Graduation certificates, qualification certificates, internship experiences, work experiences, competition achievements, and other educational or personal accomplishments can now be acknowledged and credited through the credit bank.

This system allows for the creation of a "lifelong archive" for learners, even including some outcomes that were previously difficult to verify.

It's common to deposit money in a bank, but have you ever heard of depositing credits there?

Xu Senjue, a student at the Beijing Study Centre of the Postal School of the Open University of China (OUC), had previously earned a vocational qualification certificate as a postal delivery clerk. After enrolling, he deposited this certificate into his personal account in the "credit bank". Through the process of credit accreditation and transfer, Xu Senjue received exemptions from three courses in the OUC's logistics major: Express Delivery Production and Operation, Express Delivery Business and Operation, and Postal Express Delivery Operation Regulation. Consequently, he was directly awarded 8 credits.

What kind of bank is this? How do learners "open an account" to deposit credits? How is the innovation development progressing? What are the future construction plans for it?

Create a "Lifelong Archive" for the Learner

Yang Cuiling, a junior college student of Class of 2020 majoring in Domestic Service and Management from Beijing Open University, is also one of the beneficiaries of the Credit Bank.

By utilizing credit accreditation and transfer, Yang Cuiling was able to convert her previously obtained housekeeping training certificate into academic course credits. This process allowed her to be exempted from similar courses, effectively resolving the conflict between her work commitments and academic pursuits. Today, she holds a position as part of the senior management team at a large nursing home.

The concept of a "credit bank" is modeled after traditional banking systems. It involves setting up an account for learners, wherein their various educational and experiential achievements are documented and managed. This system allows for the accumulation and transfer of credits, akin to depositing in installments and withdrawing in a lump sum. It encompasses a broad spectrum of learning outcomes, including graduation certificates, qualification certificates, internship and work experiences, competition results, and other forms of academic or experiential learning. Notably, it also accommodates certain achievements that were previously challenging to verify. Through the credit bank, these diverse learning outcomes can be recognised and converted into credits, effectively creating a "lifelong archive" for each learner.

According to Wang Ran, the executive deputy director of the Credit Bank at the OUC, the credit bank acts as both a learning incentive system and an education management system. Its purpose is to facilitate the storage, accumulation, and transfer of various types of learning outcomes at all levels and in different categories. "The credit bank system serves the entire society," Wang Ran explained to the reporter. She used the national credit bank of vocational education as an example, noting that students in vocational colleges as well as employees in industry and enterprises can register personal accounts to realise credit accreditation and transfer.

"Credit banks can deposit and record the learning outcomes for learners of all ages, levels, and backgrounds," stated Sun Yueya, director of the Lifelong Education Department at Beijing Open University and head of the Beijing Credit Bank Management Centre. She highlighted that credit banks offer learners a flexible approach to accumulating their learning outcomes. This system allows learners to select from a more diverse range of learning channels and forms, tailored to their individual needs and interests, and at times that are convenient for them. Such flexibility aids in fostering the diversified development of the education system, promoting educational equity, and optimizing the allocation of resources.

"For example, a junior college student who has completed relevant professional courses can transfer these credits to the credit bank. These credits can then be used to waive similar courses in their undergraduate studies," explained Zhang Zhixin, a teacher at Chaoyang District Employee University in Beijing and a participant in the development of credit bank management branch centres. Zhang added that the credit bank helps to prevent redundant learning, reduces the trial-and-error costs for employers in assessing learners' academic qualifications, work experiences, and skills, and facilitates better alignment between employee skills and job positions.

Explore the New Type of Application Scenarios

In recent years, credit bank has frequently appeared in a series of policy documents. The China's Education Modernization 2035 issued in 2019 proposed "establishing a national credit bank system" at the national strategic level. In 2022, "establishing a national credit bank for vocational education" was written into the newly revised Vocational Education Law for the first time.

"Up to now, the vocational education credit bank has published 839 lists of learning outcomes, established 22 million student accounts, recorded 1.8 million certification outcomes, and facilitated the credit transfer for over 9,000 courses," Wang Ran stated. She noted that, after several years of exploration, the credit bank has seen positive developments in the construction of institutional systems and information platforms, as well as in the recognition and transfer of learning outcomes.

Building a credit bank is a long-term, systematic endeavour that requires expanding its application scenarios. "In the recent rural teachers' education enhancement program announced by the Ministry of Education, the credit bank has been incorporated as a key component to address the needs of rural teachers seeking to improve their teaching skills and academic qualifications," explains Wang Ran. She notes that the service model of the credit bank is continually evolving, particularly in areas like vocational education reform, vocational education college admissions, and lifelong learning for older adults.

Sun Yueya advocates that integrating documents and certificates is a pivotal service model for innovatively applying the credit bank system within vocational education reform. The Beijing Credit Bank Management Centre coordinated with 11 colleges and universities participating in the  "1+X" certificate system pilot. These institutions were tasked with identifying areas in their campus courses that required expansion, supplementation, and strengthening. This was achieved by analysing and comparing the standards of their curriculum with those of vocational skill level certificates. Subsequently, the scope and depth of integration for these two elements were determined, tailored to the particular circumstances of each school's major programmes. This process led to the formulation of customized implementation plans for document and certificate integration, aligning with the developmental needs of each major.

Regarding digital construction and application, the 'Credit Bank Chain', integrated with blockchain technology, connects essential data elements including personal digital identity, certificate issuance process, credit accreditation, and the accumulation and transfer of credits. This ensures the authenticity, traceability, and immutability of the data. As per the recent statistics provided by Wang Ran, blockchain technology has successfully generated educational digital identities for over 2 million individual users.

Building a "bridge" of lifelong learning

"It's challenging to standardize the credit accreditation and transfer system," says Sun Yueya, highlighting a crucial issue in enhancing the credibility and effectiveness of mutual recognition across different types of education. "A major challenge in popularizing the credit bank lies in ensuring that credit identification is scientific and reasonable, and that the transfer of credits among various learning outcomes is fair, effective, and widely accepted by the community. In this context, developing a national credit bank and refining the overarching design will help us address these challenges effectively."

"Accelerating the development of the legal and regulatory framework for the credit bank is crucial, along with enhancing the associated institutional guarantee systems," suggests Zhang Xinzheng. He believes that focusing on increasing investment in the credit bank platform and enhancing its functionalities is essential for optimizing data collection, querying, and integration.

Discussing the potential and future of the credit bank, Wang Ran shared with the reporter, "What we refer to as 'credits' in the credit bank are essentially 'gold credits'." She expressed her hope that the credits in the credit bank would attain the status of hard currency, akin to gold. "Only by consistently enhancing the credibility of the credit bank and boosting the value of these 'gold credits' can we ensure that the learning achievements recognised by the credit bank are increasingly acknowledged by various institutions. This will, in turn, make the learners more competitive in areas such as further education and employment," she added.

"Zhang Xinzheng stated that it is expected that the distribution of high-quality educational resources can be achieved through the credit bank and information technology, which will offer a reliable method for building a lifelong education 'bridge' and advancing educational equity.

"The core value of the credit bank is to foster lifelong learning for everyone," Wang Ran explained. The credit bank facilitates both horizontal communication and vertical integration of various learning outcomes. This approach encourages the development of a learning society where everyone has the opportunity to learn, accessible anywhere and at any time, thereby enhancing an education system dedicated to lifelong learning for all.


Reprinted from Vocational Education in 06 Edition, 8th Nov., 2023, Workers' Daily by OUC News Network