In recent years, the evident shortage of skilled workers has drawn significant attention in China. Concurrently, the intense competition for admission to higher education in the country continues to create immense anxiety and burdens for students and their parents. In response to these challenges, the proposition of expanding vocational education has emerged as a potential solution.
Current policies aim to balance the number of students enrolled in both vocational and academic tracks within high school education. However, the majority of junior middle school graduates still prefer academic high schools that are geared towards college preparation. Consequently, the enrollment rate in academic high schools has surpassed that of vocational schools. This mismatch between policy objectives and the educational preferences of households adds to the anxiety experienced by numerous parents and students. Consequently, it is crucial to explore why academic high schools are generally favored over vocational high schools.
In a joint study by Renmin University of China and China University of Labor Relations published in the KeAi journal China Economic Quarterly International, empirical evidence has shed light on the factors influencing the decision-making process of middle school graduates when choosing between vocational and academic high schools. The study strongly suggests that the primary determinant in this choice is the opportunity for higher education.
“We found that the higher education quota differs significantly between provinces. Leveraging this variation, a noteworthy correlation between increases in college entrance exam indicators and a corresponding rise in the enrollment rate of academic high schools we observed,” said corresponding author Chuliang Luo.
Notably, the impact of admission opportunities to prestigious "985" and "211" universities is particularly significant. At the initial stages of college enrollment expansion, the influence of college opportunities on the probability of choosing vocational high schools remains relatively small. However, as high school education becomes more widely accessible, college opportunities, particularly from elite universities, begin to have a negative effect on the choice of vocational high schools among middle school graduates in urban areas.
Both initiatives, "985" and "211," were launched to elevate the standards and global standing of Chinese higher education institutions, with the aim of nurturing talent and promoting innovation within the country.
“Given that the adverse effect of higher education opportunities on vocational education is outweighed by their positive impact on the enrollment rate of academic high schools, an increase in higher education opportunities contributes to further improving the overall education level in China,” explained Luo.
“Future policy-making should prioritize achieving a regional balance in the distribution of high-quality higher education resources,” said lead author Chunbing Xing. “Possible policy options include balanced allocation of admission quotas for existing high-quality universities, subsidizing and developing higher education in regions with relatively inadequate high-quality education resources, and encouraging local governments to invest in high-quality higher education resources.”
Contact author name, affiliation, email address: Chuliang Luo, School of Labor and Human Resources, Renmin University of China, email@example.com.
Funder: This work was supported by National Social Science Foundation of China (Grant No.22&ZD056) and National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No.71973015).
Conflict of interest: The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.
See the article: Chunbing Xing, Yan Sun, Chuliang Luo, Opportunity of higher education and the choice of high schools, China Economic Quarterly International, Volume 3, Issue 2, 2023, Pages 119-131. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ceqi.2023.05.004