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China Daily Website

Gaokao reform merits applause

Updated: 2014-03-25 09:03
By Shan Xueying (

China is mulling a reform plan on its college entrance examination, under which two separate test modes — technical and academic — will be introduced into the examination. Such reforms are badly needed, as the demand for highly-skilled professionals rises sharply in the context of the country's economic restructuring.

The test for technical mode will focus mainly on the technical skills of those students who plan to become engineers and high-caliber mechanical workers while the academic mode will apply for those students who prepare to pursue an academic career.

Calls for reform of the current gaokao regime, under which students are admitted based largely upon their academic performance instead of practical skills, have been running high in China in recent years.

Admittedly, the existing system has some merits, as it provides relatively fair opportunities for all students, especially those from the impoverished areas, to change their fate through receiving higher education. But it has also been criticized as having churned out college graduates with little practical skills, something that prevented them from landing decent jobs as the job market soured in recent years.

Last year, China had 6.99 million college graduates and only 77.4 percent of them have secured a job, according to official data.

However, the fact that many college graduates cannot find a proper job does not necessarily mean China has a real talent redundancy. In many sectors, enterprises cannot find the technicians and skilled workers they need.

According to a 2004 sample survey of skilled professionals in 40 cities conducted by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, technicians and highly skilled workers account for less than 4 percent of the labor force, compared with an average 35 percent in developed countries. The proportion remains substantially unchanged in recent years. Most of the Chinese workers only have received primary or middle school level education, which has made it difficult for them to adapt to the modern technology - and innovation-driven production.

In many industrialized countries, vocational education has become an important pillar of their education system. Take Switzerland. About two-thirds of students choose to continue their education through vocational education and training after nine years of compulsory schooling. The abundance of highly skilled professionals has helped the country keep its unemployment rate one of the lowest in the world.

With industrial upgrading underway, which features a shift from a low-skilled and labor-intensive pattern to a more capital - and skill-intensive one, the need for skilled workers with a higher educational background will surely rise. China's proposed educational reform, which is to separate academic and vocational orientations in the college entrance exam, will undoubtedly aid that process of economic restructuring.