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CBBC Insights: Education | How China’s search for skilled graduates helps the UK

BritCham / CBBC
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By Jane Zhang
Consultant
China-Britain Business Council
 
China’s education system has been criticised for failing to produce enough skilled graduates, a deficiency which can be partly attributed to the focus on academic courses, as opposed to vocational ones. Imminent reforms to higher education are expected to have a sizeable impact on the employability of graduates and on the education system as a whole. 
 
The reforms will simultaneously help British institutions and companies. China has acknowledged its admiration of the German model: vocational training is a core element of the German education system and the environment is favourable to skilled workers and their career development. The UK has similar expertise to share with China.
 
Why China is reforming its universities
The Chinese employment market has shown a strong imbalance in recent years: on the one hand, there is a surplus of university graduates; yet on the other, employers struggle to find qualified skilled staff. It is estimated that for every two skilled workers an employer needs, only one can be found in the present labour market. The search gets even harder when advanced skills are sought, with the ratio falling as low as one in six or even eight. 
 
The university enrolment rate is currently 26 per cent; that is, a quarter of 18- to 22-year-olds receive higher education. While this results in a huge number of graduates each year, the inadequate provision of vocational skills leaves employers short of those with the right qualities. Structural employment – whereby there are unemployed graduates and yet companies cannot find suitable staff – is a problem. The average graduate employment rate is currently only 77.4 per cent.
 
In a nutshell, reform is necessary to satisfy the needs of industry. Vice-Premier Liu Yandong said recently that China should have a diverse workforce of people with different specialisms. Different types of university are required to achieve this. 
 
What the reforms entail 
Vice Education Minister Lu Xin has publicly stated that education reform is the key to resolving the imbalance in China’s current employment structure, identifying a “modern vocational system” as the way to foster more skilled graduates. This strategic adjustment would mainly be aimed at secondary and higher education.
 
China has approximately 1,200 tertiary institutions and the Government has called for half of these to be converted into vocational colleges in the coming years. To support this move, a second type of university entrance exam will be introduced, which will have consequences for secondary teaching, too.
 
Officially, it has been announced that the cohort due for conversion includes 600 or so regional universities, including some which were upgraded from colleges to universities in 1999. It is not clear exactly which 600 universities are on the list, however, and rumours have already surfaced about which they might be. Many of these institutions, of course, would not willingly opt for a perceived downgrade of this kind – although according to the Ministry of Education, more than 150 have already registered their willingness to become vocational institutions. 
 
Opportunities for British institutions and companies
Firstly, British vocational institutions may find chances to cooperate with the 600 universities earmarked for conversion, especially if the UK courses on offer – in engineering disciplines or advanced IT, for example – complement the needs of their Chinese counterparts.
 
Secondly, the Chinese Government has stated that it encourages the involvement of companies in the development of its new vocational system. This would enable students to hone practical skills while simultaneously giving the host companies access to useful employees. British companies may find opportunities to link up with Chinese institutions in this capacity. 
 
Higher education reform is an important, ongoing focus of CBBC’s work in partnership with UKTI’s education team in China. Both organisations are looking very hard at the opportunities this reform will bring about for British institutions and businesses. 
 
For more information about CBBC's work in education, please contact Simon Stewart, our sector lead for education in China: simon.stewart@cbbc.org.cn.
 
 
浅谈中国的高教改革及其为英国带来的商机
 
张军萍
英中贸易协会中国区咨询业务助理总监
 
中国的教育体系因其教育出的毕业生缺乏必备技能、无法胜任工作而饱受诟病。其部分原因在于中国教育重视学术研究而不是工作技能。为纠正这一问题,高等教育改革迫在眉睫。这一改革将对于提高毕业生的就业能力以及改变整个教育体系有一定的作用。
 
给英国教育机构和企业带来的机会
中国承认其欣赏德国的教育模式。职业培训是德国教育体系的核心,在那里,整体的社会环境都比较适宜技术工人的职业发展。而英国在这一方面拥有相似的经验可以分享给中国。
 
英国的职业教育院校可以尝试直接与这600所转型学校进行合作,比如英国那些在理工和领先IT领域里能够为中国职业院校提供他们所欠缺的专业课程的学校。
 
其次,中国政府鼓励企业参与这一新型职业教育体系的发展。这将能够在帮助学生磨练实用技能的同时给这些企业提供有用的人才。英国公司可能会在这一方面找到与中国教育机构合作的机会。
 
高等教育改革是英中贸易协会和英国贸易投资总署在中国的教育团队合作的一个重要的、持续关注的内容。两个组织都将致力于寻找这一改革给英国教育机构和企业带来的机会。
 
为什么中国在对大学进行改革?
中国的就业市场在近几年呈现出严重的不平衡:一方面,每年有大量的毕业生找不到工作;另一方面,雇主却很难找到合适的员工。据估计,每两个雇主需要的熟练工人中,只有一个能够在现存的劳动市场上找到。而如果想要寻找高级技术工人时,这一情况会变得更加艰难。找到合适员工的概率下降到大约1/6甚至1/8。
 
目前的大学录取率是26%,也就是说有1/3的18-22岁的年轻人能够接受高等教育。然而,每年在产生大量毕业生的同时,由于其缺乏工作技能而导致雇主找不到需要的人才。结构性就业,即“就业难”和“用工荒”同时存在的局面是当前存在的一个问题。目前,毕业生平均就业率仅为77.4%。
 
简而言之,改革对于满足行业需求是十分必要的。副总理刘延东近期指出,中国应当培养拥有不同领域专长的多样化人才。不同类型的大学将实现这一目标。
 
改革的具体内容是什么
教育部副部长鲁昕已公开表示教育改革是解决当前中国就业结构不平衡问题的关键。她指出发展“现代职业教育”是培养更多技术技能型人才的方法。中国将以建设现代职业教育体系为突破口,对教育结构实施战略性调整,而这一调整集中在高中和高等教育阶段。
 
中国有大约1200所高等教育机构。政府已经呼吁其中一半的学校在接下来的时间里逐步转变为职业教育学校。为了辅助这一转变,将引进除高考外的第二种大学选拔方式。这也将对中等教育模式带来影响。
 
官方已经宣布有600余所地方大学将转变教育培养模式,包括一些从1999年由专科学校升级为大学的高等教育机构。目前还不清楚在这一名单上的是哪600所大学,但是,已经有人推测究竟有哪些学校将参与转型。尽管依据教育部的说法,其中已有150所大学确定将转型为职业教育学校,许多教育机构并不愿意选择这样一种降级的形式。
 
关于教育领域的最新行业信息和问题,欢迎咨询英中贸易协会教育专家Simon Stewart:simon.stewart@cbbc.org.cn。 
 
 
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