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Vocational Education Key to Social Development
With its integration into the world economy, China is beginning to see vocational education as important to maintaining fast economic growth and social stability.

A three-day national exhibition on vocational education formally opened in Changchun on July 26, hosting hundreds of vocational schools throughout China.

"We hope the exhibition can improve Chinese people's understanding and awareness of vocational education," said an official with the Ministry of Education (MOE).

"More importantly, we hope the exhibition will promote the future development of vocational education in China," he added.

Yao Wu, vice-president of Digital China, a leading Chinese high-tech company, said he had just watched a computer skills competition held for vocational school students and was deeply impressed.

"I think I will pay more attention to vocational school graduates when my company needs to recruit new employees," said Yao. "We need different people for different jobs and I believe vocational education will provide companies with more choices in selecting qualified staff."

Statistics from the MOE showed that within the last two decades, about 50 million Chinese have graduated from vocational schools.

"They are now the major force in China's industrial and service sectors," said an official.

According to the MOE, recent years have seen the rapid development of China's vocational education. Statistics show that the number of students in China's vocational schools increased fourfold from 2.27 million in 1980 to 11.64 million in 2001 and the number at higher vocational institutes rose from 60,000 in 1985 to 720,000 in 2001.

However, with the deepening of China's economic reforms and industrial restructuring, vocational education faced new challenges, said Wang Zhan, Vice-Minister of Education.

In recent years, Chinese vocational schools have established more than 200 new training programs to meet the demands of the market. A 2001 survey showed that 78.4 percent of vocational school students found jobs after graduation and 10 percent chose to continue their studies.

Vocational education was a key to upgrading China's human resources and to increase employment making it crucial to economic growth and social development, said Wang.

(Xinhua News Agency July 27, 2002)

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