During the 50 years since the founding of the People's Republic of China in l949, vocational education underwent a process of adjustment, rectification, substantiation, reform, improvement and steady development. Since China entered a new historical era of reform and opening to the outside world in 1978, Chinese vocational education has been injected with tremendous vitality for development. In l991, the State Council formulated the "Decision on Energetically Developing Vocational and Technical Education" identifying the tasks and objectives for the further development of vocational education in the light of economic and social development in the 1990's in China. The " Outline on Reform and Development of Education in China" drawn up by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council in 1993 required governments at various levels to attach great importance to vocational education, make overall plans and energetical develop vocational education. The outline aimed at mobilizing the initiatives of all departments, enterprises, institutions and all quarters of the society to provide vocational education of multiple forms and various levels. In 1996, the first "Vocational Education Law" in China was formally promulgated and implemented, providing legal protection for the development and perfection of vocational education. A year after, in the "Report of the 15th National Congress", President Jiang Zeming pointed out that the strategy of invigorating China through science, technology and education and keeping sustainable development should be implemented and vocational education and adult education of various forms should be actively developed. The "Decision on Deepening Educational Reform and Promoting Quality Education " the State Council in 1999 emphasizes that an educational system adapting to the socialistic market economy and the internal law of education with different types of education linking up to each other should be established, and that vocational education should be energetically developed and senior secondary education including regular and vocational education should also be vigorously developed. All these policies, regulations and laws have not only created an unprecedentedly good social environment for the development of vocational education, but also show the direction for the reform and development of vocational education in the 21st century.
The System of Vocational Education and Its Development
The system of vocational education consists of education in vocational schools and vocational training.
Vocational education in China is provided at three levels: junior secondary, senior secondary and tertiary.
Conducted mainly in junior vocational schools and aimed at training workers, peasants and employees in other sectors with basic professional knowledge and certain professional skills, junior vocational education refers to the vocational and technical education after primary school education and is a part of the 9-year compulsory education. The students in secondary vocational school should be primary school graduates or the youth with equivalent cultural knowledge and its schooling lasts 3 to 4 years. To meet the needs of labor forces for the development of rural economy, junior vocational schools are mainly located in rural areas where the economy is less developed.
The secondary level mainly refers to the vocational education in senior high school stage. Composed of specialized secondary schools, skill workers schools and vocational high schools, and as the mainstay of vocational education in China, secondary vocational education plays a guiding role in training manpower with practical skills at primary and secondary levels of various types.
Consisting of secondary technical schools and normal schoo1s, specialized secondary schools enroll junior high school graduates with a schooling of usually 4 years and sometimes 3 years, A few specialities are open only to senior high school graduates with the schooling lasting 2 years. The basic tasks of these schools are to train secondary-level specialized and technical talents for the forefront of production, and all the students should master the basic knowledge, theory and skills of their speciality in addition to the cultural knowledge required for higher school students.
Aiming at training secondary-level skill workers, skill worker schools enroll junior high school graduates and their schooling lasts 3 years. Quite capable of practicing and operating, their graduates will directly be engaged in production activities.
Developing on the basis of the structural reform of secondary education after China adopted the policy of reform and opening to the outside world and directly coming from the reorganization of regular high schools, vocational high school enrolls junior high school graduates and its schooling lasts 3 years. Its main task is to train secondary-1evel practice-oriented talents with comprehensive professional abilities and all-round qualities directly engaged in the forefront of production, service, technology and management. Accordingly, the specialities offered in vocational high schools are mainly related to the third industry.
In 2001, there were altogether 17,770 secondary vocational schools (including vocational high schools, specialized secondary schools and skill workers school), with the enrollment of 11,642,300 students and the recruitment of 3,976,300 students.
