By Dr Panayiotis Mavros
Dr Elias Markatzis, director of technical education (TE), gave an interview to ‘Phileleftheros’ recently, which prodded me into elaborating on the value of TE in our country.
The director of TE was very optimistic as regards the future of TE. This interview gave out an aura of revitalisation of TE, which according to Dr Markatzis has made great strides through the innovative policies that helped TE’s further development.
It is not accidental that the TE 11% student population has climbed to 18%-20% with the education ministry ultimately targeting a 30% of student population pursuing their studies in TE schools.
Dr Markatzis also proudly focused on the MIEEK, the post lyceum institute of the vocational education and training, an institution which was upgraded and operates as a higher public institute.
The MIEEK’s graduates join the labour market and very few remain unemployed. It is true that in EU great efforts are invested into the task of modernising and upgrading TE thus acknowledging the importance and its significant role in the development of the economy of the European countries.
Most people in one way or another view education as a preparation for life. Rousseau conceived Emile’s chief purpose of education as a preparation for living.
“Life, that’s the trade I would teach him”. This concept of education is universally acknowledged and no one can fail to think of education without considering the best interests of the child to grow and serve in the context of contemporary society.
However, we cannot afford to ignore the unavoidable difficulties that beset us when attempting to decide what suits the child best in the process of his preparation for life.
Unfortunately, parents in Cyprus are inclined to identify education with liberal education and unjustifiably exclude Technical Education looking down on it as socially inferior.
It is not, therefore, surprising that the overwhelming majority of our students attend secondary general education schools aiming at pursuing further studies in the fields of education, law, medicine, economics and other disciplines of a similar nature.
Their ultimate goal, of course, is to secure a white-collar job, preferably in the public sector, which is the main component of the “Cypriot dream”.
The tragic element, however, in this situation is that the big battalions of University graduates flooding Cyprus after completing their studies abroad are face to face with reality, for unemployment in their field had reached record levels. It is, indeed, a sad social phenomenon, which pins the young graduate’s hopes driving them to despair.
It is a truism, though we are reluctant to admit it, that in the technical and vocational fields lies a rich vein of untapped human resources that should be assisted in developing their talent and abilities so that Technical Education will advance and develop in order to respond to the economic and vocational needs of Cyprus, as it did after the 1974 invasion.
During Technical Education’s short life in Cyprus a lot of effort has been invested into the task of establishing Technical Education on a firmer footing so that it will respond properly to the needs of industry and generally the economy of the country.
However, despite the development of new curricula and the formulation of structures, which have contributed greatly to the growth of Technical Education after independence, the prejudice against it constitutes its worst enemy and hinders its further expansion.
Therefore a campaign should be launched by the Ministry of Education which will enable students to acquaint themselves with the prospects of the various jobs linking education with the world of work in everyday life and “rub” it into the students’ and parents’ minds that Technical Education is a valid part of school education of all ability levels not excluding the most intelligent.
Technical Education plays a decisive role in the establishment, formation and development of the economy of the island since it is the chief source of specialised personnel. Therefore, more intensified efforts are needed for its further promotion so that Technical Education will find the respectable place it deserves in the public consciousness.
Conclusively, it should be stressed that it is high time we questioned traditional ways in our educational affairs in order to eliminate old prejudices that impede progress in education.
It is imperative that we strive hard to tailor our educational system to the challenges of the new millennium in order to achieve the 30% TE student population being the goal of the Ministry of Education and Culture.
*Dr Panayiotis K. Mavros, BA, MA, PhD is a former Education Inspector and Chief Education Officer, Ministry of Education and Culture.