The workers Cuba needs

The workers Cuba needs
• Some 57% of students completing ninth grade go on to study technical careers or trades • Improving the quality of these courses continues to be prioritized

Yenia Silva Correa | Granma International

CUBA’S educational system has, over the last few years, undergone a series of changes designed to bring teaching and learning more in consonance with the Party and Revolution’s Economic and Social Policy Guidelines approved in 2011.

In this context, the quality and rigor of instruction in schools, as well as in the teacher preparation process, constitute elements essential to the functioning of the educational system at all levels, although each level has its own particular issues.

On the basis of these modifications, work is advancing with particular emphasis on preparation for the workforce and career planning, beginning in elementary school, in an effort to met the country’s needs for skilled workers and professionals, with priority given to educational, technical and agricultural careers.

There are 700,000 elementary students in Cuba, in 6,955 schools across the country. School attendance at this level is not a problem and goals are clearly defined.

Spanish Language, Mathematics and Cuban History continue to be the subjects prioritized, since, as has been recognized by primary education authorities, it is in these areas where shortcomings exist.

Reviewing study plans and ensuring that teachers are well prepared are the immediate challenges being faced at this level to guarantee a comprehensive primary education for all.

SECONDARY LEVEL EQUALLY IMPORTANT

During the 2012-2013 academic year, 379 science laboratories were distributed to middle schools and another 400 will be delivered shortly. Plans have been made to ensure that, within two to three years, every school at this level, serving students in Grades 7-9, will have a Science laboratory.

An issue of critical importance is preparing students to continue their studies. Of the 133,000 who complete 9th Grade, 43% will continue on to pre-university and 57% to technical-professional secondary schools (ETP).

These percentages reflect a national strategy directed toward preparing the workforce needed to support economic development, recognizing the importance of trained technicians and skilled workers.

Havana and Matanzas do not yet have the teaching staff required to meet their needs, although classrooms have been covered thanks to retired teachers and young educators from other provinces.

With a view toward improving instruction, middle school teachers are now being trained with a focus on only two related subject areas. The first cohort of teachers following this plan will complete their studies during the 2013-2014 academic year.

Efforts in secondary education continue to prioritize teacher preparation, family and community involvement, as well as vocational counseling.

TECHNICIANS, WORKERS & SOCIAL RECOGNITION

Technical-professional schools are charged with preparing the skilled workforce the country needs. At the close of the academic year 2012-2013, 176,676 students were enrolled in 48 technical and 25 trade programs.

These schools continue to implement successful practices, such as the use of 4,500 classrooms installed directly within workplaces and the temporary placement of students as interns. Additionally this past year, classes leading to certification in eight skilled trades were offered in penitentiary centers. The number of programs offered in these institutions will increase to 16 next year.

Vocational schools, also included in the technical-professional (ETP) secondary system, concentrate on preparing students to assume the trades most needed in a given province.

The objectives of technical-professional education implicitly include the goal of addressing a subjective issue within society and among families; that is increasing the recognition of work done by technicians and skilled workers.

Recognizing the value and importance of these workers is essential, above all at a time when the country is attempting to reduce the number of non-productive administrative workers and promote work in critical sectors such as agriculture, construction and transportation.

The coming academic year will see the opening of 20 new programs to prepare skilled workers and one new technical course. Thus the 75,000 students who are expected to begin studies at this level will have more options, especially in construction, services, agriculture, mechanics and transportation.

Curricular adjustments have also been made in Spanish literature, Mathematics and History, to offer ETP students better instruction in these subject areas and facilitate their admission to universities, if they so desire.

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