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China beefs up efforts to promote vocational education

Updated: Jun 11,2021 08:29 AM    CGTN

Instead of envying his counterparts in universities, Cao Yizhao, a vocational school student in Beijing, believes the school has changed him a lot and prepared him for a future job.

Cao, 21, is a sophomore at Beijing College of Social Administration, where coffee making is one of the courses taught.

Cao said he was frustrated at first when he failed to get a high score on the national college entrance examination, or gaokao, and had to choose a vocational school for further study.

But things changed after two years of learning at the school. "I used to envy some of my high school classmates because they could go to universities. They will have higher degrees and more job opportunities," said Cao.

"But now, I don't think like that. I'm learning the skills and techniques that I'll use directly in my future job," said Cao.

Cao is more confident about his future after acquiring a SCA certificate, a professional recognition for baristas around the world.

At the same time, one of his predecessors, 26-year-old Yu Xiaona, proves that vocational school graduates can have a bright future as well.

Yu started to pursue her career as a professional barista after she graduated from the college in 2015. She used to work at a well-known multinational coffee house chain, and opened her own cafe in 2017.

Some people in China tend to treat vocational education as being inferior to academic learning. Therefore, attending vocational school is often seen as a choice born out of desperation for many families in the country.

But skilled workers are much sought after in different sectors across the country, from manufacturing to culinary services.

China's top legislature began discussing a draft revision to the law on vocational education to solve the problems in the field, and train more high-caliber technical professionals, as the demand for professional and skilled workers is surging in the country.

The draft revision was presented for the legislators' deliberation for the first time on June 7 at the ongoing session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.

Li Xiuqin from Beijing College of Social Administration said it could take a long time to change people's perception about vocational education. But as a teacher at a vocational school, she said she's looking forward to more support from the country.

"For students, it's important to master a real skill that helps them keep a foothold in the society. It doesn't matter where they acquire that skill from – general universities or vocational schools. I hope the government can invest more in vocational education to support our students," said Li.

Echoing Li, Yu said, "What really matters is that you need to find a major you are interested in, you need to find something you really love to do, and then you can continue to pursue that at the vocational school. You will also find a lot of opportunities in your future career."

Statistics show China is currently home to 30.88 million students acquiring skills in vocational education institutions.

In recent years, the country's educational authorities have been working to promote fair treatment of students receiving vocational education, ensuring they enjoy opportunities equal to those available to students from traditional schools in terms of enrollment, employment and job promotions.