Jia Shaohua, executive vice-president of the Yiwu Industrial and Commercial College since 1999, is determined to give his students a dream to live by.
As vocational colleges occupy the bottom tier of higher education in China, they usually attract students who do not make it to the higher-level universities or colleges. Many have typically never heard a word of praise right through their elementary and secondary school years, Jia says.
"After years of being marginalized by our grade-driven education system, they have little self-confidence or self-esteem when they enter a vocational college. They have no dreams or direction in life," Jia says.
"Starting and running a business brings back their sense of responsibility, and gives them the chance to explore their potential," he says.
Jia has introduced many measures to support the students, such as offering classes seven days a week, so students can have more flexibility with their class schedule. He also allows online ratings to count toward school credits - one diamond rating on Taobao, for example, translates as two credits.
His proposals met stiff opposition at first, mainly from parents.
"But they are now our strongest supporters," says Jia.
"For the first time in many years, I can straighten my back when I talk about my son," says Yang Chengjie, father of Yang Fanxing.