China is implementing the largest program of vocational education in the world, Premier Wen Jiabao said.
Wen's remarks were part of a speech that was delivered at a national conference on vocational education held in Beijing last Monday, and published on Sunday.
"China will expand the enrollment of secondary vocational education to equal that of regular high school education in the next five years," Wen said. "By the end of 2010, the enrollment of higher vocational education should account for at least half of the entire enrollment of institutions of higher learning."
The country will give equal attention to vocational education as well as regular elementary and higher education, he said.
"The State Council has decided to earmark 10 billion yuan (about US$1.23 billion) in the coming five years to support vocational education," Wen said, explaining that this will be included in the 11th Five-year Program for Economic and Social Development (2006-2010).
The investment will be used to build vocational training bases, improve education facilities and provide financial support to students from poor families, Wen said.
Wen also encouraged all sectors of society to develop vocational education, saying that businesses are major agents of vocational education.
Wen highlighted that China is faced with two problems: a low quality workforce, and a dearth of skilled technicians, who only account for a third of the total workforce.
"The low quality personnel and scarcity of high quality technicians have greatly affected China's innovation, resulting in low-end products, high energy consumption and frequent industrial accidents," he said.
Chinese cities turn out a labor force of 24 million each year, and there is a large surplus labor force from the rural areas, making it necessary to develop vocational education.
Due to limited educational resources, each year more than 10 million junior middle school graduates cannot enter senior high schools, several million high school graduates cannot enter colleges, and about one million college graduates cannot find jobs.
(Xinhua News Agency November 14, 2005)