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Cyprus - Educational System—overview

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Knowledge Traditions: Unique to Cyprus may be the influence of the ancient Greek civilization, where the knowledge of theory was considered superior to the knowledge of practical skills (Persianis 1996b). Cypriot Greeks have historically related the concept of the "educated Cypriot" to the knowledge traditions of Greece. Cypriots traveled to Constantinople, Alexandria, Salamanca, Venice, Rome, and Paris for higher education during the years following the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453 (Persianis in Koyzis 1997). The tradition accelerated with the creation of modern Greece in 1830, particularly following the founding of the University of Athens in 1837.

"Teachers in Cyprus before 1830 (during Turkish rule), were mainly priests, or others, with some reading and writing skills. After 1830, and the establishment of teacher training institutes in Greece, the first educated teachers started returning to Cyprus" (Persianis and Polyviou 1992). The first teacher training institution to be established in Cyprus was in 1893 (Maratheftis 1992), when Cyprus was under British rule. The Pancyprian Teacher Training School commenced as a branch of the Pancyprian Gymnasium in Nicosia. It consisted of four years of primary education, three years of postprimary and four years gymnasium. After 1893, the Pancyprian Teacher Training School was upgraded to six years primary education and six years gymnasium.

In 1903 the first female teacher training institution was established in Nicosia, and in 1910 a priest training institution was established in Larnaca. In 1915 gymnasium education for teachers was increased to seven years. In the 1930s all the teacher training institutions were abolished by the British after political disturbances, the governor taking full control over elementary education.

In 1937 the Morphou Teacher Training College was established as a two-year institution by the ruling British, offering teacher training in English both for Greeks and Turks, with graduates qualifying as primary teachers. This action of the colonial government was not popular with the church and other educationalists. In 1943 a similar institution opened for females, admitting only Greeks until 1948. In 1958 the Morphou Teacher Training College was transferred to a large area of land in Nicosia replacing the Morphou and Larnaca colleges.

In 1959, after the Zurich-London agreements for the independence of Cyprus, the Teacher Training College became the Pedagogical Academy, providing education for the training of primary school teachers, its programs being offered in Greek. Graduates of public high schools were admitted for a two-year teacher training program. The Pedagogical Academy followed the system offered in Greece. The program became of three year duration in 1965, while in 1975, a nursery department was established for the training of nursery school teachers (Anastasiou 1995).

Greece has remained the model for Cypriot knowledge traditions, education, and culture with a relatively steady number of Cypriot Greeks studying in Greece (35 to 40 percent of the students studying abroad as reported by Koyzis 1997). The majority of all secondary school teachers in the Greek secondary schools are graduates of Greek universities (Koyzis 1997).

Perhaps the greatest impact of the Greek higher education tradition was the favored area of study, philology. The term has been interpreted to mean an education combining classical Greek literature, philosophy, and history with a uniquely Greek version of educational humanism—Greek Orthodoxy, classical Hellenism, and an emphasis on literary humane studies (Koyzis 1997; McClelland 1980). According to Koyzis (1997), over 60 percent of all secondary teachers are philologists, along with 70 percent of the personnel in the Ministry of Education. The philologist-humanist knowledge tradition is a dominant factor in the state's conception of what is worth knowing. The philologist-humanist ideal recognizes the university as an extension of the state with the institution serving to produce the "disciplined, cultured, and moral Christian-Greek" (Koyzis 1997).

The School of Philosophy at the University of Athens in Greece (where languages, literature, and history are taught as well as philosophy) has been the center for the preservation of the humanist tradition. It has maintained links with the secondary school teachers' union, whose members have been trained largely in this university school. There is also a wider consumer for humanist education. The School of Philosophy at Athens retains the highest prestige (Koyzis 1997).

Another knowledge tradition which has influenced Cypriot intellectual life and invariably the development of higher education has been English essentialism. A third knowledge tradition which influenced the development of higher education in Cyprus is North American educational utilitarianism (Koyzis 1997).

Contemporary Context: The main political goal of the government—survival of Cyprus as a unified, independent, and sovereign country—has contributed to the educational philosophy of "I do not forget" (Papanastasiou 1995; Katsonis & Huber 1998). Greek Cypriots do not forget the people, churches, schools, homes, and lands in the Turkish occupied territory. School materials, programs, and publications keep the invasion of 1974 and subsequent events in contemporary focus.

The Greek Cypriot community (which comprises about 85 percent of the population of about 1 million inhabitants) uses the Greek language as the language of instruction in schools, and the Turkish Cypriot community uses the Turkish language. Each community encourages the teaching and learning of foreign languages, especially English, but not each other's language. The minority population of other non-Greek, non-Turkish ethnic groups are normally trilingual, having a native command of their own ethnic language, a near-native command of Greek, and, in most cases, a mastery of English (Papapaviou 1999).

Since the 1974 invasion and the subsequent division of the island, the languages of instruction have remained divided with little interaction. Numerous overseas Cypriots, mainly from Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, have returned to their homelands. Immigrants to Cyprus, primarily for employment, have added their languages to the linguistic situation, mainly Arabic, Filipino, Rumanian, and Russian. The majority of children attend Greek-speaking monolingual state primary schools. These schools do not provide auxiliary classes in Greek as a second language, nor do they provide instruction in the children's native ethnic language (Papapaviou 1999). The linguistic situation of the early twenty-first century finds many bilingual children in monolingual public schools. Private instruction, relatively expensive, is available for those seeking an English-speaking educational experience.

