Ladies and gentlemen, I'm very delighted to be here to meet all of you. When I arrived, I was surprised to find such a large-scale vocational school in Shunde. I'm a complete layman of tourism. So my topic today is about my study experience. But first I would like to give my own opinion concerning vocational education, for it is closely related to my educational experience when I was a young man.
Over 20 years ago, an elderly Hong Kong compatriot donated all his savings to support the education in our country. This was a large sum of money. When we received the fund, we considered how to use it, where we should spend it, and how to allocate the fund to the most needed sector in China. After a series of discussions with relevant departments, we finally decided to apply the fund to supporting vocational education of our country.
Why did we make such a decision? That's because at that time, we felt our country didn't attach enough importance to vocational education. Of course, higher education is the priority of China's education. Every year our government invests a large sum of money in higher education. However, vocational education receives little attention so that our country invests far less funds in vocational education. At that time there were also funds assisting education, including domestic funds and international funds, funds from overseas. However, these funds were mainly directed to higher education. Only a certain number of them were used for supporting vocational education. For instance, many philanthropists set up foundations and donated large sums of money every year, even hundreds of millions of dollars, to support higher education and various universities. But there was not even a penny for vocational education.
Higher education surely should be supported. This is a right orientation of the development of higher education. That is correct. However, in the long term, vocational education is also very important. For this reason we decided to apply this fund to supporting vocational education.
At that time, China's reform and opening up just started. We introduced a great deal of toll-processing business with materials supplied by customers and a lot of labor-intensive industries. Such industries contained very little technology, so with some training employees could be fit for the post. But in the long term, with our economic development, labor-intensive industries will be gradually replaced by technology-intensive industries. At that time, many technical workers will be needed. No every work can live up to the job. We noticed in Germany that Germany paid great attention to vocational education. Only those workers who have obtained graduation certificates from vocational schools could work in the factories. We should also consider this. Therefore we need to think in a long-term perspective, and we felt that we should support vocational education.
Another reason that little attention was paid to vocational education was that there were certain problems with our country's educational system and labor system then. If a middle school student couldn't go to college, it seemed that his or her whole life was determined and he or she wouldn't be successful for the whole life. At that time, graduates for vocational schools couldn't apply for universities, so they could not be promoted as "cadre" in government departments and could not be given senior professional titles in other enterprises and work units. So they could only be a "worker" for the whole life. We didn't have on-the-job training and examination for self-learners at that time. So students must try their best to be admitted into college after finishing high school, which brought heavy burdens to the students. They had to choose a good kindergarten at the very beginning, later a good primary school, and a good high school, so as to go to college. It was such a huge burden to students that it was not a positive phenomenon. But the situation then was just like that. From this perspective, we thought that we should strive to develop vocational education.
In our society, many some types of work don't require students with high professional titles graduating from universities. With strict technical training and professional training, students graduating from vocational schools are qualified for certain work, such as typing, proofreading, nursing, laboratory testing and medicine dispensing by prescription. These types of work don't need college graduates, bachelors, masters or PhDs. Technical workers with regular training can match up with them. It is especially so in the rural areas lacking highly professional human resources.
In addition, at that time, few students could apply theories to practices. They could only use their "brains" and couldn't use their "hands". For example, graduates majoring in engineering didn't know how to fix water and electricity facilities at home. Graduates of arts couldn't type. Engineers didn't know what to do with the finished technical drawing. Yesterday I read on the Internet that some doctors of psychology don't know how to do psychological consultation. These are very common phenomena in the society. So we think it is necessary to cultivate a group of technical workers both qualified in terms of theories and practice. For example, now that our Shenzhou manned spacecraft has been launched to outer space. This rocket surely needs technical personnel and engineers to design. However, every single detail of it is of vital importance. If a single screw is not driven tightly, or if a single weld is not joined well and seamlessly, serious troubles may arise. So for our rocket to travel in outer space and even travel to the moon in the future, we not only need scientists, technicians and senior engineers, we also need every little bit of work from a large number of technical workers with strict training.
