BEIJING, July 7 (Xinhua) -- When 9.39 million young Chinese took the college entry exam Saturday, some stayed away. These students are in a pilot program to take independent entry exams for vocational schools.
Currently both applicants for ordinary universities and vocational colleges take the same exam on June 7 and 8 every year.
This year, of the 6.98 million vacancies, 3.35 million are at vocational colleges. These institutions admit students from ordinary high schools and vocational schools and offer two or three years of further vocational education.
A number of vocational colleges have been allowed to host their own entry exams, the first pilot program to streamline vocational education.
Lao Hansheng, president of Guangdong Engineering Polytechnic in south China, told Xinhua that the national exam is not an efficient way to admit students to vocational colleges like his.
"The national exam tests math, writing, reading and other academic skills. Vocational colleges have lower requirements in this respect but high skill requirements based on their choice of course," Lao said.
Independent entry exams designed by colleges themselves include skill tests, which in Lao's college are related to construction engineering.
"We want students who are interested in our courses and talented in the field, not those who simply score low in the national exam," he said.
Since the trial began in 2006, about 500 vocational colleges, 40 percent of the total, have joined. About one third of the students at vocational colleges were enrolled in this way in 2012.
Huang Mengfei, the first-year student at the Guangdong Engineering Polytechnic, was one of the 40,000 vocational college students in Guangdong that bypassed the 2013 national college entry exam.
Compared with his classmates in high school, Huang had to plan his career early.
"I have to be really sure of my choice," Huang said. "I have to decide what kind of job I would like to do now, but my classmates can wait till they graduate from college or even later."
He wants to be a quantity surveyor. He will study in college for two years and the third year will be spent in an internship at a construction firm.
"I am quite confident that I can find a good job. Graduates of my major are popular," Huang said.
The Ministry of Education is considering offering two kinds of national entry exams. Lu Xin, vice minister of education, said in March that the entry exam for applicants who are interested in vocational education will include tests on academic knowledge and professional skills, while the entry exam for those interested in academics will keep the current setup.
In central China's Hubei Province a similar system has been tested. It's not only vocational colleges that admit students through the standardized entry exam with additional skill tests, but some university departments have skill requirements too.