Career Colleges and Vocational Schools in China

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About Career Colleges and Vocational Schools in China

The system of vocational education in China is the largest in the world, with the majority of Chinese students beginning as early as 12 years of age.  While only 9-10 percent of Chinese students will go on to seek a university education, nearly 80 percent will be exposed to at least some form of organized, if not specialized training towards a specific career.  Below we will describe China’s vocational education system in a bit more detail, including the different types of opportunities available throughout the various stages of the Chinese school system.

Vocational Education in China

China, home to roughly 1.2 billion people, is the most populous country in the world and is rapidly becoming a major influence on the global economic stage.  Partially responsible for this recent economic ascent are the educational reforms in the 1980s and 1990s that not only boosted participation in Chinese universities, but were responsible for a 150 percent increase in the number of students taking part in vocational education.  Last year, nearly 80 million students graduated from senior vocational schools in China, each of them armed with the specialized knowledge and skills needed to take part in—and  make a major contribution to-China’s massive economy at various levels.

Vocational education and training is heavily emphasized in China, and is carried out on three levels:  junior secondary vocational schools, for students ages 12-14; senior secondary vocational schools, for students ages 15-18; and tertiary schools, involving even more specialized education and training for young adults.

Junior Secondary Vocational Schools

In most countries, the majority of 12-14-year old students will pursue an educational track that is almost purely academic, as is the case with junior high schools/middle schools in the United States and most of Europe.  However, this is not necessarily true in the case of Chinese students.  In China, nearly half of the students in this age group will attend what are called “junior vocational schools,” particularly those students who live in more rural areas, which, consequently, is where most Chinese vocational schools are located.  This stage of a student’s education, which comprises the final three years of compulsory schooling under the Chinese system, has two components:  basic instruction in core academic subjects and vocational education and training.  

Vocational education and training at this stage is very basic, and because most of these junior vocational schools are located in rural areas, a good portion of it revolves around agrarian/agricultural industries and the technology used in production.

Senior Secondary Vocational Education

Vocational training in senior secondary school, while not mandatory, is very popular among students not planning to enter the university upon graduation.  Here the type and scope of the training students receive is much more specialized in nature, and geared toward specific careers within the Chinese economy, including manufacturing, service industries and even management.  Students have a choice between two types of schools at this level:  specialized secondary schools, where students learn practical career skills through education and hands on training; and technical schools, at which students are trained for careers involving technology and information systems.

Tertiary Vocational Schools

The final stage of vocational training and career education in China takes place at tertiary schools—schools that are very industry-specific and typically quite advanced.  In these 2-3 year programs students undergo a very comprehensive course of study, one that provides the knowledge and expertise needed to succeed in China’s more specialized industries, including healthcare and dentistry, automobile repair and maintenance and a number of trades in the construction field.

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