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Curriculum reform in TVET China
Developing innovative approaches to education for sustainable development
On 13-16 October 2008, Zhenjiang Technology Institute of Economy (ZJTIE), Hangzhou Zhejiang Province, a UNEVOC Centre in China, hosted the first workshop for the international research project “Developing Innovative Approaches to Education for Sustainable Development: Curriculum Reform in TVET China”. This first research workshop brought together 33 participants from 11 institutes in 8 provinces of China, who represented the diversity of TVET contexts within China: western and eastern provinces, developed and less developed provinces, urban and rural areas. The Network institutions are all well-known higher vocational institutes in China, with many of them having been selected by the government as ‘model’ innovative institutes. The research project “Developing Innovative Approaches in Education for Sustainable Development: Curriculum Reform in TVET China” is a long-term cooperative arrangement between the two UNEVOC Centres Griffith University (Australia) and ZJTIE (China). It was established in 2007 and focuses on international activities within the framework of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014).The project is financed by UNESCO-UNEVOC, ZJTIE, Griffith University and 10 other higher vocational education institutes in China and aims to facilitate curriculum reform in the TVET sector in China through the development of contextually-based innovative approaches towards teaching and learning of issues relevant for sustainable development (SD). The project focuses on researching conditions and approaches required for initiating and supporting curriculum reform in the area of ESD. In the workshop on 13-16 October 2008, participants reported on the results of a survey they conducted with TVET teachers and students that aimed to identify the levels of understanding of SD issues and priorities for SD in the different provinces. Four institutes reported on the survey results of the 2620 students and 255 teachers that took part in the study in these institutes. Concept mapping that helped to identify SD priorities for the local communities was conducted with 620 people, and 40 industry supervisors were interviewed. Another seven institutes were finalising the analysis of the data they had collected at the time of the workshop. Survey and interview results presented at the workshop were used for designing an intervention through action research. Students’ and lecturers’ understanding of SD as well as the nature of particular industries were a basis for the action research groups (that are established in each institute) to formulate their research projects, which commenced at the beginning of 2009.
For the intervention, 27 majors in TVET training were chosen by participants in the workshop. They include such diverse industries as accounting, agriculture, architecture, arts, automatisation, biological science, chemical engineering, commerce, industrial design, electronics, environmental protection, interior decoration, international trade, irrigation, IT, finance, food biochemistry, forestry, franchising, logistics, machinery, management, materials, printing, and tourism.
Professor Chun Lin HUANG, Dean of the International Centre, ZJTIE and the research leader for the project from the Chinese side stated in his report:
“Participants believed that this project will have historic impact on higher vocational education reform in China. The meeting made progress in the following aspects:
Close working relationships between participants were established, which laid a solid foundation for future cooperation”.
The project is innovative as it uses a number of approaches to conceptualise the relationship between the level of social and economic development and the teachers’ views presented through education. One of the main benefits of the project for the TVET sector is the identification of sustainability concepts and activities across a number of TVET industries. These can be used within the sector to develop learners’ capacity to understand socially and environmentally significant issues for improving the quality of life and apply concepts of sustainable development. The benefits are thus in the identification of learning contents and approaches that TVET could provide to increase student awareness of sustainable development. Another important benefit is related to the conceptualisation of students’ attitudes towards SD in the context of their current studies and future employment, and the identification of the main pedagogical issues within this learning.