China will spend more than 14 billion yuan (US$1.72 billion) on vocational
education during the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10), with the ultimate goal of
cultivating some 36 million skilled workers, according to the Ministry of
This marks a big change from previous plans, which cut spending on vocational
education. The 11th Five-Year plan marks the first time that the government has
increased spending on this crucial area in the past decade, according to article
posted on the website of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference,
a national advisory body.
As demand for skilled workers has grown in recent years, education officials
have sought measures to attract more students to vocational schools. However,
some experts warn that such efforts will face challenges without more social and
"The effort (to develop vocational education) will not only meet the demands
of the country's economic development, but also help facilitate social
equality," Prime Minister Wen Jiabao told education experts at a seminar earlier
The premier said solving problems in educating, training and finding jobs for
vocational school students, and further integrating formal education with
internships would be crucial factors in improving vocational education.
In the latest effort to resolve these issues, the Ministry of Education vowed
earlier this month to spend 2 billion yuan (US$250 million) on a pilot programme
to build 100 higher vocational colleges.
This marks the first time the ministry has earmarked special funds for
The ministry has already spent 2.5 billion yuan (US$312 million) to help
support the construction of secondary-level vocational schools throughout the
The ministry has also called on vocational colleges to establish professional
certification institutes, which would enable vocational students to graduate
with both professional and educational credentials.
There are currently more than 1,300 vocational schools or colleges in China,
but most of them have out-dated facilities and methodologies. Many also suffer
from financial difficulties and are unable to recruit students because of an
entrenched social bias against vocational education.
The ministry's spending plan is aimed at developing skilled workers who can
play a key role in China's efforts to modernize its economy, education officials
and experts say.
A recent survey of enterprises in 44 cities by the Ministry of Labour and
Social Security found that enterprises need 14 per cent of all workers to be
skilled workers. At present, only 4 per cent of workers are skilled.
"The lack of skilled workers has affected the quality of the products made in
our country," said Liu Zhanshang, director of the Ministry of Education's
vocational education department.
Liu said products made in Germany and Japan, where first-line workers are
often better trained than their Chinese counterparts, are generally thought to
be of a higher quality than those made in China.
Yu Zuguang, the deputy dean of the Vocational Education Research Centre under
Ministry of Education, echoed Liu's comments.
"China is still in its initial stages of industrialization, and so the
country is hungry for professional workers,"said Yu, who added that the
experience of some developed countries was instructive.
For example, half of all secondary school students in Japan and South Korea
are mid-level vocational programmes. And roughly 70 per cent of the students in
Germany are in vocational programmes.
By contrast, the ratio in China is only 38.6 per cent.
Observers say vocational education should be promoted among people from all
walks of life.
"With universities enrolling ever more students, many parents in this country
are eager to see their children receive a higher education. Some of them might
be ashamed to see their children go to vocational schools because of a bad
academic record from middle school," said Cheng Fangping, an expert at the China
National Institute for Educational Research.
The fact that skilled workers earn much less than famous academics tends to
reinforce the bias against vocational education, added Cheng. The education
expert called for more legislation to support vocational education in China.
Cheng said developed countries like Germany and the United States, encouraged
enterprises to provide vocational training by extending them tax