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Vocational Education

    A History of Vocational Education Development in China
The earliest vocational education in China may be traced back to the industrial education in the 1860's more than l30 years ago. The main content of vocational education at that period (late Qing Dynasty) was to study western technology and train manpower with practical skills. The "Schooling System of 1902" laid down a set of systematic regulations for vocational education, while the "Chinese Vocational Education Society", which was established in l917, set the precedence of joint provision of vocational education by the education sector and the industrial sector in China. However, the slow economic progress and backward industry hampered the development of vocational education in China before 1949. At that time, there were only 561 secondary technical schools with an enrollment of 77,000 students and 3 schools for training skill workers with an enrollment of 2700 students. The total enrollment in secondary vocational schools represented only 4.2% of the total students population in secondary schools.


During the 50 years since the founding of the People's Republic of China in l949, vocational education underwent a process of adjustment, rectification, substantiation, reform, improvement and steady development. In the 1950's, to meet the needs of economic expansion, thousands of specialized secondary schools (SSSs) and skill worker schools were set up while in the 1960's the training of manpower badly needed in all sectors of the society was accelerated and agricultural secondary schools and other vocational schools developed rapidly. However, the normal pace of development of Chinese vocational education was seriously affected by the outbreak of the culture revolution.


Since China entered a new historical era of reform and opening to the outside world in 1978, Chinese vocational education has been injected with tremendous vitality for development. In 1980, formulated by the Ministry of Education (MoE) and the State Bureau of Labor and ratified by the State Council, the " Report on the Structural Reform of Secondary Education" pointed out that the structure of secondary education should be reformed and vocational education be developed so as to enable the senior secondary schools to meet the needs of socialistic modernization construction. In 1985,the CPC Central Committee promulgated the "Decision on the Structural Reform of Education", clearly laying down that a vocational education system with rational structure and different stages from junior level to senior level which could match the industrial sectors and link up with regular secondary education should be gradually established. Then in l991, the State Council formulated the "Decision on Energetically Developing Vocational and Technical Education" identifying the tasks and objectives for the further development of vocational education in the light of economic and social development in the 1990's in China. The " Outline on Reform and Development of Education in China" drawn up by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council in 1993 required governments at various levels to attach great importance to vocational education, make overall plans and energetical develop vocational education. The outline aimed at mobilizing the initiatives of all departments, enterprises, institutions and all quarters of the society to provide vocational education of multiple forms and various levels. In 1996, the first "Vocational Education Law" in China was formally promulgated and implemented, providing legal protection for the development and perfection of vocational education. A year after, in the "Report of the 15th National Congress", President Jiang Zeming pointed out that the strategy of invigorating China through science, technology and education and keeping sustainable development should be implemented and vocational education and adult education of various forms should be actively developed. The "Decision on Deepening Educational Reform and Promoting Quality Education " the State Council in 1999 emphasizes that an educational system adapting to the socialistic market economy and the internal law of education with different types of education linking up to each other should be established, and that vocational education should be energetically developed and senior secondary education including regular and vocational education should also be vigorously developed. All these policies, regulations and laws have not only created an unprecedentedly good social environment for the development of vocational education, but also show the direction for the reform and development of vocational education in the 21st century.


The System of Vocational Education and Its Development  
The system of vocational education consists of education in vocational schools and vocational training.


Vocational education in China is provided at three levels: junior secondary, senior secondary and tertiary.


Conducted mainly in junior vocational schools and aimed at training workers, peasants and employees in other sectors with basic professional knowledge and certain professional skills, junior vocational education refers to the vocational and technical education after primary school education and is a part of the 9-year compulsory education. The students in secondary vocational school should be primary school graduates or the youth with equivalent cultural knowledge and its schooling lasts 3 to 4 years. To meet the needs of labor forces for the development of rural economy, junior vocational schools are mainly located in rural areas where the economy is less developed. At present, there are 1,472 such schools with the enrollment of 867,000 students.


