A trainee welds workpiece in Shaanxi Technical School of Automobile in Xi’an, Shaanxi Province, on April 26 (XINHUA)
Yu Dashuang was one of the first batch of students enrolled in the crayfish cooking major of Jianghan Art Vocational College in Qianjiang, central China’s Hubei Province in 2017. In the first lesson, he learned shrimp cutting, shaping and cooking. He has learned more than 20 cooking methods of crayfish, mostly through practical exercises.
Yu said his major is not as easy as everyone thinks. In addition to learning how to cook more than 130 crayfish dishes, students also have to take courses such as crayfish farming, nutrition and marketing.
In 2019, the first batch of 35 students majoring in crayfish graduated on June 27. Yu was hired by a crayfish restaurant chain in Beijing to cook authentic Qianjiang crayfish dishes.
“I can work in the kitchen when I put on a chef’s uniform, and act as a manager when I put on a suit,” Yu said with pride.
Fireworks, Internet celebrity, Latiao (a popular Chinese snack) … Just like Yu’s crayfish major, increasing vocational college students are gaining skills in specialized fields at various vocational colleges. As in the 1980s and 1990s, vocational education is flourishing again in China.
On May 1, China’s new Vocational Education Law came into effect. According to the revised law, vocational education will enjoy the same importance as general education, thus signifying that the status of vocational education will be further improved.
According to China’s Ministry of Education (MOE), over the past four-plus decades since reform and opening up, China has set up the world’s largest vocational education system, establishing 11,200 vocational schools with over 29.15 million students.
“Secondary and higher vocational schools train around 10 million high-quality technical talents every year. Vocational colleges have expanded their enrollment by 4.13 million in the past three years,” said Chen Ziji, Director of the Department of Vocational Education and Adult Education of the MOE.
Chen noted that as an important part of the national education system, vocational education has been continuously popularized in recent years. And the construction of a modern vocational education system has been accelerated, which contributes to cultivating talents for economic and social development.
According to Chen, the revised law requires the coordinated development of vocational education and general education, the establishment of an examination and enrollment system that conforms to the characteristics of vocational education, and the mutual recognition of learning outcomes between vocational education and general education.
The vocational education system plays a key role in promoting employment and entrepreneurship in the country. The law stresses that vocational school students enjoy the same opportunities as students from regular schools in terms of employment and career development. In addition, the law also clearly stipulates that the country will take measures to improve the social status and treatment of vocational school students.
In addition to legal provisions, funding for vocational education will also be guaranteed. According to the statistics from UNESCO, the cost of running vocational education is about three times that of general education. This is a bottleneck in the development of vocational education to a certain extent. To solve the problem, the revision stipulates the specific work responsibilities of vocational education at different levels. Meanwhile, the funding mechanism is further rationalized.
Chen said that the country is optimizing the expenditure structure of education funds to meet the development needs of vocational education, and is encouraging schools to raise funds through different channels in accordance with law.
Cooperation benefits talents
Different from general education, multi-stakeholder participation in management is a distinctive feature of vocational education. The deepening of cooperation between schools and enterprises is a key measure to ensure the high-quality development of vocational education.
As early as June 10, 2015, Wuhan Business University, which is located in Wuhan, central China’s Hubei Province, jointly established a research institute for Wuhan hot noodles with sesame paste with Cailinji, a time-honored catering company in the city. As a traditional food in Wuhan, the noodles are helping expand the arms of vocational education.
With the guide of the university’s expert team, the institute cooperates with the master chefs of Cailinji and the representative inheritors of the noodles to teach students the development, brand protection, production, packaging and marketing of this traditional dish, in a bid to cultivate talents to promote it to a wider market.
Over the past 10 years, vocational institutions have comprehensively deepened the integration of production and education. An increasing number of enterprises are offering local specialties and well-known snacks have joined forces with colleges.
“The school-enterprise cooperation is the basic management modes of vocational education,” Chen said.
Chen revealed that in the past decade more than 1,500 vocational education groups have been established across the country, covering more than 45,000 member units including enterprises, schools, industrial associations, and scientific research institutions, forming a vocational education model characterized by resource sharing, responsibility sharing and cooperative development.
On May 24, Huizhou City in south China’s Guangdong Province held the 2022 Huizhou Vocational Education Week, a week-long event that exhibits the progress in vocational education through a series of activities. The event featured a forum on the integration of production and education attended by representatives of schools and enterprises.
Yin Linfang, Director of the Development Department at Weiye Precision Technology (Huizhou) Co. Ltd., a high-tech enterprise, said the company has established a partnership with City College of Huizhou since 2013. The two sides have signed an agreement on jointly cultivating talents. The company offers internship opportunities to students every year. Those outstanding graduates could be recruited by the company soon after their graduation.