Together with the ECNU (East China Normal University), the second-largest state university and one of the most renowned comprehensive universities in China, S&P Consulting founded the ECNU-S&P Research Center in 2013.
As part of this research collaboration, the Smart Education China initiative was launched. The goal of this project is to sustainably improve the Chinese education system by having teachers act as coaches and thus facilitate the development of lifelong learning skills for students.
Initially, a study was conducted in 2016 as part of the initiative on the requirements of Western companies towards Chinese school and university graduates and their degree of fulfillment. As part of a follow-up study, the research has now been expanded to include the perspective of young professionals in China. The results of both studies were published in the ECNU Scientific Journal in November 2021.
In the course of globalization, the demand for employees and talent has been redefined. More and more Western companies need well-trained young professionals in China to meet the increasing demand for qualified employees. Can Chinese school and university education keep up with the rapidly changing new world? Once Chinese graduates enter the professional world, can they meet the expectations placed on them? Based on these questions, the ECNU-S&P Research Center has been analyzing the professional qualifications of graduates in China since 2014 as part of the Smart Education China initiative – with a view to schools, vocational schools, and universities.
A key focus of the research is the extent to which Chinese graduates meet the expectations of international companies. To understand the impact of Chinese education on the labor market, the first step of the research center was a large-scale survey of Western companies to assess the professional qualifications of Chinese graduates. An online survey was used to find out what skills Western companies expect from the school and university graduates. In addition to the requirements of these companies, the degree to which these requirements are met was also surveyed. With the support of the German Chamber in Shanghai, over 300 Western companies based in China were included in the analysis.
Based on the survey results, continuous analysis of the professional qualifications of university graduates in China was initiated. In cooperation between S&P Consulting and ECNU, a comprehensive study report was prepared in 2017, published in the business magazine German Chamber Ticker in 2018, and submitted by ECNU to the Chinese Ministry of Education in 2019 as an important research basis.
In September 2020, S&P-ECNU Research Center received a request from the Journal ECNU (Educational Science Edition) to conduct a further study, building on the existing study findings. The original study on the professional qualifications of Chinese university graduates was supplemented by the perspective of the graduates themselves.
For this purpose, qualitative analyses were conducted in which some 30 young Chinese professionals participated in the form of online or face-to-face interviews. The interviewees consisted of three groups: Young professionals working for Western companies in China, those working for international corporations in Germany or other countries in Europe, and some young Chinese workers working for companies headquartered in China and working in an international context. In the interviews conducted, young workers were able to express their agreement with the survey results, as well as reflect and comment on assessments by company managers or HR managers on the effective use of their qualifications in professional practice.
The analysis yielded interesting and revealing findings: On the one hand, Western employees often felt that poorly trained methodological and communication skills of Chinese graduates made it more difficult for them to apply their theoretical knowledge in practice, making it harder for them to effectively develop existing strengths. On the other hand, more than half of the young professionals surveyed believe that Western employees underestimate some of their social skills, such as critical thinking, taking responsibility, or independence. They suspect that this is due to intercultural differences between Western and Chinese work cultures and the resulting patterns of observation and evaluation.
However, all of the Chinese employees interviewed agreed with the overall results of the survey of Western companies and acknowledged existing deficiencies with regard to professional soft skills and their training in the Chinese school and university system.
The initiative Smart Education China is the second project of the ECNU-S&P Research Center. The ECNU-S&P Research Center for ICT-Enabled Systemic Changes and Innovations was founded in 2013 in a cooperation between ECNU and S&P Consulting. The project aims to improve the Chinese education system in the long term by enabling teachers to act as coaches and thus enable students to develop their practical skills.
In the future, schools in China should be based on a system that gives equal importance to equity, quality, and innovation.
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