Oct 15, 2021 09:39 PM

To Build Tech Leadership, China Seeks to Give Vocational Education a Leg Up

Vocational college students learn to operate CNC machines in Central China’s Hunan province on Sept. 17. Photo: VCG
Vocational college students learn to operate CNC machines in Central China’s Hunan province on Sept. 17. Photo: VCG

China’s top leadership has issued a guideline to promote “high-quality” development of vocational education, with the goal of expanding the share of vocational college enrollment to at least 10% of the total enrollment of higher education institutions by 2025.

The guideline (link in Chinese), issued by the General Office of the Communist Party’s Central Committee and the General Office of the State Council on Tuesday, marked the country’s latest effort to train more people with the skills necessary for the country to become a technology superpower.

A researcher who studies educational finance told Caixin that the enrollment expansion will lead to an increase in the number of vocational colleges across the country. According to Caixin estimates, at least 100 vocational colleges will need to be established in the next few years to meet the 10% target.

China had nearly 1,500 registered higher education institutions in 2020, but only 21 of them were vocational colleges, according to data from the Ministry of Education.

With the target set, the next key task for the Department of Vocational and Adult Education, under the education ministry, is to upgrade and merge “high-quality” vocational colleges as well as establish new ones, the researcher said.

“Vocational education is an important part of the national education system and human resources development. It shoulders vital responsibilities in cultivating diverse talent, inheriting technical skills and promoting employment and entrepreneurship,” said the guideline.

Sources told Caixin that the government has recently finalized plans for a national vocational college entrance exam system, which is expected to offer millions of students an independent pathway into vocational colleges before the next “spring gaokao,” another version of the National College Entrance Exam, held during the springtime.

In June, the populous Henan province announced a plan to establish a local vocational college entrance exam system in which the weighting of the scores of professional skills test will be no less than 50%.

Xiong Bingqi, deputy director at the 21st Century Education Research Institute, an educational think tank, said that running vocational education well is more important to alleviate the current educational anxiety in the society than establishing more top-notch universities, according to Shanghai-based financial media outlet Jiemian.

Besides the 10% target, the guideline encourages listed companies and leading industrial enterprises to run vocational education programs and requires vocational institutions to take the initiative to invite industry giants to “deeply” participate in aspects such as the planning, and development of curriculum and teaching materials.

It also suggests vocational schools cooperate with enterprises to support technological upgrading and product research in medium, small and micro businesses.

Following the guideline’s release, stocks of many after-school tutoring institutions soared. Shares of Shanghai Xinnanyang Only Education & Technology Co. Ltd. (600661.SH) and Kaiyuan Education Technology Group Co. Ltd. (300338.SZ) jumped to reach daily limits for two straight days.

Contact reporter Wang Xintong ( and editor Lu Zhenhua (

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