Zhiwei Chen & Essi Ryymin
Along with the new industrialization, manufacturing and information technology, highly integrated and intelligent manufacturing has become the trend of future development in China. The Chinese society has put forward higher requirements for the comprehensive qualities of employees, and invests in education of skilled employees, who master the modern advanced manufacturing technology.
In May 2015, the Chinese State Council officially issued the Made in China 2025 program, in Chinese 中国制造2025 (Lin 2016). Its driving principles are making manufacturing innovation-driven, emphasizing quality over quantity, achieving green development, optimizing the structure of Chinese industry, and nurturing human talent (Kennedy 2015; Lin 2016). The ambitious vision is to build China into a leading manufacturing nation in three major steps. First, the goal is to transform China to become more skilled in manufacturing by 2025. In the second step, the Chinese manufacturing industry shall reach the middle level of the world’s manufacturing powers by 2035. Thirdly, in 2049, China aims to be in the forefront in the world in manufacturing and high-tech. To put it simply, China targets a leadership position in the key technologies and industries of the future, from artificial intelligence to biotech and robotics (Annunziata 2018).
Innovation in focus
In the Made in China 2025 program, the word “innovation” has been repeatedly emphasized. It means that innovation is of great significance to the development of the Chinese manufacturing industry. The transformation and upgrading of Chinese traditional manufacturing and the development of emerging industries require many vocational skills and innovative abilities.
According to the program, it is necessary to closely integrate scientific research with actual production, focus on improving the conversion rate of scientific and technological achievements, and equip the manufacturing industry with advanced technology. (See also Liu 2016.)
Emphasis on technical skills
The constant core of Industry 4.0 is to further liberate humankind from the heavy physical labor of daily production. In the period of Industry 4.0, large-scale social production will rely more on the competence of human beings. In align with the vision of Made in China 2025, Chinese vocational education will be further developed with increasing scientific and technological content and knowledge to adapt to and enhance social development. In practice this means that Chinese vocational education must overcome the original large-scale production mode, and instead, establish more refined training solutions and also more majors in high-tech.
The challenges for VET (vocational education and training) teachers
Made in China 2025 program requires vocational education to change and rebuild the training concept, objectives and methods especially for technically skilled employees. This challenges the work and education of VET teachers. Also, the cultivation of vocational students’ sustainable development awareness and skills, the inheritance of craftsmanship and the professional ethics is important and will require novel competence of VET teachers.
Another challenge is the rapidly disrupting digitalization and automation. The combination of the mobile Internet, cloud computing, big data and IoT (Internet of Things) urgently requires Chinese VET teachers to upgrade their professional knowledge by modern information technology and innovation skills. The reform of the VET teacher education, strategically in align with the Made in China 2025 program, requires re-defining pedagogical competencies, teaching methods and efficient implementation of information and technology application in teaching.
The requirements of VET teachers
There are three principal requirements for qualifications of competencies of VET teachers in the spirit of the Made in China 2025 program. They are
1) deepening and updating their own professional, substance-related knowledge to master transforming industrial knowhow and practices by themselves,
2) further developing their pedagogical competencies to advance and cultivate vocational students’ innovation skills and cross-industry skills, and
3) strengthening work-based learning and relations between vocational education and the world of work, companies and industries. (See also Chen 2017.)
In daily classroom teaching as in work-based training, VET teachers should educate students with the requirements and standards of authentic working practice, by emphasizing the cultivation of students’ creative quality and ability.
In order to master certain industrial knowledge themselves, VET teachers should strengthen their personal contacts with factories and enterprises, and make full use of the Internet platform, for instance, in the form of part-time, short-term continuous training. Furthermore, VET teachers and enterprise experts can jointly discuss and develop professional teaching materials such as digital learning materials, textbooks and syllabuses that meet the requirements of industrial development for manufacturing professionals. VET teachers should also develop an international perspective; learn from international VET models, concepts and teaching methods, and explore an educational model suitable for the Chinese learning environment.
The trades of specific interest
The proposal of the national Made in China 2025 program calls for strengthening the Chinese vocational education system and, in align, greater investment and attention to development of vocational teacher education.
Although the goal of the program is to further develop industry to a large scale, it highlights ten priority sectors:
1) New advanced information technology,
2) Automated machine tools & robotics,
3) Aerospace and aeronautical equipment,
4) Maritime equipment and high-tech shipping,
5) Modern rail transport equipment,
6) New-energy vehicles and equipment,
7) Power equipment,
8) Agricultural equipment,
9) New materials, and
10) Biopharma and advanced medical products (Kennedy 2015).
There are many factors determining whether the program succeeds. However, the initiative of building the pool of technological talents is proceeding fast: the number of students graduating in science and engineering in China has quadrupled between 2002 and 2014 (Annunziata 2018).
Chen, Z., Ryymin, E. & Kunnari, I. (2018). The comparisons of vocational teacher education in Finland and China. HAMK Unlimited Professional 18.5.2018. Retrieved 31 October 2018 from https://unlimited.hamk.fi/ammatillinen-osaaminen-ja-opetus/comparisons-vocational-teacher-education-Finland-China
Chen, Z., Ryymin, E. & Kunnari, I. (2018). Inspirations of vocational teachers’ education from Finland to China. HAMK Unlimited Professional 28.5.2018. Retrieved 31 October 2018 from https://unlimited.hamk.fi/ammatillinen-osaaminen-ja-opetus/inspirations-finland-china
Zhiwei Chen is a University Teacher, Ph.D. from Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Germany. He works in the School of Education in Minzu University of China.
Essi Ryymin works as a R&D Manager and Principal Lecturer in Global Education of School of Professional Teacher Education HAMK. Her current interests include digital disruption, competence development and collaboration across industries.
Annunziata, M. (2018). Seven Steps To Success (Or Failure) For “Made In China 2025”. Retrieved 31 October 2018 from https://www.forbes.com/sites/marcoannunziata/2018/08/10/seven-steps-to-success-or-failure-for-made-in-china-2025/#4017a87a4057
Chen, L. (2017). Teaching staff construction of the university engineering training under the background of “Made in China 2025”. Journal of Hubei Correspondence University, (1), 16–17.
Kennedy, S. (2015). Made in China 2025. Central for Strategic and International Studies. Retrieved 31 October 2018 from https://www.csis.org/analysis/made-china-2025
Lin, Z. Q. (2016). Made in China 2025 and strategies for manufacturing brand improvement. Journal of Chinese Academy of Governance, 4, 4–9. Retrieved 31 October 2018 from https://bit.ly/2RuGBX0
Liu, S. X. (2016). Innovation design: made in China 2025. Design Management Review, 27(1), 52–58.