After several phone calls between Hans Ineichen, the general director of the Colegio and Federico Castros secretary, an appointment has been set for Wednesday morning. Exact times are not agreed in Panama. Wednesday morning elapses and still there is no sign of Federico Castro. Toward noon he seems to remember his appointment with us and postpones it to the next morning.
On Thursday morning around 9:54 a.m. an inconspicious blue Suzuki shows up in front of the Colegio and a charismatic man around 50 years of age gets out oft he car and cordially greets us. He is here to discuss the introduction of a dual vocational education in the country of Panama. Until now, stundents who not intend to graduate high school and enter a university, leave school after 9th grade. They have the opportunity to complete some kind of vocational education, mainly in technical professions. The programme starts with a two months basic modul which has to be passed to receive a working contract in a private company. To enter the programme, students have to be 18 years of age. That results in a unengagement of many of the 15 to 18 years old as they leave school two years before they can start the professional programme.
The visit of Federico Castro to discuss with him the advantages oft he Swiss dual vocational system is of great importance. He supports the idea, that not only university degrees are qualifying young people to become useful employees. In Panamá exists quite a gap of sufficient qualified craftsman. Also the vocational education has its main focus on technical professions, which leads to a lack of opportunities for female students, which do not intend to reach a university degree.
Federico Castro seems to be commited to the Swiss system and asks us to prepare a presenation for the «Ministerio de Educación » on how the Colegio Europeo intends to implement a similar kind of professional training into the republic of Panamá.
As Hans Ineichen, the general director, plans to convert the Colegio Europeo into a Swiss school which will be supported by the Swiss Government, the implemantaion of a voacational education programme seems reasonable and realizable. The implementaion could give an impulse to Panamenian society, that a professional education can be market-focused, of high educational quality and valuable for young people.
Federico Castro is about to leave the Colegio, but still standing in the doorway he tells us, that the government has approved a 150 million dollars project to build a school for higher professional education. The building will be constructed on the grounds of the public university, where agricultural students make their field researches. A big interrogation mark arises above our heads as we can not imagine, at this juncture, who will visit a school of higher professional education in Panamá…
A few days later we read in the local newspaper about demonstrations of the agricultural students who are not willing to travel for their future field researches all across the country.