The twentieth and twenty-first centuries are witness to the increasing pace of change in most fields of industry and employment worldwide. As an inevitable consequence, major reorientation and modernization of Secondary Technical and Vocational Education (STVE) has become essential. Leading educators involved in STVE realise that adjustment to rapidly changing situations must be based upon the ability to acquire relevant new knowledge and to evaluate and develop effective new professional and instructional methodologies. Not only must they be able to make changes within the educational system to preserve its relevance to a changing world, but it is crucial for them to build a relevant knowledge and skills base that will be applicable in a variety of fields and professional sectors.

Critical to the capability to react and to initiate changes in a rapidly developing world is the competence to evaluate and adapt those levels and fields of education most affected by changing employment circumstances. The reorientation of educational programmes is an ongoing process that becomes urgent as the pace of change quickens.

With Cyprus’ accession to the European Union, all high school and college-level graduates are faced with greater professional competition from international sources. In order for these young persons to compete and survive within the contemporary working environment, they must acquire the relevant educational foundation – and the relevant vocational credentials to the accepted standard.

The educational curriculum and programme of studies offered to Technical School students during the 1980s and 1990s has been found, on the bases of both content and instructional methodology, to be outmoded and inadequate when it comes to meeting today’s employment needs. It was decided, after programme re-evaluation, that appropriate preparation to meet the demands of new professions and employment standards within the rapidly changing worldwide environment would demand the enrichment of one’s fund of knowledge with the acquisition of new knowledge that is useful and applicable in a number of professional environments.

Learning today does not stop with the acquisition of a diploma. Lifelong education and professional upgrading have become imperative for all who wish to remain competitive within the work market.

Recently, the Ministry of Education and Culture of Cyprus has proceeded to modernise and restructure Secondary Technical and Vocational Education. Many influencing factors and agencies were assessed and they have contributed to the decision–making process. Changing industrial and employment conditions demanded consideration against the background of current international trends in Secondary Education, emerging instructional patterns and projected economic developments within Cyprus. The views and suggestions of the Technical Education teaching staff, of the Careers Advice Department for Technical and Vocational Education and of the Education Council were sought and harmonized.

The final results of all this was the gradual introduction into the Public Technical Schools of newly restructured school curricula during the 2001-2002 academic year.

The beginning of the academic year 2001-2002 saw important changes in the STVE curriculum as well as to instructional methodologies. An increased budget enabled the creation of a modernised educational infrastructure, incorporating the newest library and workshop equipment technologies.

The current system of Technical and Vocational Education in Cyprus is based upon an instructional approach that aims to prepare school graduates to face new situations and new opportunities broadmindedly. As today’s school-leavers complete their courses of study, they are released into the job market with an adequate knowledge foundation to compete with other European graduates on an equal-opportunity basis. Given the requisite educational grounding, they ought to be in a position to proceed successfully either in their chosen profession or in their desired field of further study.

The school has now been re-interpreted as presenting a welcoming environment – a genuine home for the student and an establishment to be approached with liking and respect. The student, with his learning abilities, strengths, weaknesses, talents and interests, is placed at the centre of the educational perspective. Within the reformulated pedagogical programme, the student is no longer seen as the passive object of instruction, but as a contributing, aware and creative member of the student community.

The new educational thrust is multi-faceted. The teaching programme, based on its revised philosophy, projects a new image. The main foci are:

General education: A wider range of educational programmes provides students with the opportunity to adapt constructively and responsively to their changing environments. They are encouraged to develop critical thinking and to show initiative and resourcefulness.

An emphasis on specialised knowledge and skills: Greater specialisation of programme offerings is designed to help the student become more competitive within the contemporary job market.

The encouragement and cultivation of innate student talents and inclinations: Second and third school-year courses are especially designed to focus on the particular talents and interests of the student. A variety of optional subjects are now available for students to select.

The encouragement of critical thinking and creative knowledge acquisition: The older system of standard activity enforcement and lesson-content memorisation by the student has now been superseded by a more flexible and productivity-oriented teaching methodology. The former emphasis on pure knowledge acquisition has been supplemented by a more constructive, competency-based instructional philosophy.
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