Prizewin­ning broth­ers find vo­ca­tional col­lege pays off

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By LI WENFANG in Guangzhou li­wen­fang@chi­

Edi­tor’s Note: China has achieved re­mark­able progress in re­cent decades, thanks to the ef­forts of its peo­ple work­ing in all sec­tors. Start­ing to­day, China Daily will pub­lish a se­ries of re­ports on how the peo­ple have played a role in striv­ing for a stronger coun­try and bet­ter life.

Zhang Zhikun and Zhang Zhibin had lit­tle in­ter­est in study­ing at pri­mary and mid­dle school, and did not go to high school af­ter per­form­ing poorly in en­trance ex­ams in Pun­ing, Guang­dong prov­ince.

Their fa­ther sent the broth­ers, born one year apart, to Guang­dong Ma­chin­ery Tech­ni­cian Col­lege in Guangzhou, the pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal, to study metal milling.

They had no idea what they would learn, but their fa­ther’s choice has proved wise, with Zhikun win­ning a cham­pi­onship at the WorldSkills Com­pe­ti­tion in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 2015 and Zhibin fol­low­ing suit at the WorldSkills Com­pe­ti­tion in Abu Dhabi in 2017.

They both be­came teach­ers at the col­lege af­ter grad­u­a­tion, re­ceiv­ing a wage that usu­ally takes many years to at­tain. Zhikun, the el­der brother, also be­came the youngest per­son to re­ceive a sub­sidy for ex­perts from the State Coun­cil.

The broth­ers re­ceived a com­bined 2 mil­lion yuan ($292,000) in var­i­ous awards for their cham­pi­onship wins, a hand­some sum for a low-in­come fam­ily.

“We re­ally couldn’t find an in­ter­est in study,” 22-year-old Zhikun said, re­call­ing his days be­fore col­lege, when their par­ents spent most of the time work­ing in a factory in Dong­guan, Guang­dong.

Zhikun said he re­al­ized he would not do well if he en­tered high school, while Zhibin said he felt “a bit down” when he missed out.

The vo­ca­tional col­lege, how­ever, stirred their in­ter­est. “At the very be­gin­ning, it seemed not as dull. There was some stuff that could be op­er­ated, and study there felt novel,” Zhikun said, adding that the new and some­what se­cluded en­vi­ron­ment of the col­lege pre­vented him from be­ing dis­tracted by leisure ac­tiv­i­ties.

Zhibin was shown the train­ing work­shop, where stu­dents op­er­ated equip­ment, on his first day at the col­lege.

“I’d never seen such equip­ment. It was big, and I was cu­ri­ous,” he said. “It was more in­ter­est­ing than the­o­ries. I liked do­ing ex­per­i­ments.”

In Zhikun’s sec­ond se­mes­ter, the col­lege was re­cruit­ing trainees for skills com­pe­ti­tions in China. He was re­jected at first be­cause he per­formed poorly in a writ­ten test, but he knocked on the door of a teacher to ex­press his de­sire to join the train­ing.

He was ac­cepted and trained hard, work­ing un­til 10 pm in the early stage and later fo­cus­ing on in­ten­sive prob­lem solv­ing by him­self.

Zhibin com­peted in plas­tic mold­ing over four days in Abu Dhabi. It in­volved com­puter pro­gram­ming based on mea­sure­ments pro­vided in a draw­ing, mak­ing a steel de­vice on com­puter-con­trolled equip­ment, pol­ish­ing the de­vice, and in­ject­ing plas­tic into it to make the plas­tic mold.

The steel de­vice needed to be as shiny as a mir­ror and its mea­sure­ments within 0.01 of a mil­lime­ter of those in the draw­ing, Zhibin said.

The broth­ers’ suc­cess has helped change deep-rooted per­cep­tions in their home­town. As in other parts of the coun­try, peo­ple there pre­vi­ously be­lieved the only path to suc­cess led through se­nior high school and univer­sity.

“Some rel­a­tives come and con­sult us now on the se­lec­tion of de­part­ments in a tech­ni­cal school,” Zhibin said.

Feng Weiyuan, pres­i­dent of Guang­dong Ma­chin­ery Tech­ni­cian Col­lege, said the Zhangs’ suc­cess had played a sig­nif­i­cant role in over­turn­ing an out­dated men­tal­ity that val­ued aca­demic back­grounds and cer­tifi­cates over ca­pa­bil­i­ties and skills.

The coun­try is now stress­ing the im­por­tance of crafts­man­ship and vo­ca­tional ed­u­ca­tion amid an in­dus­trial up­grade, and the broth­ers are train­ing their stu­dents at the col­lege for skills com­pe­ti­tions.

Zhikun said the over­all el­e­va­tion of skills re­lies on schools, and bet­ter ed­u­cated stu­dents will have more room to de­velop in en­ter­prises in the van­guard of China’s tech­ni­cal up­grade.

He hopes to deepen his re­search and sum up the re­sults in his work at the col­lege, while Zhibin hopes to ad­vance his the­o­ret­i­cal knowl­edge through con­tin­ued learn­ing.

At the very be­gin­ning, it seemed not as dull. There was some stuff that could be op­er­ated, and study there felt novel.”

Zhang Zhikun,

Xu Ji­ayi con­trib­uted to this story.


Zhang Zhibin (left) and Zhang Zhikun par­tic­i­pate in the WorldSkills Com­pe­ti­tion.

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