The formal education system of Cyprus is highly centralized and controlled by the state. School curricula and textbooks are determined by governmental agencies, along with guidelines on how to implement the national curriculum. Schools at all levels are visited by the state inspectorate, which is responsible for evaluating schools. Private schools are owned and administered by individuals or committees, but are liable to supervision and inspection by the Ministry of Education.

Education is free at all levels and compulsory from the age of five years and six months to the age of 15. All public schools use the same curriculum and textbooks, though teachers are free to adapt the material to their local environment. The 205-day school year is based on a nationwide core curriculum. According to 1999 figures on education published by the Department of Statistics of Education, there were 163,800 full-time students at 1,208 educational institutions of the island with more than 80 percent enrolled in public institutions.

Curriculum Development: The centralized system of educational administration, a centre-periphery model (Schon 1971), impacts the management of curriculum improvement in Cyprus (Kyriakides 1999) along the following five dimensions:

  1. The design of the curriculum of 1981 and the new curriculum were almost completely controlled by the government inspectors and did not establish any mechanism for consulting teachers.... Inspectors control the design of the curriculum, the implementation through provision of guidelines and advice to teachers for problems with implementing the curriculum policy, and teacher evaluation.
  2. School Based Curriculum Development (SBCD) is weak in Cyprus and is also a consequence of high central control that does not allow for much differentiation among the schools. Cypriot teachers struggle with their problems and anxieties privately, spending most of their time apart from their colleagues. There is very rarely interaction concerned with professional issues among the staff of schools (Kyriakides 1994).
  3. The difficulties of the centre-periphery model of the curriculum change also has to do with the fact that the quality of teachers determines to some extent the implementation of curriculum policy. The need for a strong link between curriculum reform and teacher development is also reflected in theories of curriculum change (Fullan & Hargreaves 1992). This raises questions on links between teachers' professional development and curriculum reform in Cyprus. It is argued that there is no link between curriculum reform and teacher development, which is attributed to the process of curriculum change followed in Cyprus that implies a limited role for teachers (Kyriakides 1994). The underlying model of change management is based on contractual rather than professional accountability.
  4. The aims of the education service in Cyprus are set out in various government publications and policy documents. By analyzing these aims one can identify an attempt to link education to the historical, social, moral, cultural, economic, and political context of Cyprus (Kyriakides 1994; UNESCO 1997). However, the aims say little about the concept of partnership that is now given high priority in many countries. It can be argued that policy documents do not encourage the idea that schools should take account not only of policy decisions of government inspectors, but also of the expectations of parents, employers, and the community at large. Neither official policy documents nor any nonstatutory guidance suggest that the development of the curriculum at the local level should be seen in terms of the pupils' and parents' role (Kyriakides 1994).
  5. Systematic information about the conditions of schooling, educational processes, and educational outcomes for all grades and subjects appears to be lacking (Kyriakides 1999). In addition, innovation, evaluations, and curricular changes need to be designed for the specific conditions in Cyprus.

Examinations, Promotions, & Certifications: The Cypriot system requires no entrance examinations for primary and secondary schools. Almost all primary school students are promoted to the next grade. Only in the first grade is there a failure rate of about 1.5 percent of the students. Primary school students earn a leaving certificate at the end of the sixth year after evaluation through continuous assessment. All primary graduates proceed to secondary school without any examination. In secondary education, every student receives a school report three times a year at the end of each school term. At the end of grades 9 and 12, all students take common final exams prepared by the Ministry of Education.

Beginning in 1991, students in Grade 12 also take an externally prepared final exam. The following year, 1992, Grade 9 students were required to take compulsory common exams in four subjects.

Special Education: In 1995, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) conducted an update of the initial "1988 Review of the Present Situation of Special Education." The division in the Ministry of Education in Cyprus provided information by means of questionnaire responses. The forms of special education available were reported as emotional and behavioral disturbance, mental retardation/severe learning difficulties, physical/motor disabilities, visual impairment, hearing impairment, language disorder, and learning disabilities (UNESCO 1995).

The aim of special education policy in Cyprus is to encourage and support the integration of children with special needs into the ordinary education system and give them an opportunity to grow and learn together with their peers. Special provision is made for physically handicapped children (e.g., deaf, blind) and the mentally retarded, who attend special schools.

Children who are profoundly handicapped, mainly characterized by physical disabilities and mental retardation, are cared for in residential institutions operated by the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Social Welfare, or voluntary agencies. The full range of facilities employed in meeting the needs of students in special education includes boarding special schools, day special schools, special classes in regular schools, resource rooms in regular schools, and the support of teaching in regular classes. The provision of these special education facilities is mainly the responsibility of the Director of Primary Education. The Inspector of Special Education has primary operational responsibility.

For secondary school students with special needs, the responsibility lies with the Department of Secondary Education and the Department of Technical Education within the Ministry of Education. Administrative decisions are made at the national level. In settings where special education is provided by voluntary bodies (estimated to be about 4 percent of the expenditure on special education), the Ministry of Education provides teaching staff to cover some of the needs of the institutions (UNESCO 1995).

Legislation specific to special educational needs is concerned principally with primary education. The basic law, Special Education Law 1979, describes the kind of special needs that should be met in special schools and special classes, the procedures for multiprofessional assessment and placement of these children, the roles of the psycho-pedagogical committees, the obligations of parents, and the roles of governing bodies of special schools. A further law in 1993 governs the integration of hearingimpaired children. More recent legislative consideration has been given to meeting students' needs in the least restrictive environment (UNESCO 1995).

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