Hit by job crunch, China trains entrepreneurs

Wed May 6, 2009 10:40pm EDT
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By Jason Subler and Zhou Xin

YIWU, China (Reuters) - Jia Shaohua is offering a radical solution to China's employment crunch: he teaches his students not just the skills they will need to find jobs, but how to create jobs of their own.

An educator at a vocational school with about 8,000 students, Jia is at the forefront of efforts to make higher education more relevant to China's job market at a time when an economic downturn means university graduates face bleak prospects.

Rather than cramming students' heads full of facts and theories, standard fare in China's rote-learning education system, Jia is helping his students set up their own online shops to learn business and management skills.

"What's the weakness of the Chinese education system? It's as though we're trying to train swimmers in a classroom," said Jia, vice-president of the Yiwu Industrial and Commercial College in the eastern province of Zhejiang.

"They can all pass the test, but once they see water, they start shivering. And when they get in the water, they drown."

Jia says his e-commerce entrepreneurship classes, in which about a fourth of the college's students participate, offer real-life skills to students who graduate better equipped to compete against the millions of other university students who enter the job market every year.

The challenge of shifting China's educational focus to prepare students for the workplace is nothing new. Multinational firms have long complained that the traditional education system fails to teach students analytical and problem-solving skills.

"China's schools favor rote memorization versus practical application. This method of learning does not translate well to daily operational communication," the American Chamber of Commerce in China said in a policy paper issued in April.   Continued...

<p>Students prepare for the National University Entrance Examinations at a middle school in Hefei, Anhui province in this October 14, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Jianan Yu/Files</p>