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Thursday, February 9, 2023

Voices, skirmishes and tensions in Parliament against the background of four months in private schools

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ΦωνΕς, αψιμαχ ες και εντασεις στη Βουλor με φoντ&omicron ; τετραμηνα στα ιδιωτικα σχολεΙα

Arguments, skirmishes and intense confrontations. This was the backdrop that once again constituted the Education Committee, which was convened as an emergency to consider the issue arising from the decision of the Ministry of Education to approve the application of a private school to operate as a similar type, which gives it the opportunity not to apply four months. Prodromos Prodromou and Christos Christofidis, once again, found themselves facing each other, with the tones rising several times, which also caused the strong reaction of the president of the Commission, who had to raise his voice in order to impose order. However, the Minister of Education found himself with his back against the wall, after receiving fire from almost all those present, as it became clear that there was a problem with the legislation.

The Education Committee put under its microscope the decision of the Ministry of Education to approve the request submitted by the private school FORUM PREMEDICAL PRIVATE SCHOOL, to operate as a similar type of private school, while at the same time there is also a Greek language school of the same Forum , which works as the same type and applies the four months normally. What had caused strong reactions was the fact that the school advertised its operation, which caused strong reactions both from the parents' side, as well as from the teachers' and institutions' side. At the same time, the Committee was also given answers on whether the school is a normal school or a one-class school.

The conclusion of the discussion, in its entirety, was that the absence of an agency, which will have the responsibility of checking private schools and whether they comply with the legislation that governs them, results in distortions being observed, despite the fact that the Ministry of Education it currently has an understaffed office that exercises that control. The Minister of Education, in fact, during his initial statement, but also during his answers to the questions of the deputies and the statements of those present, indicated that the control is currently being carried out, however it would be more effective if the specific service existed.

However, it didn't take long for the first confrontations to come, as the reports of a criminal institution, regarding the four-month exams, from the AKEL deputies, kept coming and going. In fact, the first explosion was caused by the fact that the minister had to leave, since he had a scheduled meeting with the ambassador of Cuba, to sign a memorandum of understanding, but he did not have a representative with him, who would listen to the positions.

The questions and positions of Giorgos Loukaidis (s.s. who is not a member of the Education Committee, however attended the debate, as he did in previous sessions) and Christos Christofidis , who mentioned that there are several private schools that, based on their legislation, have the option not to apply the institution of exams, but also the fact that the discussion about this particular school is taking place in the middle of a pre-election period, the Minister of Education indicated that he will not discuss an issue, for a school that operates normally, while responding to the absence of a representative, Mr. Prodromou noted that he did not expect that such an issue would take up enough session time.

This provoked the reaction of the AKEL MPs, with Mr. Christofidis replying that he will not tell them when and how the Education Committee will meet, even indicating that he was not called to Parliament to insult them. In his turn, Mr. Prodromou, in a strong tone, noted that when reports are made about a criminal institution, they have no room to protest. The minister, continuing, indicated to them that they are stuck talking about the four months and they had been called to the parliament for another matter. In fact, he invited them to look next to them, since they voted for this specific legislation.

At this point, the chairman of the Education Committee, Pavlos Mylonas, intervened. who in high tones called on the minister and MPs to stop the skirmishes, while he indicated that he is trying to show respect to everyone in the room and asked them to respect the process.

In the statement of the MP of < b>DIPA, Alekou Tryfonidisthat the minister had been called on an emergency basis and had to have a representative, since he was going to leave, Mr. Mylonas clarified that the Ministry had been informed about the meeting days before and it was not that urgent. For his part, the Minister of Education emphasized that the Ministry respected the institutional decision of the Parliament and the legislation to suspend the functioning of the Parliament due to Presidential elections, however suddenly they found themselves discussing an advertisement.

To get an answer by the chairman of the Commission that from the advertisement, they learned that there are 33 private schools operating, which do not apply the exams through the back door, with the minister indicating in a strong tone that it is not through the back door, but it is the legislation that governs them .

