by Fei Liena, Yu Rong, Yuan Ruting
BEIJING, March 26 (Xinhua) -- "There is a Chinese saying -- there are no unqualified students, but only unqualified teachers. Sometimes I feel I'm an unqualified teacher. What do you suggest, professor?"
A vocational education teacher from central China's Henan province asked American education expert Walter Huber a question during his lecture here on Sunday.
"Well, you ask this question shows that you are exactly a qualified teacher, a good teacher." Huber answered. Listeners all laughed, nodding.
From March 25 to 26, vocational education experts from the United States and European countries gathered at the 2017 Bainian (Centennial) Vocational Education Workshop, to give diagnosis to the weaknesses of China's vocational training through lectures, seminars and demonstration classes to over 200 secondary vocational school principals and teachers from 14 mid-west Chinese provinces.
Together with representatives from some domestic education research institutes and welfare organizations, participants were actively exploring ways at the two-day workshop to improve the quality of vocational education, so as to better contribute to China's targeted poverty alleviation strategy.
Co-sponsored by China Development Research Foundation (CDRF), Citi Funds, Hillhouse Funds and Bainian Vocational School, the workshop used Bainian vocational schools in cities like the capital city of Beijing, Lijiang in southwest China's Yunnan Province and Yinchuan in northwest China's Hui Autonomous Region as well as in Angola's capital of Luanda as samples, and discussed highly targeted topics such as teaching quality evaluation, effective teaching, and life skill education.
Chinese and foreign experts also gave demonstration classes on English, horticulture, intelligent building and so on during the workshop.
Zhang Meiying, vice-chairwoman of the 11th CPPCC (Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference) National Committee, said in her opening speech that "vocational education is the cradle of craftsmen."
She pointed out that, poverty alleviation through education, especially targeted poverty alleviation through vocational education, is an important way to serve society and fulfill one's social responsibility.
"Through vocational training, the students from poverty-stricken families will gain the ability of self-development, thus reaching the goal of getting out of poverty," Zhang says, "In that sense, vocational education serves as an important weapon in the fight against poverty."
Yao Li, founder of Bainian Vocational School, told Xinhua: "In today's Chinese society, vocational education has been widely recognized as an effective way of precise poverty relief."
According to her, since the establishment of Bainian 12 years ago, apart from professional skills training, the school has always been emphasizing on life skills education for the students' sustainable development, enabling them to obtain the ability of self-learning in a fast changing labor market.
"The vision of students from poor regions is not open enough, how to solve the problem?" "Students like playing cellphones more than listening to my lessons, what should I do?" "How to treat students who have lagged behind?" ... The front-line vocational educators had various kinds of questions and puzzles, while foreign experts gave them wise answers.
Participating principals all agreed that in order to help targeted poverty relief and change the fate of disadvantaged youth, vocational education needs to innovate itself to be more effective and market-oriented, to better suit the needs of the job market and the students' long-term development.
"I was shocked to hear the foreign experts' lectures today," Li Wenshun, deputy chief of Leishan County Education Bureau in southwest China's Guizhou Province, told Xinhua: "By comparison, I feel some of our education concepts and methods are out-of-date. This kind of workshop is very inspiring."
According to CDRF Secretary-General Lu Mai, China has now built the world's largest vocational education system with more than 16 million secondary vocational education students, most of whom come from underprivileged families.
"This is a group of people we should give special care and help to," he said, "We hope secondary vocational education could foster them to become optimistic, healthy and modern skilled talents."