilities. The Korean government passed the National Technical Qualifications Act in 1973, which enables the government to set standards and monitor the quality of vocational education. In addition, it established the National Technical Skills Qualification Tests (NTQ) in 1974, which assess students’ learning during their stay in vocational schools. All students must pass the NTQ test to graduate. Compared to Korea, vocational schools in China have a bad reputation to be irresponsible; they don’t care if the students are learning. Teachers are also seen as apathetic. They often only teach classes without worrying about students sleeping or playing mobile games on their phones. As a result, 91 percent of students performed the same or worse on math exams attending vocational school for a year, showing that students in rural vocational schools are not learning much at all. As a result, many Chinese students and families find attending technical schools a waste of time.
During the period of rapid growth in Korea, graduation from vocational education system led to stable and well-paid jobs as technicians and engineers. Vocational high schools have played a vital role in student employment by networking with industries and businesses to help students find employers. As a result, 57 percent Korean vocational school students could find jobs thanks to the school’s referrals. Seventeen percent of students find employment through on-the-job training, which is usually organized by schools. In addition, more than 80 percent of students have found jobs related to their majors at school. Chinese technical schools do not provide employment-related benefits to students after graduation. Most students do not receive appropriate vocational training, as 56% of students spend their vocational training sessions working in low-level manufacturing. Thus, most vocational secondary graduates can only compete for the same low-skilled jobs as secondary school graduates who did not attend vocational high schools. As a result, many high school graduates do not see the value of continuing education in technical schools; they tend to withdraw from education and start working early in low-skilled sectors.
Recent developments show mixed signals on the future of China’s vocational education system. On the one hand, the Chinese government has implemented policies aimed at strengthening the dynamic of vocational training. For example, the introduction of technical skills certificates makes it possible to compare and track technical learning. Allow businesses to establish their own technical schools could solve the employment problem. On the other hand, the lack of effective monitoring leads to implementation problems and fraud. Economist Scott Rozelle found that in one province, nearly 20 percent of registered vocational schools have name only; they do not have a school building, teachers or students. Well-connected people established them to receive government funds and grants.
Comparison with South Korea shows that Chinese technical schools cannot meet the government’s goal of training a skilled workforce. The indiscriminate expansion of the vocational education system only deprives more students of quality education. As a result, it will not reduce competition among students as the Chinese government intended. The lack of quality higher education resources means that Chinese high school students have to compete for the limited places in the valuable universities. The vocational education campaign aims to alleviate this competition by reducing the number of students enrolled in university high schools and participating in gaokao. However, due to the poor quality of technical schools, the reduction in high school enrollment has led to increased competition for the high school entrance examination. The mother of a middle school student in Beijing said she was horrified when she walked into the parent-teacher conference and realized that half of the class of 40 students couldn’t attend high school. At that point, she decided that she had to do everything so that her daughter did not become one of the 20 “leftovers”. Therefore, this policy does not reduce competition; it only does it earlier.