By Peter Stevenson
SECONDARY school teachers union OELMEK yesterday presented counter proposals for a new teacher selection system to Education Minister Kyriacos Kenevezos after rejecting the ministry’s proposal last week.
In a letter, the union said: “Our position is that time needs to be given for an in depth dialogue to take place so all of the crucial matters regarding education can be discussed.”
OELMEK said it had studied the education ministry’s proposal and decided to reject it. It was clearly unfair because it did not meet the conditions set by the union – to ensure teachers who went through a certain training programme, and those working in education for many years, were not left out.
Kenevezos said the new system would be rolled out gradually, starting in September 2015. The system will go through a four-year transition period before it becomes fully operational.
New criteria being introduced include the need to take a written exam, and the compulsory inclusion of a certificate of teacher training for secondary and technical education in the application process to in order to get on the teachers’ waiting list.
Under the current system, graduates add their names to a list and are appointed on a first-come first-served basis, which could take anything from ten to 25 years. At last count there were over 30,000 names on the list.
“According to statistics it is evident that until 2020 few new teachers will be appointed so it is irrelevant to discuss a new system of appointing teachers and therefore leaving more important issues behind,” OELMEK said.
One of the union’s counter proposals is to create a new waiting list which will include temporary, substitute and contracted teachers who have yet to be allocated a full-time position.
“We recommend creating a separate list, which includes contract, temporary and substitute teachers with at least two years teaching experience until August 31, 2014, with the modernisation of the existing system being introduced once everyone on that list has been given a full-time position,” the union said.
OELMEK added that introducing a written exam could prove to be problematic as it would create unhealthy competition between teachers. “There is no evidence that shows written exams are the best way of deciding who the most suitable teachers are,” the union said.
They added that even Finland, a country whose system Cyprus looks to as an example, chooses its teachers through pedagogical methods and not exams.
“With what kind of exams can it be ascertained the love a teacher will show a child? How will it establish his conscientiousness? Which test would indicate the teacher’s ability to create the necessary classroom learning climate?
Which test will ensure the teacher’s objectivity and the equal treatment of all children?” were some of the questions put to the minister.
The union said it believes the current appointment system is fair and despite any shortcomings, excludes nepotism, which is a huge problem in Cyprus.
In their counter proposal the union suggested a maximum age limit be set and those who are over it should be removed from the waiting list along with anyone who already has a permanent position in the public sector or at a semi-government organisation.
“With our suggestions we believe that only those who are truly interested in working in public education will remain on the waiting lists which should preclude nepotism as those people who are selected will be the ones that really have skills to teach, to educate our children and prepare them to serve Cypriot society in the future,” OELMEK said.