Mr. Mylonas continued the process and at some point the minister was asked if he would eventually leave, with him replying that he would stay in the session and made an excuse for bullying him, every time he had to leave.

< p>The initial position of the Minister of Education

In his initial position, the Minister of Educationhe reported to Parliament that under the private education legislation, there are three types of private schools. Those of the same type, which follow the same curricula as public schools and have the same operating regulations, those of a similar type, which must apply 2/3 of the curricula of public schools, and those of a different type, which have their own curriculum. The specific of similar type.

Continuing, the minister indicated that there should be some operating regulations and currently, there are 38 private schools in operation. This, he noted, proves that private education is an important part of education in Cyprus and an effort is being made by the Ministry of Education to acquire executives, in order to have structures, as is done with special education. He also noted that private education, although currently being supervised, must be done systematically, since the needs are increasing and there are more private schools.

Mr. Prodromou clarified that the specific case may have been legally licensed, but it was found that there may be problems in the efforts to specialize its operation, which are nevertheless being addressed. Regarding the reports about a one-classroom school, Prodromos Prodromou clarified that the Ministry cannot accept the operation of a school with only one class.  

Regarding inequality between students, Mr. Prodromou emphasized that there is no issue of unequal treatment, as private schools have the freedom to operate with different hours compared to public ones. However, the minister noted that procedures must be carried out for the supervision of other schools of a similar type and their mode of operation.

The school came forward for the first time

< p>A representative of the private school was also called to Parliament, who opened her statement, noting that she felt strange representing a school that has a license to operate and approval, while noting that she felt she was there to judge the school. Addressing OELMEK and the parents, the representative of the school noted that it might be the wrong school that was found in the Parliament, as their organization operates two schools.

One is the Greek school, which operates as the same type as public schools and implements the decisions of the Ministry of Education to the letter and on Monday, 720 students will sit for four-month exams and explained that as a school, they always felt that they are in the same meterizi with the public schools and try to help the children. As for the second school, which is the FORUM PREMEDICAL PRIVATE SCHOOL, it was approved as a similar type of school and is different from the FORUM Greek school.

Referring to the published reports, the representative of school noted that there was a distortion of the truth and clarified that they did not get an exception to not implement the four-month exams. In the Greek school, the regulations for the four months will be applied, however for the second school, there is no obligation to do so.

The representative of the school also referred to the list of private schools in Cyprus, as it is posted on the website of the Ministry of Education, noting that there are 39 schools and only 6 are of the same type and expressed the question why the other schools are not there as well of similar type and only theirs.

Continuing, he indicated that both the Greek-speaking school and the Premedical School operate legally and follow the law of their operation. He also emphasized that a check should be made on all similar schools in order to find out which of them apply the law on 2/3 of the public school curriculum, which is not easy, as he argued, to add that the students they do not steal the places in the public universities from the rest of the children, since the students of their school devote many hours to external exams. “The kids in this department are kids who have decided they don't want to do anything other than medicine and want to secure a place in Europe. In the Greek school, we have many children who want to go to the medical school of the University of Cyprus and do not want to enter the Medical school, because they think that they will be more competitive with the four-month exams”.

On the part of the Association of Private Schools, its president, Giorgos Kritikos, noted before the Education Committee that the school has received its license, as a similar type and a school that does not differ from the others is being targeted.  

The positions of parents, teachers and students

Next, the president of the All Cyprus Confederation of Secondary Education Parents took the floor >, Loizos Konstantinou, who noted that the laws must be applied equally to all students, clarifying at the same time that they have no issue with private education, since many private schools do an excellent job.

In his deposition, he fired at the Ministry of Education, noting that there is a Ministry and a private education agency, which must monitor the process. He noted that the problem is the implementation and supervision of the law, not the legislation, as the minister had mentioned and clarified that in this case, the private education agency in question, which should control the schools, never appeared.

