On September 11th, the Sub-session on Education and Culture of the 2021 Taihe Civilizations Forum was held in Beijing. It hosted nine keynote speeches and three panel discussions. Over 40 participants, including scholars in vocational education policies, presidents of vocational training institutes, and entrepreneurs gathered online and on-site to discuss the relevant issues and strategies toward “enhancing the adaptability of vocational education.”
Liu Jiantong, Executive Vice President and Secretary-General of the Chinese Society for Technical and Vocational Education, pointed out that “enhancing the adaptability of vocational education” was proposed during the fifth plenary session of the 19 CPC Central Committee and then incorporated into The Outline of the People’s Republic of China 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for National Economic and Social Development and Long-Range Objectives for 2035. In April 2021, the CPC State Council held the National Vocational Education Conference, and enhancing the adaptability of vocational and technical education was viewed as a major trend in the new era that demands greater attention. Liu Jiantong believes that vocational education involves both productivity and production. “From the perspective of productivity, we should adapt to technological and economic changes. From the perspective of production, we should adapt to changes in both the education sector and society as a whole.” Vocational education should be compatible with the development strategy of the country, with the needs of the people, and with the country's overall national capabilities and international status. To enhance the adaptability of vocational education, Liu Jiantong said, “We need to consider technological change and drive industrial optimization and upgrading, and promote the effective connection of the education chain, the talent chain, the industrial chain, and the innovation chain.” China has by far the most complete industrial chain in the world. Vocational education must be able to serve the complete industrial system. Against the backdrop of rapid technological development and transformation, vocational education should not adhere to fundamentalism, but should emphasize innovation. Through digital transformation and upgrading, vocational education will play a unique role in addressing China’s dependence with respect to key technologies from developed countries and building a highly specialized and responsive talent pool.
Sun Cheng, Research Fellow of the National Institute of Education Sciences, stated that in the future, high-quality or inclusive digital education will be a great boost for China’s educational modernization, and will improve the country’s international competitiveness in education. It also serves as an important strategy to strengthen international relations, relations between China and different countries, and relations among various regions in China. Sun Cheng also said that the outcomes of building Double Top Universities in relation to the local economy and community should be more realistic, and that there is still a long way to go to integrate vocational education schools with regular high schools.
Zhao Zhiqun, Professor of Department of Education at Beijing Normal University, Member of the National Vocational Education Guidance Advisory Committee, and Member of the Expert Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, stated that from the meso level to the micro level, vocational education should enable students to adapt to the requirements of modern technology, social and economic development, and the demand for “comprehensive professional abilities”. This allows individuals to meet current needs and benefits their lifelong development. Zhao Zhiqun believes that the level of industrial development in different areas of China remains uneven, and therefore the content for vocational education should also be different. Design orientation will be one of the biggest features of modern and adaptable vocational education. Students should not simply adapt to the development of technology, but rather participate in designing future social technology. They should learn to become more independent, confident, and responsible.
Chen Lixiang, Vice President of the Chinese Society for Technical and Vocational Education, stated that enhancing the adaptability of vocational education and defining the appropriate development will require answering a series of important questions. Examples of these questions include, how does the newly revised Vocational Education Law of the People’s Republic of China provide effective legal protection and support for the “Implementing Scheme for Vocational Education Reform”? How do vocational schools position themselves given the impact of digital education? How can vocational undergraduate education establish distinctive characteristics? And many more. The future vocational education must focus both on the promotion of human development and the cultivation of talent.
Wang Chunyan, Research Fellow of Beijing Academy of Educational Sciences, Chen Liwen, Deputy Secretary-General of the Xiangtan Municipal Committee, and Liu Keyong, Deputy Secretary of the Party Committee and President of Jiangsu Union Technical Institute, briefed participants on vocational education reform across China. Citing Jiangsu as an example, Liu Keyong said that the ability to assess whether the five-year higher vocational education is aligned with regional economic transformation and development depends on having realistic outcomes from such an educational system. The most obvious advantage of this educational system is the cultivation of a stable and skilled talent pool. Most five-year vocational schools in Jiangsu province are located in districts and counties, and enroll a number of students from the rural areas. These exemplify the openness and inclusiveness of vocational education.
