WASHINGTON, August 29, 2019 - The World Bank has received a number of inquiries regarding the Technical and Vocational Education Project in Xinjiang, China. We take such concerns extremely seriously. We are actively looking into the questions that have been raised about the project. If action is warranted, we will take it.
The $50 million loan, which was approved in 2015, supports five longstanding public vocational colleges in the region. The schools offer three- and five-year vocational degrees offered on a fee-based and voluntary basis. The World Bank’s support includes helping to update the curriculum, developing high-quality teaching teams, and improving employment opportunities by ensuring that students’ training and skills match the needs of local industries and service sectors. The project is like other technical and vocational education projects that the World Bank supports around the world to improve educational outcomes and expand economic opportunities.
The World Bank has conducted supervision missions twice a year since the project started. These missions include a technical, procurement and financial management review, a social safeguards review, and a monitoring and evaluation review. There is no indication from these missions that World Bank resources made available to the schools were used for any other purposes than those agreed to under the project. Nevertheless, based on recent claims, we are conducting an additional review led by a diverse team of experts.
When the project was designed, a procurement plan was prepared that listed all goods, works, and services to be procured using World Bank funding, and the financial statements of the project are audited on an annual basis by auditors approved by the Bank. There is no evidence from subsequent reviews of that plan or reviews of contracts and financial statements by World Bank procurement and financial management specialists that funds have been diverted, misused, or used for activities not in line with project objectives or World Bank policies and procedures. These procurement plans and updates, along with financial statements and implementation status and results reports, are publicly available on the project webpage.
Consistent with the World Bank’s social safeguards, the project has had a special focus on helping ethnic minority students improve their livelihoods and employment prospects, while supporting their cultural practices and identity. The World Bank prepared a detailed Ethnic Minority Development Plan for the project and conducted external surveys to monitor student progress after graduation.
In line with the project’s objectives, it is important to note that the project is yielding positive development outcomes for local communities. More than 48,000 students - 44 percent of whom are from ethnic minorities - will have benefited from the project by the time it closes at the end of 2020. As of April 2019, 91 percent of ethnic minority graduates of the five project schools had found employment within six months of graduation. Starting wages for graduates have increased by around 50 percent during the project period.
The project schools also provide short-term training programs for migrant workers, farmers and enterprises. By March 2019, nearly 114,000 people had benefited from these short-term programs, including more than 65,000 from minority ethnic groups.
We are fully committed to the integrity of our projects and to responding in a timely and thorough manner to the concerns of our shareholders, clients, and the people we serve. In the case of this project, we will follow up on the questions we have received and make the conclusions of our additional review public.