Deputies suggest gap year, internship boost for students

Chen Huizhi
How to help university and college students better prepare for their life beyond academic institutions? Two NPC deputies from Shanghai made their suggestions.
Chen Huizhi

Better, higher education and more job opportunities for graduates are in focus as the number of new university and college graduates on the Chinese mainland will for the first time surpass 10 million this year.

Two deputies to the 13th National People's Congress (NPC) from Shanghai made their suggestions to the national government in this regard during the Fifth Session of the congress which opened on Saturday in Beijing.

Pan Xiangli, vice president of Shanghai Writers' Association, suggested that university and college students be given more freedom to have their "gap year."

"Many students of this age group have absolutely no idea of career choices or aspirations, while a gap year might help them better learn about the society and plan their future," she said.

Currently, those who hope to take a year off their education not for medical reasons need to seek approval from various administrative departments of their university or college. Once they return from their "gap year", they will face the same red tape, Pan observed.

Moreover, Chinese society is not ready for the idea of the "gap year," according to Pan.

"Parents are too protective of their children and fear that an interruption in their education might affect their job chances, while students have concerns that they will be left behind by others if they 'lose a year'," she said.

Pan suggested that universities and colleges be encouraged to relax gap year rules for their students, and social projects be introduced to promote gap year culture.

Tang Liang, CEO of Ossen Group, a Shanghai-based manufacturer of bridge cables, and vice president of Shanghai Federation of Industry and Commerce, said university students need internship opportunities of higher quality to be able to land better jobs.

"While the labor market becomes more and more competitive for graduates, companies are making difficult decisions to employ inexperienced hands because many intern jobs for undergraduates can't help them enhance their skills," he said.

In recent years, the national education administrators have noticed the problem and taken steps to address it, but legally binding rules are necessary, Tang said.

He suggested that the national government give incentives to companies and other social organizations to provide intern jobs to university and college students, drawing on similar practices in some other countries such as Germany, the UK and the US, and provide legal frameworks to ensure labor rights of student interns.

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