The intention of the Parliamentary Education Committee, which held an extraordinary meeting today Thursday to examine the legislation governing the operation of private schools, is to proceed with a review of the legislation after resuming its work in March, as mentioned by the President of the Commission, Pavlos Mylonas.
During his presentation at the meeting, the Minister of Education, Prodromos Prodromou, stated that the matter has already occupied the Ministry and some presentations were already made, regarding the advertisement made regarding the operation of the specific program by a private school. He assured that the issue will be addressed, to the extent it exists.
During the extraordinary session of the Education Committee, which was held in an atmosphere of tension, the need to revise the relevant legislation was identified. During the discussion, gaps and ambiguities were identified, both in the legislation and in the control of its implementation, as stated by its President.
The reason for convening the extraordinary session was the advertisement of a private school, addressed to students of the 3rd grade of high school, focusing on the preparation for medical schools, while, as it turns out, its students are not required to sit for the four-month exams. Speaking to the Committee, the Director of the Forum Private School, Antigoni Tsiapoura, stated that the Forum Premedical Private School is a different institution from the Forum Hellenic School and that it has received a license to operate as a private school of a similar type, which according to the legislation follows the detailed program of the Ministry of Education by 2/3 only.
Ms. Tsiapoura clarified that the 15 students studying at the particular school are not required by law to sit for four-month exams, while on the contrary the 720 students of the Forum Hellenic School, which is a school of the same type as the public ones, will normally sit for the exams . She also expressed her bitterness over the fact that the school is accountable, despite the fact that it has secured a license, operates on the basis of it and adheres to the rule of teaching the curriculum of the Ministry of Education by 2/3. He noted that the students of this particular school are aiming for medical schools in European countries, so there is no unfair competition for students who are preparing to claim places in the university schools of Greece and Cyprus, through the Pancypriot Examinations.
During his presentation at the meeting, the Minister of Education Prodromos Prodromou, stated that the matter has already occupied the Ministry and some presentations were already made, regarding the advertisement made regarding the operation of the specific program by the school. He assured that the issue will be addressed, to the extent that it exists. He noted that the majority of the 39 private schools operating in Cyprus are schools of a similar type, but added that "the wording and regulation for 2/3 does not seem to be exactly appropriate" of the curriculum that these schools must follow.
Mr. Prodromou also mentioned that for issues related to private education, there should be structures in the Ministry of Education, corresponding to the growing needs, so that this sector is supervised more systematically. "There are too many applications for private schools and anticipating the trends, there should be a more specific structure," he said.
He added that "this school may have been legally licensed, but we find that there are some problems in the way it tries to specialize its operation" and noted that these problems are being addressed, while clarifying that the Ministry of Education will accept the existence of a school that operates with only one classroom. "The state and the Parliament should be concerned with what kind of schools it is useful and desirable to have," said Mr. Prodromou, pointing out that it is probably necessary to examine some provisions of the relevant legislation.
As the Minister noted in his statements after the meeting, "the Ministry of Education has taken up the matter for the screening that took place, but while the matter is being examined in the Ministry we should all remain calm, until we see if there is any issue" , while there is no issue regarding the operation of the school.
Tension was caused during the meeting by the reference of AKEL MP, Giorgos Loukaidis, to the "elephant in the room, which is the four-month exams", due to the fact that students of private schools are not required to sit for them, although he made it clear that the purpose it is not to be "trial" any private school, but to check the Ministry. of Education for the implementation of the legislation of their operation. The Minister protested in a strong tone, saying that the subject of the meeting is not the four-month exams, calling on AKEL to address the members of Parliament who voted for the relevant law on the exams and not the Ministry.
Besides, in his intervention later, the Minister pointed out that "this year for the first time in decades, the pace of teaching in high schools also follows the syllabus and this is thanks to the new evaluation system", adding that, due to the pandemic, “In some schools and departments, some teachers had reached 70%-85% of the material,” he said. In his statements after the meeting, Mr. Prodromou stated that "any issue (regarding the private school) would have existed whether the evaluation was quarterly or at the end of the year, as the legislation does not provide for what is done regarding the evaluation in schools of a similar type until now, no obligation is established for the evaluation.
Moments of tension followed between the Minister and the President of the Commission, Pavlos Mylonas. The Minister indicated that he could remain in the meeting for a limited time, saying that the Ministry respects the fact that Parliament has suspended its work. Mr. Mylonas explained that the Committee was called to examine an issue that arose suddenly, while Mr. Prodromou replied that any issue that does not contradict the legislation and if the Parliament wishes to change the legislation is something that concerns the body.
The meeting was also attended by representatives of the Parents Associations, both public and private schools, representatives of OELMEK and students, representatives of private schools and OEB. The President of the Association of Parents of Public Schools, Loizos Constantinou, focused particularly on the control of the implementation of the legislation on the part of the Ministry and raised the issue of the manner in which the application of the said private school was approved by the competent office of the Ministry. Education.