< p>For his part, the president of OELMEK, Konstantinos Konstantinopoulos, noted that there is a problem with the implementation of the legislation for private schools. As he pointed out, at the moment the situation is like a race, where some start from 50 meters and others start from 0 with weights such as four-month exams and minimal teaching. Mr. Konstantinopoulos, referring to the legislation, noted that it states that all private schools, regardless of type, must have approved operating regulations that are consistent with the operating regulations of public schools and the owner of the private school must comply with any changes to public school operating regulations. In fact, Mr. Konstantinopoulos attributed to the Ministry of Education that he made his own interpretation of the legislation that four-month exams should not be held.

Referring to the advertisements for the school, the president of OELMEK noted that they have changed and in the original advertisement was made for the students of the 3rd Lyceum. Mr. Konstantinopoulos indicated that in the legislation, it is stated that private schools must have three- or four-year study programs, while he also answered about 2/3 of the material for private schools, noting that the legislation is clear and states that it must there are also the common body and direction.

The president of PSEM, Alexandros Pachitis, for his part, emphasized that they have no problem with any private school, however he pointed out that not all the problems can be attributed to the loophole in the legislation. He made it clear that the control must be closer on the part of the Ministry, so that there are no such problems, while he also reiterated their position, regarding the institution of the four-month examinations, clarifying that it has been proved that it has gone bankrupt and now all the institutions are asking for its abolition.

The answers of the Minister of Education

Then, the speech was again given to Prodromos Prodromos, who noted that for the first time this year, after decades, the Ministry has the certainty that also in the High School, the pace of teaching follows the syllabus and teaching is covered everywhere, with knowledge and details, thus giving the his own answer for the success of the institution of four months.

The minister, answering about private schools of different types, noted that they have no obligation to follow the program of public schools and the Parliament had passed legislation, based on which the students of these schools can participate in the Pan-Cypriot Examinations. As he pointed out, in the context of equality, in some schools that may teach 80-85 hours of Chemistry and Physics, no one forbids their students from participating in Pancypriots.

Referring to the specific school, Mr. Prodromou noted that it applied and was approved, while regarding the private education service, the minister clarified that it does not exist and what exists is an office. However, private education is expanding in Cyprus and this service must exist, expressing the intention to start a dialogue.

Regarding the one-class matter, Prodromos Prodromou reiterated that it is not a school with one class and noted that while there is so much discussion, at the moment there are 15 children studying at the school, of which 9 are from FORUM and 6 came from elsewhere . He also noted that before the session, there had been another session at the Ministry of Education, during which some facts were reported, which are under consideration.

The positions of the deputies and the involvement… Christodoulidis , noted that this debate should not have been opened in the pre-election period, since it is an important issue. “We are judging and victimizing a private school. This debate should stay out of the pre-election period. Now is not the time to discuss it. The matter must be regulated through legislation”.

For his part, Georgos  Loukaidisnoted that they did not intend to judge any private school, but to check whether the Ministry of Education is implementing the legislation on private education, a problem that has plagued schools and their operations for many years. “The elephant in the room is the quadrennial exam. Of course, there is a problem with the private education legislation. However, the reason the organized bodies reacted and we are here is the crime that continues to be practiced”, he noted.

The also AKEL MP, Christos Christofidis, indicated that once again, even at the end of this Government, the minister goes to Parliament and positions himself as if he is not responsible for legislation. He emphasized that it is obvious what is happening, there are private schools that do not apply the exams and there is no control service. “Parliament is to blame for the minister. It was their responsibility to set it up years ago for audits. This mechanism does not exist. Listening to the president of OELMEK, I understand that there is an arbitrary interpretation of the legislation by the Ministry of Education. It is not allowed to give permission to make a one-class school”.

