A student majoring in automobile maintenance at the Inner Mongolia Economics and Trade School competes in the vocational skills competition, on May 13.
At a recent meeting, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security vowed to better implement its plan of improving vocational education during the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-20), so as to cultivate more skilled workers. Beijing Youth Daily comments:
China has the largest labor force in the world. However, many enterprises complain about a lack of skilled workers, especially senior technicians.
It is a problem that has attracted the attention of the central leadership. In 2014, the State Council, China's Cabinet, called for the structure of higher education to be optimized so that vocational education accounted for more than half of the total. It also set the goal of students at middle vocational schools reaching 23.5 million by 2020.
However, that call went unheeded. According to official data, the number of fresh students for middle vocational schools nationwide was 6 million in 2015, or 185,100 fewer than 2014. The number of students studying in middle vocational schools was 16.56 million, almost 1 million fewer than 2014. In other words, vocational education declined despite the encouragement of the authorities.
That should arouse our concern. It is low pay and the low social status of technicians that has prevented families from sending their children to attend vocational schools. As a result, technical work as a profession has not improved, and the pay remains low.
In order to break this vicious circle, there are two things that must be done. First, the authorities have to further equalize the education system so that those receiving vocational education do not feel inferior. Currently only those students who fail to get high enough scores to enter colleges will choose vocational colleges, and this phenomenon must be changed.
Second, more resources must be invested in vocational schools. For long, vocational schools were busy attracting students, but forgot to build up their advantages; as a result, vocational school graduates are often treated as cheap labor by enterprises. It is time for more government investment in vocational schools, so that they can get enough qualified teachers and change their status.