PREPARING today’s students for the country’s new economic situation, for their participation in the state and non-state workforce, is one of the main challenges facing Cuba’s Technical-Professional and Basic Secondary educational systems.
In accordance with the areas prioritized in order to best support the country’s development, the Technical-Professional system is emphasizing agro-industrial, construction and mechanical specialties, with a special focus on railroad trades and skilled workers in general.
Just three years ago, there were only 2,000 students studying these specialties, while the number for the current academic year increased to almost 60,000 students in 25 areas of study.
Training of skilled workers for the agricultural sector has changed considerably. Three years ago, just 162 students on a national level were registered in this area of study, while this year, the group includes more 12,000 young people.
While the statistics are positive, leaders of the technical-professional system emphasize that there is still much to be done to ensure that these areas of study are recognized as meritorious. Everyone knows the country needs workers in construction, agriculture and the skilled trades, but not everyone dreams of their own children pursuing such a career.
Technical-professional schools are attended by students who have completed the basic secondary level, ninth grade. Therefore, if the student bodies in these important schools are to expand, sustained recruitment work must be carried out at the preceding level.
This year, 135,342 ninth grade graduates, 55.5% of the cohort, will continue their studies at a technical school to be trained as skilled workers. The rest will continue on to high schools.
This figure is greater than last year’s and reflects the need to prepare students in the particular specialties needed to support the country’s development.
The academic year which has just ended saw changes to the mathematics curriculum. Together with chemistry and English, these have presented the most problems for students. The use of various educational tools was likewise expanded.
However, the provinces of Havana, Matanzas and Holguín are still experiencing staff shortages and this situation has been met by using supply teachers or retirees from the profession who have returned to classrooms.
There are still unresolved issues, such as limiting classes of students at this level to a maximum of 30, meeting teaching staff needs in provinces where vacancies remain and continuing vocational training and careers advice work with a view to meeting the demand for qualified personnel in the state and non-state sectors.
NEXT SCHOOL YEAR
While changes in study programs are not to be introduced in the 2012-13 course, directors at both educational levels have announced that vocational training and careers advice will be one of the priorities.
Starting this September, it is anticipated that the number of students entering training courses will be in excess of 75,000, with the objective of increasing a qualified workforce for the goods and services sectors.
Laboratories are to be gradually installed in secondary and teacher training schools for physics, chemistry and biology students, with a view to 379 secondary schools throughout the country being equipped in this context by this coming December.
As important as investing in resources for a quality education are steps being taken by the country to include in the equation the elements needed for its development: more workers, more technical personnel, more goods and more services.