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Equal opportunities essential for those with practical skills

By ZOU SHUO | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2022-09-10 08:56
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A worker works at the practical skills training center at a vocational school in China. [Photo/CHINA DAILY]

One of the biggest fears of many Chinese parents I interview is that their children will not perform well in high school and college entrance exams, and they will end up in a vocational institution.

In China, students generally attend regular high schools, vocational institutions and universities based on their scores in entrance exams, and those with lower scores can only attend vocational schools.

The deep-rooted stigma attached to vocational education is due to a number of factors. Many parents feel that a vocational degree equates to hard work for low pay, that these students have failed, and that they will not have bright futures by attending such schools.

Some parents have even called for vocational secondary schools to be scrapped, which has been ruled out by officials from the Ministry of Education.

The officials said vocational schools promote the diversified development of students, and play an important role in boosting employment, regional economic development, and improving people's livelihoods.

The stigma attached to vocational schools also means it is hard for them to attract the best and brightest students.

However, after speaking to students from vocational schools and colleges, I realized that they are talented in their own ways and can also enjoy bright futures.

Not everyone is born with a strong interest in academic research, reading books, or going to a leading university to take a degree.

Some students like to read and learn from books, while others prefer to learn how to cook or repair a car. It is unfair to say that the former group is more valuable or smarter than the latter.

Youth unemployment remains a major challenge in China, with the jobless rate among those in the 16 to 24 age group reaching 19.3 percent in June.

Vocational school teachers told me their graduates have no problem finding a job, and that the employment rate for these graduates has exceeded 95 percent for many years. However, graduates from such schools still face hurdles in gaining promotion, as many companies and government institutions put great emphasis on employees' academic backgrounds.

While the revised Vocational Education Law stipulates that graduates from vocational schools and regular schools should enjoy the same employment and career development opportunities, and also calls for measures to be taken to improve technical workers' social status and salaries, implementing the law will take time.

China has built the world's largest vocational education system, which produces some 10 million graduates annually. Students who have practical skills deserve an equal opportunity to excel.

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