Guangdong has been China’s manufacturing and export powerhouse with three decades of rapid economic growth. Migration from rural areas inside and outside the province had been a key to this growth by providing a steady supply of labor. These migrants filled jobs in construction and labor‐intensive assembly operations producing electronics, garments, toys, and shoes.
In recent years, however, the economy had moved away from older labor-intensive industries using large quantities of unskilled labor. The industrial structure shifted towards new knowledge-based industries such as electronic information, electrical and special purpose equipment, petroleum and chemicals, increasing the demand for skills.
While skills demand was strong, vocational and technical secondary schools face capacity constraints, with only 60 percent of applicants being enrolled. There were also issues of quality and relevance in these schools. Equipment for practice was limited, curricula were often outdated and disconnected from industry requirements, instructors lacked adequate industry experience and teaching skills, and managers lacked the skills needed for functioning in a rapidly changing economy. School-based reforms for quality and relevance were needed to support the transition to a more knowledge-based economy.
The Guangdong Technical and Vocational Education and Training Project was designed as a pilot to explore innovative approaches to reform of the technical and vocational education and training system in China. The following approaches were adopted to address the challenges identified:
- promoting and rolling out competence-based and demand-driven school reform;
- capturing lessons by closely monitoring and evaluating the project progress and subsequently disseminate them to other provinces and countries; and
- conducting surveys and data analysis for evidence-based management and policy development.
Implemented between 2009 and 2015, the project help upgraded three project schools and achieve the following specific results:
- The percentage of students that passed the skill certification exams increased to 90.37 percent by 2014, up from 70 percent in 2009 when the project started.
- The percentage of graduates finding employment within six months increased from 86 percent in 2009 to over 98 percent by 2014. The relevance between jobs and majors in 2013 was 59 percent for technical college graduates and 46 percent for secondary technical school graduates, up from 48 percent and 45 percent respectively in 2010.
- The average starting monthly salary showed an increase from RMB1,744 (about US$282) in 2009 to RMB2,625 (about US$424) in 2014.
- At the national level, three policy studies themed, respectively, on financing of vocational education, quality improvement in curriculum development and school-industry collaboration, and long-term governance structure were produced, providing input for the preparation work for the 13th Five-Year-Plan. Moreover, results and lessons from the project were used to inform the development of two national-level guidelines related to technical education and training, and are expected to also inform the revision of China’s Vocational Education Law.
- At the provincial level, the government’s directives on promoting technical education in Guangdong that drew on the project schools’ experience in competency-based curriculum development and implementation.
- In addition, operational school-industry advisory bodies were put in place, with established guidelines and standard forms of contract for school-industry partnerships; teachers and administrators benefitted from a variety of training activities; competency-based training syllabus, curriculum standards and textbooks were developed, tested and rolled out; training space was expanded for students to practice their newly acquired skills; and school management information system was enhanced.