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Nonformal Education

The post-World War II era witnessed the development of adult and continuing education in Cyprus. Persianis (1996) has identified the following six features of adult and continuing education in Cyprus: the great impact of political developments; the great dependency on foreign know-how, models, and institutions; the low socio-economic origin of its target groups; a different educational and cultural tradition from that of mainstream education; an increased emphasis on social advancement courses rather than on cultural and community advancement courses; and its use as both a spearhead for modernization and a shield for protecting the integrity of mainstream education from foreign dependency.

The political independence of 1960 created a need for adult education owing to new administrative posts in the expanded political structure, government emphasis on economic and social advancement, the requirement of higher qualifications for civil service, and minimum educational qualifications required for "ex-fighters... who had established the new state with their sacrifices" (Persianis 1996).

The case of the ex-fighters was a real revelation and a blessing to many capable people who had not had an opportunity in their youth to acquire high educational qualifications. In fact it officially established the way towards adult education. It showed that the acquisition of academic qualifications by people who had passed the normal school age was possible, and it established completely new educational routes. At the same time it pointed out the need for additional routes, and it created pressure on the government to provide the necessary means (Persianis 1996).

One additional educational route the government established provided for evening gymnasia (seven-year, part-time secondary schools) for working young people, as well as evening technical classes leading to external examinations and evening foreign language institutes.

The political division of 1974 had tremendous impact on the value of adult education as well, as wealthy, landed people became destitute refugees. Only academic qualifications seemed to afford hope of gainful work in divided Cyprus or abroad.

A third wave of adult and continuing education appeal has started since Cyprus applied to join the European Union in 1990. The four freedoms envisioned by the Maastrict Treaty of 1992 have stressed the importance of the qualitative improvement of Cyprus products and services and the efficiency of its labor force in order to cope with the globalization of competition. The existing evidence is that the country seems to depend more on its adult and continuing education rather than on its mainstream schooling in its efforts to meet the challenges of the European Union (Persianis 1996).

The second feature of adult and continuing education, dependency on foreign models, was a logical outgrowth of four centuries of Ottoman occupation and 84 years of British rule. Independence in 1960 was followed by the immediate need for quick development to traverse the technological and industrial divide. As high-tech equipment was imported, the need for high-tech training created a dependency on foreign trainers, examining boards, and accreditation institutions. A number of Cyprus private schools of higher education have established dependent relationships with primarily British and U.S. institutions of higher learning that are characterized in one or more of the following ways: as a kind of foreign college offering foreign courses; as the initial source of coursework leading to completion of degrees abroad; as sites subject to external examiners; and as the site for course offerings identical to those of their foreign affiliates.

The third feature of adult education is that it targets people from the lower socioeconomic strata. An exception to this is "in the case of the foreign language institutes (now called State Further Education Institutes). The majority of their students are higher secondary schools students who need coaching either for the University of Cyprus and the Universities of Greece entrance examinations or for the external examinations (mainly GCE)" (Persianis 1996).

The fourth feature distinguishes the cultural tradition of adult education from the knowledge tradition of the mainstream educational system. The majority of the courses, mainly those offered by the Industrial Training Authority, constitute a different educational and cultural entity from the traditional one. The courses are mostly technological, managerial, and professionally oriented, and they are short and accelerated, built on different epistemological assumptions from those that are dominant in the formal education courses. The educators in the adult courses are usually professionals with a long history of hands-on experience, but without formal teaching qualifications. Some of them are foreigners (for 96 out of the 1,519 programs the educators were foreigners; 89 programs were held abroad).

The modes of teaching and learning in the adult education courses differ tremendously from those of formal teaching. This is considered an advantage both because it is regarded as more appropriate for adult learning and also because it alleviates the cultural embarrassment of adults having to become students at an advanced age.

Parallel to these courses, however, are the courses offered by the Ministry of Education (i.e., evening gymnasium, in-service training courses for teachers at the Pedagogical Institute), which follow the traditional mode of teaching and learning. So, in fact, with regard to this characteristic, there is a division of courses on the lines of the individual ministry offering the courses (Persianis 1996).

The fifth feature distinguishing adult education from mainstream general education is that, with the exception of the adult education centers and the state further education institutes (which offer cultural and advancement courses), all other institutes of adult and continuing education offer professional advancement courses (i.e., courses leading to qualifications necessary for appointment or promotion). For instance, in 1993, approximately 883 adults attended cultural courses, while 20,008 adults attended social advancement courses (Persianis 1996).

The final, and most important, feature of adult and continuing education has been its role as the source for meeting the needs of modernization, thus protecting the education system's tradition of Greek educational humanism. The goals of nonformal education are to help early school graduates to supplement their basic education, secondary school graduates to enter the world of work, and working people to acquire professional knowledge. The government covers the expenditure for public nonformal institutions.

Other public and private institutions offer courses as well, but may charge fees. It is estimated that 9.5 percent of people above the age of 18 attend nonformal education provided through various agencies and institutions, including evening gymnasia, part-time institutes, adult education centers, the Industrial Training Authority, and the Cyprus Productivity Center (Papanastasiou 1995).

Distance Learning: Cyprus was first introduced to cyberspace in 1990 (Miltiadou 1996). The Ministry of Education and Culture (MEC) recognized the significant academic uses of computers for a small country like Cyprus, and in the late 1990s, it was the first government department to connect with the European Academic and Research Network (EARN). The Trans-European Research and Education Networking Association (TERENA) was formed in 1994 by the merger of RARE (Réseaux Associés pour la Recherche Européenne) and EARN, "to promote and participate in the development of a high quality international information and telecommunications infrastructure for the benefit of research and education."

In October 1996 the Ministry of Education and Culture was invited to attend the Web for Schools (WfS)conference in Dublin, Ireland. The WfS program, funded by the European Union, is designed to produce a self-sustaining group of secondary school teachers who have the skills, knowledge, and understanding necessary to collaborate in order to use the World Wide Web to produce learning materials.

The Cyprus Fullbright Commission has created a web page that provides information about its grants to Cypriot and U.S. residents, educational advice concerning studies in the United States, and information on special bicommunal projects between the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish-Cypriot side. Hypertext links provide U.S. education resources and other interesting links to students and teachers in Cyprus (Miltiadou 1996).

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Education - Free Encyclopedia Search EngineGlobal Education ReferenceCyprus - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education