Circular of the State Council on Issuing the Notification on the Implementation Plan for National Vocational Education Reform (Mainland China)

Di Wu

Recently, the State Council issued a circular to announce the Implementation Plan for National Vocational Education Reform (the “Plan”). The Plan primarily covers the improvement of the vocational education system, the development of the national standards for vocational education, promoting a fusion between education and industry, the development of diversified school operation, and the supervision and evaluation of school quality:

1. Improvement on vocational education system

According to the Plan, vocational education and general education are two different types of education and are of equal importance. To improve the vocational education institution and system, the country’s vocational education system framework needs to be strengthened, the development level of secondary vocational education enhanced, and the high-quality development of higher vocational education will be promoted.  To this end, standardized development will serve as a breakthrough point for the development of vocational education, from which a standard for engaging in educational operations may be set on matters such as the sound development of schools, teachers, teaching materials, informatized development and safety facilities.  It is also necessary to promote the development of a qualifications framework, explore and realize the connection between academic credentials and vocational skill certificates, improve the basic conditions for operating secondary vocational schools, strengthen provincial-level coordination in building a number of county-level vocational education centers with a focus on providing support in the establishment of at least one secondary vocational school that meets the local economic and social needs and the cultivation of talents with technical skills for each place (city, state or league) in a concentrated and contiguous poverty-stricken region.  It is also necessary to create an advanced examination system for vocational education, improve the administration of examinations oriented towards cultural quality and vocational skills to recruit students, enhance the quality of student sources and provide multiple methods of admission and learning for students engaging in advanced vocational education.  A plan for the establishment of High-quality higher vocational schools with Chinese characteristics will be implemented to build a group of world-class higher vocational schools and backbone professions (groups) with Chinese characteristics that provide leadership in reform and support development, with qualified technician colleges to be included in the ranking of higher education institutions.  Furthermore, it is necessary to develop a model for cultivating graduate students with professional degrees with an orientation towards career needs, a focus on realizing capability development and following a path on connecting industry with academia.  Master’s degree candidate graduate students with professional degree should also be better groomed to promote the transformation of qualified undergraduate colleges into a more applied direction, and to encourage qualified general higher educational institutions to launch majors or curricula involving applied technologies.

2. National vocational education standards

The Plan states that the fundamental effects of the standards in increasing vocational education quality will be leveraged. Standards will be established for mid-level to high-level vocational schools and used to regulate the establishment of vocational schools through the connection between professional establishment and industry needs the connection between curriculum contents and professional standards, and the connection between teaching and production.  The professional standards for teachers and school principals will be implemented to enhance teaching administration and practices in vocational schools.  Continued updates and promotions will be made to the professional directories, professional teaching standards, curriculum standards, internship standards, and the standards for establishment of practical training conditions (instrument and equipment specifications) for implementation in vocational colleges. Greater robustness and development is planned for the national education standards formulated by the educational administrative department of the State Council in conjunction with the industries, as well as the framework for talent cultivation by vocational colleges pursuant to such standards.

In addition, the Plan also proposed to “initiate the piloting of the 1+X credential system” to encourage vocational school students to obtain more professional skill certificates upon receiving their academic credentials and to develop their employment and entrepreneurial skills. Meanwhile, it is advocated that “all types of professional skill certificates shall have the same effect, and the holders of the certificates shall enjoy the same treatment.” There is also a call for development of better quality professional training and the recognition, accumulation and conversion of learning results.

3. Promotion of industry-education fusion

With respect to promoting the fusion of industry and education , the Plan will be looking at a dual-track mechanism in combining the experiences from modern apprenticeship and the new enterprise apprenticeship pilot, have schools and enterprises jointly formulate talent cultivation programs, and incorporate new technologies, processes and specifications into teaching standards and pedagogical contents to enhance the practical training of students and promote comprehensive in-depth cooperation between schools and enterprises.

4. Development of a diverse school operations framework

In terms of school operations, enterprises and the strength of the people shall be used to provide high quality vocational education, support and regulate vocational education and training that are conducted by the public, encourage the development of vocational colleges and training institutions with a share structure or a mixed ownership structure, provide open, transparent and regulated access to privately sponsored vocational education and establish a review system, explore the use of a blacklist system for privately sponsored vocational education, and setup sound exit mechanisms.

5. Supervision of school quality

To ensure the quality of education operations, the Plan is proposing to set up a sound quality evaluation and supervisory assessment system for vocational education in support of the establishment of the National Vocational Education Guidance and Advisory Commission. The quality evaluation system will be based on student ethics, the technical skill levels and quality of employment, as well as the industry-education fusion, and the cooperation between the school and enterprises.  Under the guidance of the government, the National Vocational Education Guidance and Advisory Commission will be established with members consisting of government personnel, experts in vocational education, experts from the industries, management experts, vocational education researchers, associations such as the National Association of Vocational Education of China, and individuals who have passionately supported vocational education. Opinions and recommendations from consulting institutions will be heard through government procurement services, and both the general public private think tanks are encouraged to participate.

In addition, the Plan also put forward the overall requirements, objectives and specific indicators for vocational education reform.