At this point, the Minister of Education intervened, who noted that the Commission brought a private school to the Parliament and it is defamed. Then, he got up to leave, stressing that he had been called to give evidence, however the members of the Commission continued to reproduce evidence that is contrary to what he reported, with Mr. Christofides replying that these are games.

Referring to the institution of examinations, the AKEL MP pointed out that the Government has committed a crime against education, after taking it back in the 1970s, due to the problems created by the said institution.  

For his part, also an AKEL MP, Andreas Kavkalias, indicated to the minister that he was saddened by the level of his behavior and the lack of respect he shows towards the Parliament, but also towards democracy.

However, the minister, shortly before closing, pointed out in a strong tone that the evaluation system was taken to the Parliament by Mr. Kadis and not by Mr. Prodromou, there was a consultation with DIKO and the famous Leonidou Law was passed in 2019 “and basically , the Government that brought this particular institution, had Nikos Christodoulidis as Minister of Foreign Affairs. Make it pre-election now”.

The Minister's statements

After the session, Mr. Prodromou made the following statement to the media:  “The issue that the Parliamentary Committee on Education is considering today has already been discussed at the Ministry in a meeting held at the beginning of this week and a relevant announcement has been issued by the Ministry of Education, Sports and Youth.

This school operates with a license granted based on existing legislation. We should probably discuss some provisions of the legislation. However, the whole issue that some point out about private schools of a similar type would exist whether the evaluation in schools is quarterly or at the end of the year.

The legislation does not provide what is done with the assessment in schools of this type, so there is no obligation for the assessment and this is where this discussion is focused.

But the school in question, which is operating this year for the first time with a very small number of students, operates on the basis of legislation. The Ministry of Education has addressed the issue that has been raised in relation to the promotion made by the school and some issues that actually exist. But issues concerning announcements or advertising, not its operation. While the matter is being administratively examined at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we will have to wait and see how the matter is dealt with, if there is any issue.

For the operation of the school there is no question, for the legislation and the institutional framework, possibly, with the resumption of the work of the Parliament, there should be some discussion and elaboration of the institutional framework. In any case there is a general reflection on what kind of private schools are useful and desirable to have. We should have this discussion again. At the moment, three types of private schools are foreseen.

I would like to underline that schools of this type – which are not just one, but more than 20 and have been operating for years – are obliged by law to respond to 2/3 in the detailed and timetabled program without any reference to the evaluation process. Certainly, I would say that it is an advantage of the public school that it has regular evaluation of the students. In other countries private schools advertise that they have an assessment.

I would like to take this opportunity to note that this year in the high schools of Cyprus, where the new Pupil Evaluation Plan is implemented, we find that with the periodic evaluation every four months we have for the first time more effective supervision and the certainty that there is a uniform teaching rhythm, that all the children in all the schools in Cyprus actually acquire to a satisfactory degree, through teaching, those knowledge and skills that we have to offer. Without the uniform evaluation of the four months, not only was there no such certainty, but at times there were also serious indications that there were significant differences and inequalities between schools. This is what we find this year for the first time before the January evaluations are even done, that is to say that the pace of teaching in the high schools of Cyprus has entered a certain order and there is the certainty that we offer all children the teaching to the extent foreseen, without fluctuations or different approaches in places and this is a very important benefit” concluded the Minister of Education.

In response to a question regarding the reactions that exist regarding the four-month evaluations, as well as to a comment that the students of public schools are at a disadvantage compared to students of private  schools in which there is no quarterly evaluation, Mr. Prodromou said: “I refer you to statements made by some children who nominated for the 2022 Pan-Cypriot Exams, noting that the quarterly departmental exam had helped them to better organize their preparation to attend the program better seam, which eventually led them to the championship. These and only the statements of graduates who entered the universities are also given as answers to the impressions that some have that by having an assessment they are at a disadvantage compared to some who are in a school without an assessment, that is, with unclear teaching and its effectiveness”.

Source: www.reporter.com.cy

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