Secondary Education, Specialized

Secondary Education, Specialized


a type of vocational education that trains industrial personnel for low-level management positions in industry, assistants to highly skilled specialists, and skilled workers whose jobs require both vocational and theoretical training—for example, technicians, agronomists, primary-school teachers, feldshers, dental technicians, and con-certmasters. For some professions, such as ballet dancing, circus performing, and certain professions in the arts, specialized secondary education is the highest stage of professional training.

Specialized secondary education as it is understood in the USSR and in some other countries took form as an independent stage in vocational and general education in the first half of the 20th century. However, secondary educational institutions specializing in technology, medicine, pedagogy, commerce, and art were founded as early as the 18th century, when socioeconomic conditions demanded specialists with middle-level skills.

In the USSR and some other socialist countries, specialized secondary education is an integral part of the system of public education and one of the principal sectors of universal secondary education.

In the USSR, specialized secondary education is obtained by graduating from a secondary general-education school or from the eighth grade of a specialized secondary educational institution and by completing an additional course of specialized study providing theoretical and practical knowledge and professional skills. More than 450 specializations are grouped in various sectors, such as geology, mining, power engineering, metallurgy, machine building, instrument making, electrical engineering, radio engineering, timber technology, chemistry, construction, geodesy and cartography, hydrometeorology, agriculture, and transportation. Other sectors are printing, food engineering, consumer-goods technology, trade, economic plannning, finance and statistics, law, medicine, physical training, pedagogy, library and museum work, the theater, and the arts. Military education is a special branch of specialized secondary education.

There are two basic types of specialized secondary educational institutions: technicums and schools (uchilishcha). Technicums train specialists for industry, construction, transportation and communications, agriculture, economics, and the teaching of industry-related subjects. Schools provide professional training in medicine, navigation, pedagogy, music, art, choreography, and the theater.

For each specialization, a course of formal study is combined with practical training at school and, when appropriate, in industry; this provides students with the knowledge and skills necessary for mastering the specialization. The subjects are generally divided into three cycles: general education, general technical education (for example, general medicine or general pedagogical), and specialized education. The subjects in the general-education cycle, taught to graduates of the eighth grade, include literature, mathematics, history, physics, chemistry, a foreign language, and social studies.

The general secondary education received at specialized secondary educational institutions differs somewhat from that provided in the secondary general-education schools. For example, in technicums the humanities, such as literature and history, are studied to a lesser extent, whereas greater attention is devoted to mathematics, physics, and drafting. In art and theater schools fewer courses are given in physics, chemistry, and mathematics, and more in history, literature, and biology. In medical schools, more attention is devoted to biology and chemistry.

The subjects in the specialized cycle determine the field of specialization. For example, the specialized courses for training tractor technician-mechanics include the technology of heat treatment of metals, metal cutting, hydraulics, the fundamentals of standardization, tolerances and technical measurements, the technology of tractor manufacturing, the fundamentals of production automation, the establishment of technically based rates of output and time, and labor protection.

The subjects of study and their scope and the length of the course of study for each field of specialization are defined by curricula approved for the entire specialized secondary-education system by the Ministry of Higher and Specialized Secondary Education of the USSR. The course of daytime study for graduates of eight-year schools is three or four years, and for secondary-school graduates, two or three years. Evening and correspondence study generally involve an additional year. Required classes in daytime divisions constitute a maximum of 36 hours per week, and in evening divisions, a maximum of 16 hours per week. Classes in correspondence divisions, held mainly during laboratory and examination periods, amount to a maximum of four weeks (120–140 hours) in the first and second years and up to six weeks (200–220 hours) in the third to fifth years.

Classes in specialized secondary educational institutions have 25 to 30 students. The main form of instruction is the lesson, with lectures predominating in advanced classes and during laboratory and examination periods for correspondence students. Other requirements include laboratory work, practical training at school and in industry, and the completion of course projects and a diploma project or diploma thesis. Extensive use is being made of elective courses, individual instruction in art schools, and seminars in evening divisions and among graduates of general secondary schools.