What's more, I feel that in various industries, attentions are usually only paid to hardware, not software, especially the training of employees. Today's theme is tourism, so I will take tourism as an example to share with you some of my experiences. I've been to many five-star hotels. Their architecture and facilities were all first-class, truly the best. Nevertheless, they didn't do as well in providing services. This is what happened long ago. Once I was in Guangzhou, staying in a famous five-star hotel. We were having some meetings there. One day I walked into that hotel from outside. The hotel had glass spring doors. As I walked in, a bellboy opened the door for me. As soon as I stepped into the hotel, suddenly someone shouted to the bellboy, telling him that he was wanted on the phone. It may be a phone call from his girlfriend, so he hurriedly let go the door to answer the phone call. As the door was let go, it immediately sprang toward me, hitting my glasses off to the floor. This happened in the then best five-star hotel. I went to the reception to complain, but no one dealt with it. Two days later when I left, there was still no apology to me. So we never stayed in that hotel after then. Actually we were drafting the Basic Law for Hong Kong. We went to Guangzhou to have meetings almost every month and stayed three to four days each time. Every time when we stayed there, we booked dozens of rooms for us. Besides us, also staying in the hotel there were also reporters on reporting missions from Hong Kong and China's mainland. Our stay in the hotel did not only bring them economic benefits, but was also a very good and effective advertisement for their hotel. Just because of a trivial matter, they lost their best customers.
Another example was also about a five-star hotel in Guangzhou. One evening we had dinner. We had hot-pot with oysters inside. Maybe the oysters were not cleaned thoroughly and were thus polluted. After having the oysters, many of us were throwing up and had diarrheas. Only those who drank Mou Tai Liquor didn't have diarrheas, whereas we who didn't drink all suffered from diarrheas. What problem does it reveal? It was absolutely a problem of poor management. But we were very tolerant at that time. Because there were many Hong Kong reporters there, we kept it a secret.
There was an even more ridiculous case. I live in Beijing. One weekend, my family together with some friends planned for a weekend trip to Dalian. The flight was at night. When we arrived at the airport, we were told that the ground lights of Dalian airport couldn't work, so the flight was canceled. We were asked to get to the airport at five the next morning. I lived in the western suburbs of Beijing, while the airport was in the eastern suburbs. It would take us more than an hour to travel home from the airport. So we decided not to go back home. We planned to check in at a hotel near the airport and spent the night there. It was either a four-star or a five-star hotel. Of course my wife and I should share one room. While we checked in, the receptionist said we had to book two rooms, one for each. "Why?" I asked. He said we must show him our marriage certificate. And I said that it was ridiculous. We didn't need to register with the Ministry of Civil Affairs at the time I got married. Our marriage certificate was an old-fashioned one which looked like a big book. How could I bring it with me everywhere? It was impossible. So I showed him our ID cards, which indicated that we had the same address. "No. This is the regulation of the Ministry of Public Security." he said. Then I said, "I know that regulation." It is true that there was such a regulation, but it doesn't work now. But such a regulation was not for people over 60 years of age. "Just look my grey hair." However, he didn't give in at all. We got angry and gave up. We went back home, for there was nothing we could do. The next day, we got up at three o'clock in the morning and went to the airport at four. To our surprise, when we returned to Beijing from Dalian, we found two lines of girls in red cheongsams and with flowers in their hands at the exit of the airport to welcome us. We didn't know how they knew what time we came back and what flight we took. The manager of the hotel apologized to me and insisted that we should stay in their hotel. I said "thank you, thank you." Later I met the boss of the hotel. Do you know who the boss of that hotel is? It is Mr. Lee Ka-shing from Hong Kong. He had acquired that hotel. Later when we met each other, Mr. Lee apologized to me and said he hadn't known it at all. I answered, "It had nothing to do with you."
This happened 10 years ago. I believe it won't happen again today. What does it show? It shows that we paid little attention to service and to the software. Therefore I think today's forum is very important to the promotion of the software in tourism. Our hardware is very good. Many hotels in China are as good as those in foreign countries. There are many hotels in Hawaii for example. I think our hotels in Sanya are as good as those in Hawaii. I mean the hardware is equally good. As for software, we are far lagging behind. I think there is still a gap in terms of software. Of course things like what I mentioned won't happen again, but there is still a huge gap. We should learn from foreign hotels and the service industry.
So it tells a truth — the importance of vocational education. Given the circumstances then, we decided to denote the funds to the most needed area, instead of an area that had already been well developed. We wanted to make some real effect, not pursue a reputation. We would like to use this fund to raise people's awareness of vocational education. With the support of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health, we set up the so-called "Huaxia Foundation". Now projects supported by this foundation can be found in every province and city in China. In order to arouse the attention of local governments, we require that local governments make an equal sum of investment as we have invested to support the project, so that local government will attach greater importance to vocational education. One of the best examples is "Liu Guojun Vocational Education Center" established in Changzhou. This is a national key vocational school. Many national leaders, such as former President Jiang Zemin, have visited the school and showed their support for it.