With the schooling lasting 2 to 3 years, tertiary vocational education mainly enroll graduates from regular high schools and secondary vocational schools. In recent years, the proportion of graduates form secondary vocational schools has been increased, establishing the link between secondary and tertiary vocational education gradually. Aiming at training secondary and high - level specialized technical and management talents needed in the economic construction, tertiary vocational education emphasiz6s the training of practice-oriented and craft-oriented talents. At present, institutions providing tertiary vocational education are divided into four categories. The first is the higher vocational technology institutions; the second is the 5-year higher vocational classes provided in the regular specialized secondary schools; the third is the tertiary vocational education provided in some regular higher education institutions and adult higher education institutions; the last is the reformed regular institutions offering 2 to 3-year higher education with the emphasis on training practice-oriented talents, namely high-level professional technical talents, for the forefront of production.
Vocational training of various forms has been playing a more and more important role in vocational education. At present, vocational training is mainly conducted and managed by the departments of education and labor, but enterprises are encouraged to provide vocational training for its own employees. In 2001, short-term training are proved for 100 million person-time.
The Achievements of Vocational Education in China
1.The Rapid Expansion of the Scale of Vocational Education
During the l5 years between 1980 and 2001, the proportion of regular senior high school students among all the students in senior secondary education has decreased from 81% to 54.7%, while the proportion of secondary vocational school students has increased from 19% to 45.3%. From l980 to 2001, secondary vocational education institutions produced 50 million graduates, fostering millions of secondary-level and primary-level technical workers, managers, skill workers and other labors with good vocational and technical education.
2.The Big Stride Made in the Construction of Vocational Education Teachers
Teachers for vocational education are mostly graduates from regular higher education institutions. Since 1989, over 160 HEIs have established departments, specialities or classes devoted to the training of vocational education teachers. At the same time, the government began the establishment of teacher training bases for vocational education, Nowadays, there are over 50 training bases set by vocational technical colleges which are affiliated to HEIs and over 200 bases set by central departments and local governments. As a result, a training bases network has basically taken shape, meeting the needs of teacher training for vocational education of various forms and at various levels.
3.The Increase of the Quality and Level of Vocational Education
During the past 50 years, especially the 20 years after reform and opening to the outside world, much attention has been paid to the quality and level of vocation education as well as the schooling efficiency. Meanwhile its scale has been extraordinary expanded. By the end of 2001, more than 3000 key and pilot vocational schools have been established, promoting the overall development of vocational education.
4.The Primary Fruits of the Teaching Reform of Vocational Education
Learning the foreign modern vocational education thought and teaching patterns to improve the level of teaching is an important component of the reform of vocational education, For example, the "dual-track system " of Germany, the educational and training pattern based on the ability in Australia and Canada, the Employment Education Structure (MES) advocated by the World Labor Organization, the " Skill Courses for Starting Small Enterprises" initiated by the UNECO and the " Business and Trade Simulated Company" springing up widely all over the world, all became the models for the reform of Chinese vocational education in China.
5.Rapid Development of Vocational Education in Rural Areas
Since the 1980's, significant progress has been made in vocational education in rural areas of China with its quantity greatly enlarged and quality greatly improved.
6. More and More Important Role Played by Research on Vocational Education
With the development of vocational education, research on vocational education has been enhanced and a number of vocational education research institutions have been established, organizing the full-time and part-time research teams composed jointly by administrative departments responsible for vocational education, research institutions, vocational schools and academic organizations, carrying out various forms of vocational education research at different levels.
International Cooperation and Exchanges on Chinese Vocational Education
Internationalization has become a common trend for the reform and development of modern education in the world. Along with the reform and opening to the outside world, China has been actively engaged in the international cooperation and exchanges in the field of vocational education. During the past 20 years, the government has sent many delegations to over 20 countries and districts where vocational education is well-developed and shows their unique characteristics to learn successful foreign experience. At the same time, China has received many foreign vocational education delegations, invited foreign experts to give lectures in China, and jointly provided education with foreign vocational education institutions to promote the development of Chinese vocational education, China has also made more and more contact with the UNESCO, UNDP, world Labor Organization, UNPF, APEC and other international organizations while the bilateral cooperation and exchanges between China and other countries has been increasingly expanded.