‘Chinese Language + Vocational Skills’ benefit livelihoods in Central Asia

Chinese Social Sciences Today

The freight train from Wuyishan City, Fujian Province to Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan, serves for communication between China and Central Asia countries.  Photo: Yi Fan/CNS 

China has a time-honored history of exchanges with Central Asian countries. The proposal of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its implementation has further laid a solid foundation for cooperation between the two. To foster a higher level of cooperation, compound talent proficient in language, skilled at technology, and with effective cross-culture communication skills is urgently needed. The educational model of “Chinese Language + Vocational Skills,” which integrates Chinese language education and vocational education, can help improve local people’s livelihoods in Central Asian countries. 

To realize the five-pronged approach advocated by BRI (policy coordination, unimpeded trade, financial integration, facilities connectivity, people-to-people bonds), language connectivity comes first. All the five Central Asian countries are multi-ethnic countries. Affected by political, ethnic, economic, and other factors, the status quo of language usage is complicated within this region, where multilingual phenomena are quite obvious. In addition to the official language of each country, Russian and English play a crucial role in the language lives of local people. In addition, other languages such as Turkish are used. 

For many years, Confucius Institutes have undertaken the task of Chinese language teaching and communication in Central Asia. However, Confucius Institutes, which mainly focus on fundamental language teaching, can no longer meet the increasingly diversified learning needs of people from this region. The educational model of “Chinese Language + Vocational Skills” can thus help learners access more job opportunities in China-invested enterprises, raising their income and quality of life. 

With the acceleration of industrialization and the implementation of national development strategies in Central Asian countries, it is urgent to cultivate superior talent with vocational skills that cater to certain sectors. These countries place a high premium on vocational education and have established relatively complete higher education systems for vocational skills. Yet, problems remain, such as a disconnection between talent and labor market demand, poor teaching quality, and so on. Therefore, Central Asian countries encourage various forms of vocational education such as trans-border schooling cooperation and non-governmental financing. For example, in 2017, the President of Turkmenistan signed a resolution which approved the recognition of vocational education diplomas issued by foreign schools, which provided broad space for boosting educational cooperation and exchange between China and Turkmenistan. But trans-border schooling cooperation, the export of technical standards in certain sectors, and the authentication of professional qualifications are all inseparable from cultural and value recognition between the two sides. 

With the impetus of the BRI, a large number of China-invested enterprises have been established in Central Asia. China-invested enterprises are thus providing abundant employment opportunities for Central Asian countries. Currently, skilled personnel in sectors such as transportation, mineral resources, energy, agriculture, electricity, digital information, and other fields have become scarce resources in the region. On the basis of fully considering the economic and social needs, as well as the conventions and traditions in Central Asia, the model of “Chinese Language + Vocational Skills” can effectively improve the skills of local people through short-term training and other means. This helps enterprises reduce costs and increase efficiency. While laying the foundation for unleashing the development potential of China-invested enterprises in Central Asia, it also opens a window for the people of Central Asia to know more about China.

Wang Hui and Sun Jianwei are respectively from the School of Humanity at Xi’an Shiyou University and the International School of Chinese Studies at Shaanxi Normal University. 

Edited by BAI LE