The secondary level mainly refers to the vocational education in senior high school stage. Composed of specialized secondary schools, skill workers schools and vocational high schools, and as the mainstay of vocational education in China, secondary vocational education plays a guiding role in training manpower with practical skills at primary and secondary levels of various types.


Consisting of secondary technical schools and normal schoo1s, specialized secondary schools enroll junior high school graduates with a schooling of usually 4 years and sometimes 3 years, A few specialities are open only to senior high school graduates with the schooling lasting 2 years. The basic tasks of these schools are to train secondary-level specialized and technical talents for the forefront of production, and all the students should master the basic knowledge, theory and skills of their speciality in addition to the cultural knowledge required for higher school students.


Aiming at training secondary-level skill workers, skill worker schools enroll junior high school graduates and their schooling lasts 3 years. Quite capable of practicing and operating, their graduates will directly be engaged in production activities.


Developing on the basis of the structural reform of secondary education after China adopted the policy of reform and opening to the outside world and directly coming from the reorganization of regular high schools, vocational high school enrolls junior high school graduates and its schooling lasts 3 years. Its main task is to train secondary-1evel practice-oriented talents with comprehensive professional abilities and all-round qualities directly engaged in the forefront of production, service, technology and management. Accordingly, the specialities offered in vocational high schools are mainly related to the third industry.


In 1998, there were altogether 17,090 secondary vocational schools (including vocational high school, specialized secondary schools and skill workers school), with the enrollment of 11,460,000 students and the recruitment of 422,900,000 students.


With the schooling lasting 2 to 3 years, tertiary vocational education mainly enroll graduates from regular high schools and secondary vocational schools. In recent years, the proportion of graduates form secondary vocational schools has been increased, establishing the link between secondary and tertiary vocational education gradually. Aiming at training secondary and high - level specialized technical and management talents needed in the economic construction, tertiary vocational education emphasiz6s the training of practice-oriented and craft-oriented talents. At present, institutions providing tertiary vocational education are divided into five categories. The first is the 30 higher vocational technology colleges, with the enrollment of 149,000 students; the second is the 101 short-circle practice-oriented vocational universities with local figures; the third is the 5-year higher vocational classes provided in the regular specialized secondary schools; the fourth is the tertiary vocational education provided in some regular higher education institutions and adult higher education institutions, which has been experimented in over 130 specialites among 180 institutions; the last is the reformed regular institutions offering 2 to 3-year higher education with the emphasis on training practice-oriented talents, namely high-level professional technical talents, for the forefront of production.


Vocational training of various forms has been playing a more and more important role in vocational education. At present, vocational training is mainly conducted and managed by the departments of education and labor, but enterprises are encouraged to provide vocational training for its own employees. In 1997, there were 2, 800 employment training centers for the administration of departments of labor with the capacity of providing training for 3 million person-time per year and 20, 000 employee training centers with the capacity of 30 million person-time per year.


The Achievements of Vocational Education in China
1. The Rapid Expansion of the Scale of Vocational Education
During the l5 years between 1980 and 1995, the proportion of regular senior high school students among all the students in senior secondary education has decreased from 81% to 44%, while the proportion of secondary vocational school students has increased from 19% to 56%. From l980 to l997, secondary vocational education institutions produced 30.85 million graduates, fostering millions of secondary-level and primary-level technical workers, managers, skill workers and other labors with good vocational and technical education.


2. The Big Stride Made in the Construction of Vocational Education Teachers
Teachers for vocational education are mostly graduates from regular higher education institutions. Since 1989, over 160 HEIs have established departments, specialities or classes devoted to the training of vocational education teachers with the total enrollment of 21,000 students. At the same time, the government began the establishment of teacher training bases for vocational education, Nowadays, there are 14 training bases set by vocational technical colleges which are affiliated to HEIs and over 200 bases set by central departments and local governments. As a result, a training bases network has basically taken shape, meeting the needs of teacher training for vocational education of various forms and at various levels.


