No more scholars, but skilled workers
By Zhu Zhe (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-10-03 06:33

As more and more college graduates become frustrated in the search for jobs in their majors, the call is rising for the country's post-secondary educational system to adjust to the current situation in two ways.

One is to promote more vocational education, and the other is to adjust college educations to emphasize less theory and more practice.

The latest Ministry of Education figures show that nearly 40 per cent about 1.65 million of this year's 4.13 million college graduates still don't have jobs. That's 750,000 more than last year.

Once marked as China's best and brightest by winning coveted places in college, these students, now with degrees, have started to reconsider whether going to college was the right choice.

According to a survey published by China Youth Daily last month, more than one-third of recent college graduates said the academic side of their college experience was not as rewarding as they had expected.

The survey shows that 34.7 per cent of the 8,777 respondents said they regretted their university experience as what they had learnt was not worth the time and money invested.

"Sometimes I feel I wasted the money my parents hard earned by entering university," the newspaper quoted one graduate, identified only by the surname Zhao, as saying. "I can't make a living from what I learnt, let alone repay my parents."

After graduating from Beijing Agricultural University, Zhao took a job as a security guard with a monthly salary of 800 yuan (US$100).

About 51.5 per cent of the respondents said they had learnt nothing practical in university, and 39.2 per cent said they couldn't land a job with their bachelor's degrees.

But whereas college graduates each year face an increasingly competitive job market, the need for skilled workers in the country is growing.

Based on statistics from the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, senior technical workers account for only 4 per cent of China's 70 million technical workers, far behind the 30 to 40 per cent level in developed countries. The skilled manpower deficit sits at 10 million workers nationwide.

To adjust the mismatch and meet the growing need for skilled workers, the Ministry of Education is promoting vocational education.

"As China becomes an industrialized society, universities should not only educate researchers and managers, but also train skilled workers to support new industries," said Hai Wen, vice-president of Peking University.

But China's colleges need to adjust, as well, by providing students with a more market-oriented higher education, he said.

Speaking at the University Presidents' International Forum in Chengdu, Southwest China's Sichuan Province, in August, Hai said Chinese universities emphasize theoretical education too much and ignore the training of practical skills.

The result, he said, is producing graduates who are unpractised in their chosen fields.