China’s latest building binge: the education factory

Alexandra Harney:

Three decades ago, Chinese cities began turning rural land into industrial parks to attract foreign investors. Today, a new kind of project is blooming in China’s countryside: the vocational education park.

Cities around China are carving out tracts of land for school parks – dubbed “education factories” – designed to train hundreds of thousands of students.

Fuelling their drive are generous government subsidies and targets to increase the number of skilled workers, part of Beijing’s push to redirect China’s economy away from its investment-led past toward a more innovative, high-tech future.

But the expansion comes even as many existing vocational schools are struggling to live up to their promise.

“You can build as much as you want, but unless you get good teachers, good curriculum and a system that assesses and rewards high performing schools with more resources, it’s just going to be a waste of money,” says Scott Rozelle, co-director of the Rural Education Action Program at Stanford University and the author of many papers on vocational education in China.