The vocational education center was initially called "Huaxia Vocational Education Center", for it was sponsored by us. Later, Mr. Zha Jimin, an entrepreneur in Hong Kong visited the school, after which he felt impressed and wanted to make some donation for the school. So we said it was very good. If you sponsor the school, we shall name the school after you. It was not called "Huaxia Vocational Education Center" any more. It was named after his father-in-law and was then called Liu Guojun Vocational Education Center. It grew very well. Now in Hangzhou a university city for higher vocational education has evolved around this vocational education center.
Today I see the scale of the vocational school here and I'm very pleased. It also shows the great importance that Shunde Municipal Government attaches to vocational education. Nowadays with the changing situation, people's attitudes toward vocational schools have changed. There is a common phenomenon in society: It is easy to find a good engineer but hard to find a good technical worker. Employers everywhere try to hire technical workers with large salaries. Therefore, China has put vocational education on top of the development agenda and decided to invest 10 billion yuan in developing vocational education in the 11th Five Year Plan Period. Secondary vocational education will expand recruitment number by another 1 million next year. It is expected that the number will be increased to 8 million in a few years. At that time, the scale of recruitment of secondary vocational education can be compared to the scale of recruitment of secondary schools and high schools. This surely is good news for us, for it shows the Central Government has begun to attach great importance to vocational education. It also means that your school and the Shunde Municipal Government are far-sighted.
My preference for vocational education stems from the education I received in my early years. I went to a number of schools from primary school to high school and university. I was born in Shanghai, so I went to schools in Shanghai. The one that I attended and benefited me the most was Lester Institute of Technology.
This institute was set up by a British man by the name of Lester. And his full name was Henry Lester. He was a British Jew and an architect. When he got to Shanghai, he had no money in his pocket at all. After arriving in Shanghai, as an architect, he earned a large sum of money in real estate as an architect and became one of the richest people in Shanghai. There were several British millionaires in Shanghai at that time, such as Sasson, Hardon and Caduri. The Peace Hotel on the Bund used to be Sasson House. Today's Shanghai Exhibition Center used to be the Hardon Garden. Caduri's apartment is today's Shanghai Children's Palace. Although Lester was very rich, he was very thrifty. He even didn't want to spend money on marriage so that he stayed single all his life. Every day he would consider if he would save more by walking to work or save more by taking a third-class tram. At that time, there were first-class trams and third-class trams in Shanghai. His conclusion was that taking third-class tram saved more money, because walking produced worn-out shoes.
One day when he was off work and walked outside his office building, looking back, he found some lights were still on in the office. He didn't have the key to the office, so he stood there watching the lights with tears running down, because the lights would be on for a whole night. After he passed away, he left a large sum of bequest, but there was no one to inherit it, because he never married. So his friends used the bequest to set up a trust, which was later used to run my school.
As a result, tuition fees for this institute were very low, but it boasted excellent facilities and teachers. The institute consisted of three junior grades, three senior grades and four years of college. As it was very difficult to be admitted into the institute and there was only a small student number. I still remember the entrance exam for the junior grade in this institute. In the math test, one question was something like this: a, b ,c , d pluses e, f makes h, i, j, k. Students were asked to work out what a stood for and what b stood for. We were then only primary school graduates and hadn't had any algebra class at all. The question was very difficult for us. Once we were admitted, as I've mentioned, it was an institute of engineering. There were only two majors on college level, one being electronic engineering; the other being mechanical engineering. There were two classes in the junior grades, Class A and Class B for Grade 1 and Class A and Class B for Grade 2. In the senior grades, there was only one class. It means only half of the students from the junior grades could be admitted and the other half would be eliminated. We had to attend an exam after finishing the senior grades. It was the test paper of the University of London. If one passed it, one could be awarded the diploma of the University of London University.
