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China’s Vocational Education Reform



Although China is relieving the heavy burden of homework and after-school tutoring on students for school-age students, China is simultaneously encouraging and promoting vocational education. Vocational education is an important part of China's education system and human resources development. Vocational education bears the important responsibility of cultivating talents, inheriting technical skills and promoting employment and entrepreneurship according to the vocational education policies.

As China enters a new era of development, the role of vocational education is becoming more and more important. However, Vocational Education Law promulgated and implemented in 1996 is obviously unable to keep pace with the development of vocational education. In addition, many issues exist in current vocational education, such as the system construction, the lack of investment, the low quality of student resources and tutors. In this case, Vocational Education Law has been submitted to the National People's Congress Standing Committee for the first-time revision.

Besides, the Communist Party Central Committee and the State Council issued the Guidelines on Promoting the High-Quality Development of Modern Vocational Education (“Guidelines”) on October 12, 2021, to promote the stable development of vocational education. The new Implementing Regulations for the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Promotion of Private Education (“Private Education Regulations”) effective on September 1, 2021, also provides favorable policies for vocational education.

1、Scope of Vocational Education

Education can be divided into academic education, pre-school education, training for preparing self-study examinations and other cultural education, vocational qualification training and vocational skill training. Among them, vocational qualification training and vocational skills training generally refer to non-academic vocational education.

Academic education can be divided into compulsory education, senior high education, higher education (including undergraduate education and above education), secondary vocational and technical academic education and higher vocational and technical academic education.

Therefore, vocational education includes academic vocational education (secondary vocational and technical academic education and higher vocational and technical academic education) and non-academic vocational education (vocational qualification training and vocational skill training).

2、Guidelines to Improve the Social Status and Recognition of Vocational Education

Currently, Chinese students generally enter senior high schools after completing compulsory education. Those who fail to enter senior high schools will choose to enter secondary vocational schools instead. The students who have completed senior high school education would enter higher education, and those who fail to enter higher education institutions will choose to enter higher vocational schools instead. Due to the low quality of vocational education and the small number of vocational schools, Chinese students and parents often treat vocational education as the “back-up”. Vocational education enjoys low social status and recognition in Chinese society, and therefore, it is unable to attract the capital to support the school running. The low quality of education and tutors has also led to the inability of vocational schools to acquire excellent student resources. Then, the above facts would again reduce the social status and recognition of vocational education.

However, vocational education and ordinary education are two different types of education with equal importance. Therefore, improving the status and recognition of vocational education is the way to break the awful situation. The Guidelines strengthens the characteristics of vocational education types from three aspects:

  • Promote the coordinated development of vocational education and ordinary education, accelerate the establishment of the “vocational education college entrance examination system”, improve the “cultural quality + vocational skills” examination and enrollment policy and strengthen the theoretical research of vocational education.

  • Vigorously improve the quality of secondary vocational education, promote the improvement of higher vocational education, steadily develop vocational undergraduate education, design an integrated vocational education talent training system, and promote the connection of professional setting, training objectives, curriculum system and training programs of vocational education at all levels.

  • Strengthen the connection and link of ordinary education and vocational education at all levels and promote the mutual selection of courses and credit recognition between secondary vocational schools and senior high schools, higher vocational schools and the universities.

3、Guidelines to Encourage the Capitals to Invest in Vocational Education

Encouraging the commercial investment for school running is also an effective measure to improve vocational education. The Guidelines put forward:

  • Build a diversified school running pattern with the overall management of the government, active organization of enterprises and deep participation of social forces.

  • Encourage listed companies and leading enterprises to build vocational education schools and encourage all kinds of enterprises to participate in vocational education schools according to laws.

  • Encourage vocational schools to cooperate with the capitals to build vocational education infrastructure and training base, and jointly build and share public training base.

Private Education Regulations provide:


4、Foreign Investment in Vocational Education

China allows foreign investment in vocational education:

  • Special Administrative Measures (Negative List) for Foreign Investment Access in Pilot Free Trade Zones (Edition 2020) permit overseas institutions to establish vocational training institutions in China’s free trade zones without a domestic partner.

  • According to the Catalogue of Industries for Encouraging Foreign Investment, 10 provinces, such as Shanxi, Liaoning, Anhui, Henan, explicitly welcome foreign investment in vocational schools (including technical training schools) in their respective local investment catalogs. Gansu and Ningxia welcome foreign investment in secondary vocational schools (including technical training schools).

  • The draft of the new Vocational Education Law provides that foreign investment is allowed in the field of vocational education.

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