Burkina Faso students learn how to grow crops at an experimental farm in Hebei province in July last year. ZHU XUDONG/XINHUA
China will give more government scholarships in vocational education to international students as part of broader efforts to bolster international exchange in the sector, according to a recent guideline.
Jointly released by the general offices of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council, China's Cabinet, the guideline states that China will endeavor to build its own brand of vocational education and bolster international cooperation in the sector.
The government will also encourage vocational schools to step up cooperation on academic research, setting standards, and personnel exchanges with high-caliber institutions abroad.
Li Qi, a professor of labor economics at the Beijing Vocational College of Labor and Social Security, said the latest policy document is an indication of China's readiness to help more developing nations improve the quality of their workforce.
"It is an embodiment of stronger confidence in the quality of our vocational education. It will also help bolster China's power of discourse and contribute more of its insight to the sector," he said.
China has scaled up vocational training for youths in developing nations in recent years.
Vocational schools from Tianjin have set up Luban Workshops, which offer technical skills training to college students, up to now in 18 countries.
Ten of those are in Africa, where 11 workshops have been set up to help the continent develop its technical capacity. The program, which is named after Lu Ban (c. 507－444 BC), a renowned structural engineer, inventor and carpenter now revered as the patron of builders and contractors, was launched as part of the framework of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.
To enable more vocational schools to go global, the guideline pledged to explore a model that gives equal emphasis to Mandarin and professional skills, and to encourage schools to partner with Chinese businesses that have established themselves in the international market.
It also highlighted the importance of improving the proportion of government scholarships available to vocational school students aspiring to study overseas.
Wang Yangnan, dean of the Central Institute for Vocation and Technical Education, said that it is important for Chinese vocational schools to offer larger scale training for professionals and professions needed in other countries, to help international cooperation on productivity.
"We also need to increase the international influence of Chinese vocational brands and help with interpersonal exchanges between nations," he said.
Li said the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to widespread international travel restrictions, remains the largest obstacle to the furthering of international education exchanges in the sector.
"Unlike general education, vocational education requires more training at workplaces and in-person participation, which means online courses are far from sufficient," he said.
He added that schools are exploring models that combine online and offline training to ensure they maintain the quality of training before the return to normalcy in international exchanges.