With his intervention during the meeting, he noted that the Association has nothing against the school and that it is only interested in equal treatment for all students. In his statements after the meeting, he expressed his satisfaction with the Commission's intention to consider a revision of the legislation. "The issue of inequality remains, even to this small extent, but at least there is no intention of further expansion to other schools, and with the new year I hope it will be regulated," he said.
The President of OELMEK, Konstantinos Konstantinopoulos, during his presentation at the meeting, noted that the fact that students of private schools of a similar type are not required to sit for four-month exams, results from an interpretation of the legislation by the Ministry. He spoke of the unequal treatment of students and noted that the advertisement made by the school in question was only aimed at students of the third high school, adding that "any other program would start in the first grade". The request for equal treatment was then formulated by the President of PSEM, on behalf of the students, pointing out the problems that have arisen since the introduction of the four-month exams.
Placements of Members of Parliament
The President of the Committee and Member of Parliament of DIKO, Pavlos Mylonas, characterized the discussion in the committee as very useful, in the direction of identifying possible distortions in the legislation, which need correction. In his statements after the meeting, he said that many complaints were made regarding the advertising of the private school "for the possibilities it provides to its students not to fail four-month exams", as he said. He noted that during the meeting it emerged that other private schools may also allow students not to sit for these exams.
He spoke of gaps in the legislation and the control of its implementation and added that "this lack of equality must be corrected", hence the intention of the Commission is "immediately after the resumption of work, to proceed with the change of the legislation. He added that considerations are being made to abolish the private school of a similar type. He concluded that the conclusion should be accepted that “all children are taught the same, have the same opportunities and there are no privileged ones who take advantage of shortcomings in the legislation or control by the Ministry.” of Education.
DISY Member of Parliament, Giorgos Karoullas, in his statements after the meeting stated that "the school operates legally on the basis of private legislation for private education and controls by the Ministry. Education'. He added that what needs to be regulated are specific provisions of the Parity and Correspondence Act for schools of similar type, in terms of timetable and syllabus, assessment and any other aspect.
"We as Parliament must update the legislation to remove any concerns and to ensure equality and correspondence in the field of student evaluation,", he said. We reiterate, he continued, the firm position to provide unhindered the right to choose between private and public education. Finally, he was in favor of defending the right to choose private education by anyone who wishes and wished good luck to the students who will sit for the four-month exams, noting that these "are a useful institution with pedagogical value".
AKEL Member of Parliament Christos Christofidis, in his statements after the meeting, said that "for a few years now, a pedagogical crime has been committed in our education system", with the establishment of the four-month exams, "which have launched para-education, lead to the margins and they increase social inequalities in families who cannot afford to send their children to daycare, they caused stress to the children, "killed" the learning process since we now focus on exam skills and memorization- 1970's logic,'' he said. He added that the schools are in decline and that today 1/3 of the students will not be there, attributing responsibility to the DISY government, the Minister of Education and to "all the political forces that turned their backs on them and voted with them for so long".< /p>
He went on to say that "the incompetence of the Ministry was presented today in all its extent and grandeur and as far as the specific issue is concerned", saying that substantial checks on private schools are not carried out and that the legislation is interpreted as they see fit, resulting in to create injustices and inequalities in terms of claiming positions in universities. "No private school is responsible. The responsibility lies with the Ministry of Education, which cannot and does not want to command the entire education system, said Mr. Christofidis.
DIPA Member of Parliament Alekos Tryfonidis, in his statements after the meeting, stated that serious deficiencies were found in the legislation governing private education, as the sector has developed rapidly and changes must be made. "There should be changes in the legislation in relation to private schools of a similar type, in terms of how to ensure the correspondence and parity of baccalaureates", between public and private education.
He referred to the inequality that arises due to the four-month exams, which “unfortunately will remain despite the appeals we have made as DIPA”, as he said. It concluded that DIPA will lead the process to review the legislation, with the aim of ensuring equality and equity among all students. "Just as we respect and honor public education, we also respect and honor private education", said Mr. Tryfonidis.
EDEK Member of Parliament, Andreas Apostolou, during his presentation at the Committee meeting, stated that the legislation for schools of a similar type should be improved and added that "perhaps we should discuss whether there should be schools of a similar type", so that subsequently to be asked “a private school to choose whether it will be the same or different in relation to the public ones”. He expressed the opinion that if the school in question had obtained a license of a different type, there would have been no problem.
Independent Member of Parliament Andreas Themistokleous said that "in practice a private school of the same type created a section of the third high school which he turned into a tutorial for the pre-entrance exams for the subjects related to the medical, veterinary and pharmacy school exams» and added that the operating license was incorrectly given by the Ministry. of Education.
"All the signs and advertisements of the school show that only the third high school section will remain", he said and added that "the additional reason this school was created is because the students who are studying today do not have the obligation to sit for the four-month exams». He formulated the position that all children, in public and private schools, should have the right but also the obligation to sit for all exams.