Present-day curricula provide for continuity and a close interrelationship between theoretical and practical study throughout the entire period of instruction. For training workers in various areas of specialization, industrial-training workshops provide opportunities for the acquisition of professional skills, usually during the manufacture of such useful products as tools, instruments, or machine tools. The curricula for professions in agriculture, geology, and other disciplines involving seasonal work are structured so that all types of practical study are conducted while such work is in progress. For students specializing in medicine, practical training is regularly conducted in polyclinics or hospitals. Theoretical studies are combined with the acquisition of professional mastery in music and art schools and in some cultural-educational schools.

Technicum students complete two or three course projects in subjects of the specialized cycle, generally industrial equipment and technology. Some fields of specialization require an additional project on machine parts. Many fields of industrial specialization require a calculated course project in the economics and organization of production. Knowledge is tested throughout the school year, and examinations are held at the end of the semester and of the school year. In the correspondence system, the examinations test all subjects studied, whereas in the daytime and evening divisions they cover the main subjects of specialization. The final stage of study at a technicum is the period of the diploma project, during which the future specialist’s ability to solve technical problems independently is tested. Graduates of pedagogical, medical, art, cultural-educational, and some other types of schools pass state examinations and defend diploma theses instead of completing diploma projects.

Specialized secondary education for persons employed full time in industry is available in a limited number of specializations. For example, correspondence study is not offered in most fields of medicine and the arts, and evening study is not available in specialized areas of agriculture, geology, hydrometeorology, and geodesy. All types of practical training at evening and correspondence technicums and at branches, divisions, and consultation centers of schools are conducted at the place of work; by the time the studies are completed, the students must have at least one year’s work experience in the given specialization.

Extracurricular activities dealing with sociopolitical and educational matters and with design, sports, and art are organized and conducted by Komsomol and trade union organizations under the supervision of teachers.

In 1975, more than 300,000 teachers were employed in the specialized secondary educational system. A number of higher educational institutions have departments for the advanced training of teachers in specialized secondary educational institutions, with a course of study of up to four months. Several higher educational institutions, including the K. A. Timiriazev Moscow Agricultural Academy, the Byelorussian Polytechnic Institute, and the Moscow Cooperative Institute, have specialized departments of pedagogy that train teachers for technicums and schools.

Textbooks and other educational and methodological materials for the specialized secondary educational system are published by Vysshaia Shkola, Prosveshchenie, and other central publishing houses; more than 400 specialized textbooks and teaching aids are published annually in printings totaling more than 11 million copies. The monthly journal Srednee spetsial’noe obrazovanie (Specialized Secondary Education) is published as well.

The training of specialists is planned in conformity with the needs of various sectors of the national economy in the Union republics of the USSR as a whole (see Table 1).

In the 1974–75 academic year, the number of students trained in various areas of specialization at specialized secondary educational institutions was as follows: geology and exploration of mineral deposits, 24,700; working of mineral deposits, 58,800; power engineering, 198,900; metallurgy, 50,600; machine building and instrument making, 540,000; electrical machine building and electrical instrument making, 141,000; radio engineering and communications, 139,000; chemical technology, 73,700; timber technology and wood, pulp, and paper technology, 47,600; food engineering, 163,100; consumer-goods technology, 108,100; construction, 432,400; geodesy and cartography, 13,400; hydrology