Participants exchanged ideas on how to balance the current need and future development of vocational education, how internal and external cycles can promote international cooperation on vocational education, and how to enhance the adaptability of vocational training schools at different levels. Chen Xiaoming, Director of Machinery Industry Education Development Center, and Director of Education and Training Department of China Machinery Industry Federation, said that enhancing the adaptability of vocational education is a new strategic basis of digital transformation, a strategic focus of optimizing talent supply, and a strategic pillar of realizing the integration of production and education. Lu Chunyang, Deputy Director of National E-commerce Vocational Education Teaching Guidance Committee, and Director of the Institute for Professional Ethics at the Center for Ethics and Moral Construction of Renmin University of China, believes that small and medium enterprises can play a unique role in academic-industry partnerships.
Song Kai, Vice Director of Nonferrous Metals Industry Talent Center, and Secretary-General of National Nonferrous Metals Vocational Education and Teaching Guidance Committee, said that Chinese vocational education should be incorporated into the international education service trade system. Zhou Fenghua, Associate Research Fellow and Director of the Assessment and Evaluation Center at the Central Institute for Vocational and Technical Education, noted that many vocational education problems are social problems. Tang Yizhi, Director of Chinese Vocational and Technical Education at the Central Institute for Vocational and Technical Education of Ministry of Education, stated that the procurement service is an effective approach to mitigate the risks in the integration of production and education. Gao Hong, Former Deputy Director of the Liaoning Education Research Institute, and Executive Vice President of Liaoning Vocational and Technical Education Association, said that industrial principles must be applied to vocational education. Fang Xiao, Research Fellow of the Changjiang Education Research Institute, Research Fellow of the National Institute for Educational Governance in Central China Normal University, and Adjunct Professor at Jianghan University, noted that enterprises’ engagements with vocational education need legislative support. He Xingyue, Professor and President of Zhejiang Institute of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, said that when talking about enhancing the adaptability of vocational education, we should start from enhancing the adaptability of teachers.
Ma Yansheng, Senior Fellow of Taihe Institute, and former Minister-Counselor for the Education at the Chinese Embassy in France, noted that China’s Dual Circulation strategy needs a large number of vocational talents with an international education, and requires international vocational education cooperation. Yu Yougen, Deputy Secretary-General of the China Education Association for International Exchanges, pointed out that vocational education should be internationalized. Yang Po, Tenured Associated Professor and Chair of Department of Economics of Education and Administration of the Graduate School of Education at Peking University, said that international vocational education cooperation can contribute to improving China’s influence in the field of education, expand its partnerships, and support product innovation. Liu Yipei, President of Polus International College, said that private vocational schools should improve their management. Guo Yanfeng, President of Beijing JinSong Vocational High School, said that both teachers and students at vocational schools should be more confident about their contributions. Dr. Liu Yiguo, Director of the Curriculum and Teaching Research Center at Central Institute for Vocational Education, and Secretary-General of Research Center for Quality Development of Vocational Colleges and Universities, Dou Xinshun, President of Shijiazhuang Institute of Railway Technology, and Gao Yang, Associate Professor of TianJin City Vocational College expressed views on the cultural aspects in vocational education, management and reform of vocational schools, and incentives for faculty and staff, respectively.
Liu Jinghui, Senior Fellow of Taihe Institute concluded that vocational education is an important part of the country’s education system, which aims to promote the holistic development of human beings. Vocational education aims to develop talents with various skills for social and economic development. Therefore, it can only achieve reforms and develop with an enabling socioeconomic environment made possible by policymakers. Vocational education should respond to current developments, anticipate future trends, and strive to become more inclusive to encourage international cooperation.
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