3. The Increase of the Quality and Level of Vocational Education
During the past 50 years, especially the 20 years after reform and opening to the outside world, much attention has been paid to the quality and level of vocation education as well as the schooling efficiency. Meanwhile its scale has been extraordinary expanded. By the end of 1998, more than 2000 key and pilot vocational schools have been established, promoting the overall development of vocational education.


4. The Primary Fruits of the Teaching Reform of Vocational Education
Learning the foreign modern vocational education thought and teaching patterns to improve the level of teaching is an important component of the reform of vocational education, For example, the "dual-track system " of Germany, the educational and training pattern based on the ability in Australia and Canada, the Employment Education Structure (MES) advocated by the World Labor Organization, the " Skill Courses for Starting Small Enterprises" initiated by the UNESCO and the " Business and Trade Simulated Company" springing up widely all over the world, all became the models for the reform of Chinese vocational education. At present, related to the industries like mechanics, chemistry industry, electric power, architecture, agriculture, railroad transportation, oil industry, public health, business and light industry, hundreds of vocational schools in Qingdao, Suzhou, Wuxi, Changzhou, Wuhu, Shenyang and Jingsha and a large number of enterprises are carrying out the pilot reform of vocational education based on foreign teaching patterns to improve the teaching level of vocation education in China.


5. Rapid Development of Vocational Education in Rural Areas
Since the 1980's, significant progress has been made in vocational education in rural areas of China with its quantity greatly enlarged and quality greatly Research on Vocational Education With the development of vocational education, research on vocational education has been enhanced and a number of vocational education research institutions have been established, organizing the full-time and part-time research teams composed jointly by administrative departments responsible for vocational education, research institutions, vocational schools and academic organizations, carrying out various forms of vocational education research at different levels. Since the 1960's, about 76 research topics have been included in the state education research plans with some of the research fruits playing an important role of reference for the government to make vocational education policies.


International Cooperation and Exchanges on Chinese Vocational Education
Internationalization has become a common trend for the reform and development of modern education in the world. Along with the reform and opening to the outside world, China has been actively engaged in the international cooperation and exchanges in the field of vocational education. During the past 20 years, the government has sent many delegations to over 20 countries and districts where vocational education is well-developed and shows their unique characteristics to learn successful foreign experience. At the same time, China has received many foreign vocational education delegations, invited foreign experts to give lectures in China, and jointly provided education with foreign vocational education institutions to promote the development of Chinese vocational education, China has also made more and more contact with the UNESCO, UNDP, world Labor Organization, UNPF, APEC and other international organizations while the bilateral cooperation and exchanges between China and other countries has been increasingly expanded.


In order to improve the level of vocational education teachers, since 1987 China has sent thousands of administrators and teachers who teach specialized courses to America, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Australia, Canada and Japan for study, which has received good results.


In 1990, the Chinese government signed the "Agreement on the Loan for Vocational Education Project in China" with World Bank and began to develop our vocational education with the loan from World Bank. At present, the first session projects have been finished while the second session have begun. The two session projects altogether will use $ 80 million from World Bank and $ 100 million from the Chinese government. The implementation of the whole project has significantly strengthened the construction of teacher training bases for vocational education and the teaching and speciality construction in vocational schools. In 1990, German government agreed to provide the fund to establish the Central Vocational Education Research Institute and two local research institutes in Shanghai and Liaoning. Since early 1980's, China and German have jointly set up over 30 cooperative projects in the field of vocational education and carried out the pilot reform which drew experience form the German "Dual-track System" with wide and deep cooperation and research on educational thought, schooling system and teaching patterns.


In Addition, cooperating with Canada and Australia, China imported their educational and training models based on ability to reform the traditional teaching patterns. The Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare cooperated with the World Labor Organization to carry out the pilot work in skill worker schools and in-service training.


From 13 Sept. to 18 Sept. 1993, China undertook the International Seminar of Vocational and Technical Education organized by the UNESCO. In April 1997, the International Seminar on Rural Vocational Education was held in China and representatives from foreign countries, World Bank and World Labor Organization discussed and summarized the international development of vocational education, providing valuable experience for developing vocational education in China.

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