Table 1. Number of students admitted to and graduated from specialized secondary educational institutions in the USSR
Industry and construction ...............80,20021,700445,500250,700550,500 454,800
Transportation and communications ...............22,9008,30088,60050,900114,80092,000
Agriculture ...............48,10021,500182,10088,100230,000 175,500
Economics and law ...............18,7007,200139,20081,300179,900157,200
Public health, physical education, and sports ...............85,50090,400119,60075,900145,300134,500
Education ...............117,30085,700101,80059,700125,100 107,500
Art and cinematography ...............10,2002,00022,90014,90031,900 24,600
Total ...............382,900236,8001,099,700621,5001,377,500 1,146,100

and meteorology, 7,100; agriculture, 633,500; transportation, 287,900; economics, 625,600; public health and physical education, 431,100; public education, 372,200; and art, 125,000. The training of full-time workers in industry is expanding. Thus, in 1940, 2,500 persons participated in the evening system of specialized secondary education, and 29,000 in the correspondence system, whereas in 1965 the corresponding figures were 104,700 and 184,000, andin 1974,133,600 and 274,600.

During the years of Soviet power, more than 20 million specialists have been trained in the specialized secondary educational system (see Table 2).

The course of development of the Soviet system of specialized secondary education was defined in the decree of the Central Committee of the CPSU and the Council of Ministers of the USSR On Measures for the Further Improvement of the Management of Specialized Secondary Educational Institutions and on Improving the Quality of Training of Specialists in Specialized Secondary Education (1974).

Other socialist countries have state systems of specialized secondary education adapted to national requirements and to the needs of the national economies. In countries where the system of specialized secondary education is similar to the system in the USSR, for example, Bulgaria and Mongolia, students in specialized secondary educational institutions receive a general secondary and vocational education in which theory is integrated with practical training. The system of specialized secondary education in the German Democratic Republic differs fundamentally, with specialized secondary educational institutions admitting graduates of secondary schools who have completed one or two years of work at an enterprise or two or three years of study at a vocational school. In the mid-1960’s, Hungary began reorganizing technicums into higher vocational schools for training junior-level engineers in restricted fields of specialization. In Cuba, specialized secondary education is provided primarily in technological institutes whose curricula resemble those of Soviet technicums.

Specialized secondary education is becoming established in the developing countries of Asia and Africa. In Algeria, for example, petroleum, metallurgical, and textile technicum-type schools built with Soviet aid are functioning successfully. The technicum-type school (now called the Technical Institute) in Bahrdar was presented to Ethiopia as a gift by the USSR in 1963. A petroleum technical-type school and a road-building school have been built in Afghanistan according to plans developed in the USSR. Many young people from Africa, Asia, and Latin America obtain specialized secondary education at Soviet technicums and schools.

The capitalist countries have varied systems of specialized secondary education. In France, technical lycées train technicians and also baccalaureate technicians, who have the legal right to continue their education at higher educational institutions. However, the specialized knowledge these students acquire is insufficient, and consequently many lycées have divisions for advanced technicians, which offer good theoretical and practical specialized training. Advanced technicians generally hold junior technical positions in industry and construction and work as design engineers. Graduates of the regular divisions of French lycées who have received the title of technician are generally employed as draftsmen or skilled workers and as brigade foremen upon the completion of a specialized project. Two-year pedagogical schools in France offer specialized secondary education as well.

In the USA, specialized secondary education is offered at junior colleges, which developed rapidly in many states beginning in 1960. The junior colleges admit persons who have completed 12 years of general secondary education. Students in junior colleges may select a course of study whose content corresponds to that offered in the beginning classes of higher educational institutions. However, since the cost of tuition at junior colleges often reaches several hundred dollars a year, many students pursue a shortened course of study offering a few general technical disciplines with less emphasis on physics and mathematics; graduates of such a program may obtain lower-level technical positions. For a special rate of tuition, many of these colleges offer evening courses in additional specialized disciplines leading to the acquisiton of certain practical skills in laboratories and offices. The best junior colleges offer a large number (60 to 100) of specialized disciplines.

Some private companies in the USA operate technical institutes, for example, the RCA Radio Institutes in New York and the Capitol Radio Engineering Institute in Washington, which offer adequate specialized practical training for a high rate of tuition. However, the curricula of these institutes as a rule do not include general sciences and the humanities.


Kuz’min, B. A. Tekhnikumy i uchilishcha SSSR. Moscow, 1974.


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