It is unconstitutional for a parent not to have the choice of their child attending a kindergarten, the Minister of Education, Sports and Youth (YPAN), Prodromos Prodromou, told KYPE.
Most children in community kindergartens she is under 4 years and 6 months, so she is not in pre-primary school, Mr. Prodromou pointed out, adding that if all the children rush to enroll in community kindergartens, there will be no places for other children.
Furthermore, the Minister of State noted that it is unconstitutional for the parent not to have the choice. “Even if the law is signed by the President, it will have problems,” he said, adding that the state offers free education, but not under compulsion. If in September 2023 the children of 4 years and 6 months have to be registered, there will certainly be no places, he underlined.
As far as community schools are concerned, continued Mr. Prodromou, they are not organized schools, since they are run by the local Parents' Associations. “If the President of the Republic mentions the law, we stay with the law we have,” he explained, adding that registrations must now be done based on the law. “Based on the data, the law cannot be applied”, he concluded.
Teachers are waiting for the President's decision
It is recalled that earlier, in her statements, the President of POED, Myria Vassiliou said that they expect the decision of the President of the Republic on the bill on pre-primary education.
Asked to comment on the turn the issue has taken, she pointed out that “the issue as it has been formulated is something that needs to be clarified from the point of view of executive authority”. It is the right of every child to attend a public school. In no case did we say that a parent should be deprived of the right to choose a private school”, said Ms. Vassiliou.
“We believe that with the right planning and the utilization of the funds of the Recovery and Resilience Fund, the structures of the public school can be strengthened and these children under the age of 4 years and 8 months can be given a place to have access to the public school” , said the President of POED.
“We know that there is a law whose referral was not accepted by the Parliament and we expect the President of the Republic to make a decision,” he noted. “We are alert because depending on the developments we expect to decide our next steps,” he added. “It is a shame that an educational policy that has a positive pedagogical and social sign turns into a battleground,” he pointed out.
Ms. Vassiliou explained to KYPE that the position of POED was known from the first moment, hence the visits of POED to political parties to convince of the correctness of its position. “We consider ourselves largely convinced,” he said.
What was voted, concluded the President of the POED, “was clearly an improved form in relation to the intention of the Ministry regarding the legislation it tabled, but I do not know if it will be rejected by the President. So it is up to the President himself whether to fire her or not”.At the same time, in his statements, the President of the Confederation of Parents of Pre-Primary Education, Yannos Ioannou, said that the announcement of the Ministry of Education, Sports and Youth (YPAN) on December 30, 2022 was partly misleading, as already in public and community kindergartens there are vacancies to absorb children aged 4 years and 6 months and above and to absorb several children under the age of 4 years and 6 months.
Furthermore, Mr. Ioannou expressed his regret for the said announcement by the Ministry of the Interior, which, as he said, refers parents of children under the age of 4 years and 6 months to enroll in private kindergartens.
According to the announcement of the Ministry of Education, “the parents of children under the age of 4 years and 6 months, in non-compulsory education, who until now secured a place in public kindergartens and number 2,000, “will have to enroll them in private kindergartens, as there will no longer be places and the possibility of enrolling them in public schools, since all children in compulsory pre-primary education will have to be enrolled in them”.
It is added that “if this law finally comes into force as formulated by the Parliament, in accordance with Article 4 (c) of the law during the registrations that will take place in mid-January 2023, children in Pre-Primary education attend public kindergartens in of their region or in community kindergartens'”.
Also, “according to the transitional provisions and article 8 of the law, all children between the ages of 4 years and 6 months to 6 years old should attend Pre-Primary Education for the school year 2023-24”. It is noted that “after the registrations of January 2023, depending on the geographical distribution and since there will be no places available, parents will be informed in order to investigate whether there are places available in community kindergartens”.
As reported by the Ministry of Education , “on the basis of the geographical distribution known so far and the needs covered by community kindergartens, it must be considered certain that a certain number of children in compulsory Pre-Primary Education will not be able to enroll in a school in their educational district”.
Speaking about the announcement of the Ministry of Education, Mr. Ioannou told KYPE that the Confederation will issue an announcement urging parents to apply for the registration of their children in community kindergartens, as there are places and not all places will be filled in community kindergartens from the 2023-2024 school year.
In addition to this, Mr. Ioannou added, the Confederation of Parents of Pre-Primary Education has advised the Parents' Associations to go to the relevant School Boards where and where necessary to request the creation of new community kindergartens, to be able to cover any weakness that exists in their area. There are areas, he pointed out, that have several vacancies, there are areas with positions that will not be fully filled, but there may be 1-2 areas in the whole of Cyprus where the positions will be fully filled.
“I believe that the Ministry has issued a misleading announcement, since there are also vacancies in private kindergartens and it is something that the Ministry of Education is aware of,” the President of the Confederation of Parents of Pre-Primary Education told KYPE. In addition, he indicated that the Ministry has the statistics in front of it, it knows how many places there are in community and public kindergartens, which are still filled by children under the age of 4 years and 6 months.
“The public kindergartens currently have children aged 4.5 years and 4 years and 2 months, so there are vacancies to be filled,” said Mr. Ioannou, adding that “it is not right to simply refer the parent for enrollment of his child in private kindergartens, as soon as there will be vacancies in community kindergartens to absorb a sufficient number of these students”.
At the same time, Mr. Ioannou expressed his satisfaction because the legislation was passed in the way it was passed and its extension after 2026 will take place in public schools. From the beginning, he said, “we made it clear that we had our doubts about the implementation of the legislation, because we had not been given a plan”. kindergartens of private education in which the children of compulsory pre-primary education will attend. We do not know how the education will be done for the children who will attend the private kindergartens. No one has told us how the choice will be made.
Also, Mr. Ioannou said, the Confederation of Parents of Pre-Primary Education considers the bill “clearly unconstitutional in the way it tries to enforce it the Ministry of the Interior, since in the private sector tuition fees vary from 200 to 400 euros”. Giving a 200-euro voucher to a parent for their child to study in the private sector is not the free education mentioned in the Constitution, but is part of the amount paid by the state for education, he noted. “Attendance in public kindergartens after 2026 satisfies us because the public school will be maintained”, he concluded.