JUST a few weeks before the 2016-2017 academic year draws to a close, the Ministry of Education Middle School National Directorate released information on how schools at this level have performed.
Through April, some 359,507 students were enrolled in these grades nationally, in 1,180 schools. Among ninth graders currently concluding their intermediate level schooling, some 42.43% will continue on to pre-university high schools, while 57.56% will attend professional-technical centers to be trained as skilled workers or intermediate level technicians.
Given workforce needs identified in each province, new areas of study are being offered to graduating ninth graders, including those to prepare intermediate level teachers for middle schools and professional-technical centers.
For adolescents opting for skilled worker programs, choices available include Cigar Rolling, Fishing Boat Sailor, Industrial Chemistry, Glass Working, and Non-ferrous Metalworking.
As part of continuing studies at this level, every student finishing middle school is guaranteed a spot at the next educational level.
VOCATION AND IMPROVEMENT
This academic year has seen encouraging results following the decision to include, within regular middle schools, students with special educational needs, whether or not they are associated with a disability. Thanks to this step, some 957 such students are attending classes with their peers in standard programs.
The Middle School National Directorate reported that work has improved in vocational training and career advisement, with an increase in career interest circles, more involvement of the part of Professional Technical Schools, and the country's 115 "Pioneers' Palaces," where elementary and middle school students can learn about the world of work.
As part of the third national educational improvement program, beginning in September, one middle school in each province will implement proposed changes to the national study plan: a required general curriculum, plus a school plan to be developed with the purpose of addressing local needs.
In the seventh grade level at these schools, new programs for all subjects will be introduced. Classes in Natural Sciences will be separated into Biology and Geography, as part of the improvement effort, while Civics, English, as well as Communications and Information Technology coursework, is to be strengthened.
"All of the above," ministry leaders emphasized, "will be explained to teaching staff, students, and family members, who must also collaborate by offering their opinions on what is being done to create middle schools more in line with the current demands of society."
BASIC PRIORITIES NOT TO BE RELEGATED
Ensuring a quality teaching-learning environment - in accordance with the Guidelines approved by the Communist Party of Cuba's last Congress, and the Sustainable Development Objectives for 2030 - continues to be the Ministry of Education's basic priority for the 2017-2018 academic year; while the Middle School Directorate has its specific goals well-defined.
These include continuing to improve organization of the school day; ensure full staffing; provide methodological training and professional development for teachers; and closely monitor the learning of students who are repeating grades or fail exams - all necessary to the broad strategy of making schools the most important cultural institutions in every community.
Also vital in this process are the conducting of research and follow up at experimental schools, where changes under consideration for the entire middle school system are being tested; the ongoing functioning of recently established laboratories; and above all work with families, as well as the study of History, the thought of Martí and Fidel, and Civics.