So in this institute, when we were studying there, we felt stress-free. However, it was very strict in the school. Staying down or repeating a school year was not allowed. If you could not make for a higher grade, you had to drop out. But we still felt stress-free, for the school had good teaching methods. It offered a genuine combination of theories and practices. Every week, we had two afternoons for practical work, one for carpentry and the other for light machinery Therefore, we knew how to use all kinds of machine tools, including millers, lathes, drilling machines and planers. We were also taught how to do sand-casting. What's more, we were taught to take an automobile apart and then reassemble them. The teaching methods were quite practical. We had learned a lot of things, both theories and practice. We benefited a lot from our education. At that time, China was in the period of anti-Japanese war. Shanghai was like an isolated island. There was virtually no transport then, so people had to resort to the bicycle. But there were no imported bicycles. They were all made of water pipes domestically. My classmates and I wanted to earn some pocket money, so we got some used imported bicycles from the flea market. We took out some useful parts and reassembled and renovated them into new imported bicycles. Then we sold them for some money. Therefore, we could always upgrade the bicycles we rode, and we kept changing them. During the Cultural Revolution in China, I was sentenced as an "anti-revolutionist" and was forced to go to the countryside and to the "labor school". But I didn't really have a hard time there, because I had professional skills. I could fix lights, pumps and water pipes. When there was something wrong with the lights or pumps, I was asked to fix it. Therefore, I turned into a technical worker. At that time, I found some old parts and made a transistor, a semi-conductor radio for myself. After knowing that, everybody in the village came and asked me to make one for them. Despite the fact that I was an "anti-revolutionist", I was very popular there. My educational background really benefited me.
Moreover, this institute adopted a heuristic method of teaching, rather than emphasizing memorizing what students had learned from the textbooks. Questions in the tests were not all from the textbooks and may not even be mentioned by the teachers. The questions were set to examine what students had learned. As for grading, students wouldn't be given A or B when they got certain scores, say, over 90. It was measured according to the weighted average score in the whole class. For example, students would get A for 70 if 70 was the highest score of the class.
The teaching methods were very flexible and inductive. You were encouraged to learn and read by yourself after class and to find relevant materials. I was among the youngest students at school. I was neither a good student nor a bad one. Because I was young and mischievous, I liked to play some tricks in class. When my teacher noticed this, he asked me to be the monitor of the class. To be the monitor, surely I had to monitor myself, actually not only myself, but also my classmates. I thought it was a very good way.
Of course this institute had very strict disciplines. It was a British school. You know that British schools always have their own disciplines. For example, you had to wear ties to go to school. If you didn't do so, you would be rejected from your class. At that time, Britain considered itself the big brother of the world. We needed to learn standard British English at school. If you spelt the word "colour" as "c-o-l-o-r", the teacher would give you a big cross. "This is not English." It must be "c-o-l-o-u-r". That's considered to be English. So I felt that the school had very strict disciplines. Of course, not all rules in the institute were reasonable. For example, we did feel disgusted with the bossy manners of the British teachers.
We had only five days of classes every week. As early as those years, we didn't have to go to school on Saturdays and Sundays. Teachers would assign us very little homework, so we had plenty of time to cultivate our own interests.
The education I had received had a profound influence on my life. It cultivated my logic thinking and the ability of independent thinking. It also helped me develop the right outlook on life and on labor. I was criticized during the Cultural Revolution, for all the learning institutions I had attended were run by foreigners and as a result my mind was filled with capitalist ideologies. Indeed, my primary school, high school and university were all run by foreigners. But this experience to me, exactly serves as negative teaching materials, because I saw from the advanced development of Western countries the backwardness of my own country. It made me realize that China could be strong only by striving forward with all its efforts. Thus China could be independent and would not be invaded by foreign powers. This became a goal that I have strived for throughout my whole life. I joined the revolution when I was 17. Why did I do so? Just to realize my ambition. Why did I join the Communist Party of China? Being a communist party member at that time could not bring you any reputation or profit. No one expected that the New China could be founded so soon. During the anti-Japanese war, we saw the negative behavior and corruption of the KMT Party. They were negative in fighting against the Japanese but active in waging a civil war. So the Communist Party was the only hope for us. With such a hope, I joined the revolution.
It has been over 60 years since then, my ambition has finally been realized. China now stands as an independent country in the international family of nations. I often tell my children that human beings differ from other animals. One must have one's own ideals and make contributions to one's own country, no matter how tiny the contributions may be. By doing so, when you look back in your late years, you will feel that you have lived a worthy life, and that you have lived up to your own country and society. When I graduated from the primary school, my English teacher wrote a sentence on my graduation album, "Life is to give, not to take." I have borne the sentence in my mind for a whole life. Now our country is becoming prosperous day by day. But this is just the first step of a long march. There is still a long and arduous journey ahead and a lot of obstacles to be overcome. There are still a lot of problems in our country. So these are all arduous tasks that you, especially the youth, should confront. You younger generation is the future and hope of our country. The future is yours! Thank you!
(Full text of the remarks by Lu Ping, former Director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council at the "International Tourism and Hospitality Development Forum" on December 16, 2005, as transcribed)