German-style vocational education finds a home in Foshan

Updated: Dec 20, 2023 China Daily Print
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GUANGZHOU — Bernd Ott started his journey as a vocational education trainer in China more than a decade ago, when he was asked to develop training courses for the Chinese employees of German automotive companies.

A professor at Dortmund University of Technology, Ott has been involved in the development of Chinese vocational education during his many visits to China since then, providing training to teachers, helping to further the professional development of Chinese companies' employees, and publishing related educational materials.

Vocational education has been a cornerstone of Germany's development into a globally recognized manufacturing powerhouse, and Ott has been introducing the advanced practices of German vocational education to China.

Working with Shunde Polytechnic in Foshan, a city in South China's Guangdong province, he found a way to introduce German vocational education concepts, the logic of its curriculum development in learning areas, and action-oriented teaching methods.

In 2014, Guangdong's education department arranged for 20 teachers from various vocational schools in the province to participate in a three-month training program in Dortmund on German vocational education concepts and action-oriented teaching methods. Ott was one of the main instructors.

"More teachers of our school need this kind of experience, so that our school can also conduct training sessions on German teaching methods," said one of the teachers from Shunde Polytechnic who completed the training.

Since 2016, Shunde Polytechnic has invited Ott to conduct multiple training sessions, with more than 280 teachers participating in the initiative. "German vocational education, especially in technical fields related to manufacturing, has been successful," said Hu Jianguo, vice-dean of the School of Intelligent Manufacturing at Shunde Polytechnic. "Foshan, as a manufacturing hub, needs to refer to the experience to seek transformation and upgrading."

The school spearheaded an initiative to implement action-oriented teaching methods that involved redesigning over 100 professional courses and in-class teaching across various specialties, including mechanical equipment, electronic information, pharmaceuticals and chemicals, finance and trade, and hotel services and cooking.

The action-oriented teaching systematizes work processes, designs learning scenarios based on professional competencies and uses learning materials such as job task sheets and learning maps.

During the process, students integrate theoretical knowledge with practical activities to solve problems, which Hu said emphasizes learning for application rather than knowledge accumulation.

Shunde Polytechnic established a German Teaching Method Competence Center last month. Ott said it aims to adapt Chinese vocational education to the reform of learning culture through new professional content and innovative teaching methods. The center also shares resources with schools across China.

Hu said the aim is to promote the alignment of Chinese teacher resources with international standards, enhancing China's vocational education service capabilities for the Belt and Road Initiative cooperation. The establishment of an overseas training base in Dortmund is also planned.


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