Curriculum outline for vocational schools announced - bringing technological and vocational education to new heights
In the 1970s, the economy changed from one that was labor-intensive to one that was technology-intensive. Advances in technology had rendered the old vocational education inadequate. The education was unable to satisfy business needs for employees with technology skills. The Ministry of Education modified vocational school curricula based on the concept of a "cluster curriculum".
In the 1990s, when the economy changed to one that was knowledge-intensive, the Ministry introduced a curriculum that incorporated individual schools' characteristics. On the basis of the cluster concept, the original 78 departments were consolidated to form 15 groups. In 1997, the Ministry began a long period of study of the curriculum. During the period, research was conducted, plans prepared, and public hearings held (see Attachment 1 for details). At the end of the period, the curriculum was further revised, with the Provisional Curriculum Outline for Vocational Schools (Curriculum Outline 2006) being published in February 2005 and implemented beginning school year 2006. In order to officially start implementing Curriculum Outline 2006 in school year 2009, the Ministry in 2005 began aggressively forming a vocational school curriculum development organization, inviting over 600 experts, academics, as well as superintendents, teachers and student parents of vocational schools to take part in the development of the curriculum. Curriculum Outline 2006 was modified, made official and announced in March 2008 (Curriculum Outline 2009).
Whole-person education - developing students'core abilities
The curriculum reform that began in 1997 was carried out based on the ideal of whole-person education and taking into account individual schools'strengths. In addition, reform of the vocational education curriculum made by industrialized nations was also examined before indicators of 15 core abilities were established for use in curriculum design.
On the one hand, Curriculum Outline 2009 considers the common abilities an 18-year-old student should possess as the guidelines for primary and secondary school curriculum stipulate. It further incorporates the core courses taught in the latter half of secondary education. On the other hand, it increases the number of credits students need to earn from their professional and practical training courses. It stipulates that students have to have earned 80 credits from their professional and practical training courses by the time they graduate, with at least 30 earned from practical training (including experiments) courses. The purpose is to enable students to possess common abilities through the core courses taught in the latter half of secondary education, and enable them to possess professional skills through the professional and practical training courses. By studying both common courses and professional and practical training courses, students will possess both common abilities and professional skills.
Giving schools more say - allowing more flexible curriculum design
Curriculum Outline 2006 and Curriculum 2009 are different from previous curriculum outlines in that they give schools more say in curriculum design. The new curriculum comprises Ministry-prescribed courses (obligatory) and school-prescribed courses (obligatory and elective). The Ministry-prescribed courses consist of common courses and professional and practical training courses. Curriculum Outline 2009 stipulates the Ministry-prescribed courses should number 81-106 credits, or 42.1-55.2% of 192 credits (the maximum number of credits that can be earned) and the school-prescribed courses should number 86-111 credits, or 44.7-57.8%.
The schools may include career planning-oriented courses in the school-prescribed courses to prepare students for further study, or employment-oriented courses to prepare them for employment. In addition, the schools may include certificate-oriented courses in the school-prescribed courses to help students obtain certificates or certificates of higher levels.
Comprehensive plans - facilitating successful curriculum reform
After Curriculum Outline 2006 was announced, the Ministry, in association with industry, other government agencies, academia and research institutions, worked out over 30 plans to deal with matters that include student enrollment, curriculum development, teachers'further studies, and teaching instruments and equipment to facilitate the curriculum reform. Curriculum Outline 2009 contains an additional 14 plans to deal with matters that include regulations, curriculum and teaching materials, teachers'further studies, equipment requirements, examinations and enrollment, and publicity to help schools and teachers prepare for the new curriculum, and facilitate its implementation. What students and their parents care about most are the enrollment method and the subjects and scope of the examination, which the Association for Promoting Enrollment at Technological and Vocational Schools and Testing Center for Technological & Vocational Education have been working on. Results are expected to be announced by end of the year (2008).
Since 2006, the Ministry successively set up 16 Cluster Curriculum Center Schools (Center Schools) to help promote the curriculum, encourage teachers' on-the-job further studies, and collect advice for Curriculum Outline 2006, to be used to improve Curriculum Outline 2009. With the establishment of Center Schools, the Ministry hopes to upgrade vocational schools. And through establishment of a curriculum R&D mechanism, Center Schools will become the cornerstone of development of curriculum and the teaching profession.
Reform recognized by all circles
The Ministry notes that the revision of the curriculum is expected to strengthen the teaching of professional and practical training courses, help students obtain certificates and certificates of higher levels, and strike a balance between common and professional courses. In addition, the revision will be able to encourage teachers to adjust their professional teaching skills and enhance the link between schools and industry. Consequently, the revision should be able to effectively achieve the goal of curriculum reform and bring technological and vocational education to new heights.
For questions the public may have about Curriculum Outline 2009, the Ministry has prepared a Q&A pamphlet and posted it on the websites of the Cluster Curriculum Planning Group for Vocational Schools and various Center Schools.