“Recently I visited AP University of Applied Science and Arts Antwerp, Belgium to attend the online signing ceremony of a Memorandum of Understanding and a letter of intent by Shanghai Conservatory of Music and Hainan Vocational University of Science and Technology. Cao Zhongming (pictured), Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China in Belgium
These two documents have a variety of cooperation and substantive means. They focus on vocational education as well as the nurturing and development of musical talents. The exchange of teachers and students, performance and overseas study programs, as well as training for international competitions, are all examples of cooperation in nurturing music talent. Cooperation in vocational education refers to rehabilitation center cooperation, exchanges, cooperation on rehabilitative treatments, services, internships and other international forums. These two documents are another significant achievement in educational and sub-national cooperation.
Vocational education is closely linked to social and economic development. They play a vital role in encouraging employment and entrepreneurship, as well as fostering economic and social development. To meet the challenges of economy, society and population and realize sustainable development, countries have made it a priority to develop vocational education and strengthen the training of skilled workers. The Chinese government has placed a high priority on vocational education and the training skilled professionals in recent years. China hosted the World Vocational and Technical Education Development Conference, which took place in Tianjin, August. President Xi Jinping sent a congratulatory message to conference attendees, noting that China is actively pushing for the development of vocational education and supporting exchanges and cooperation with other countries in this area. China is willing to partner with other countries in order to improve mutual learning, joint contributions and shared benefits, implement and accelerate the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
China has created a system of vocational schools that integrates secondary, higher, and undergraduate vocational schools. This system has approximately 11200 vocational education institutions and more than 29.15 millions enrolled students. The more than 1,300 majors encompass almost all areas of the country’s economy. Encouragement has been made in the exchange of information and cooperation for China’s vocational education. China has maintained good relations with more than 70 countries and international organisations, established 20 Luban Workshops across 19 countries, hosted the World Vocational College Skills Competition and the World Expo on the Integration of Vocational Education and Industry, and created the World Alliance on Vocational and Technical Education. China is open to cooperation with vocational education institutions and businesses in managing schools overseas. This will help build more cooperation platforms, create more collaboration channels, promote multi-party dialogues, and encourage the common development and improvement of vocational education in all nations.
Belgium boasts a unique vocational education system that is comprehensive and differentiated. It also features close collaboration between educational institutes and businesses. We can draw from the experience and expertise of Belgium’s vocational education. China’s development of vocational education is on the rise. China’s socioeconomic progress has created a large demand for skilled professionals. People-to-people trade and exchanges between China and Belgium have been steadily increasing. These developments will provide great opportunities to develop Belgium’s higher vocational education as well as external cooperation. China and Belgium could cooperate in the training of skilled professionals, such as in modern agriculture, modern service, and art, through cooperation in school management, student exchanges, mutual visits, internships, and international conferences. This cooperation will help both countries to develop their economies and create jobs for youth.
China and Belgium have been developing educational cooperation and exchanges steadily since the establishment of diplomatic relations over 50 years ago. Due to their different histories, cultures, and political systems, it is only natural that China and Belgium have different opinions on certain topics. These differences will not hinder bilateral dialogues, exchanges, and cooperation. Both sides have the right to increase communication, strengthen understanding, share common ground, and work together in mutually beneficial ways. It is encouraging to see the willingness and interest of the Belgian intelligentsia, from universities to the government, to engage in educational exchanges with China. It is a promising prospect that China and Belgium will cooperate in vocational education.
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