By Constantinos Psillides
EVERYONE is to blame that Cypriot teenagers rank last in Europe in sciences, said minister of education and culture Kyriakos Kenevezos yesterday, adding that changes are needed whether everybody likes it or not.
A report, conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Programme for International Student Assessment, released on Tuesday showed Cypriot 15-year-olds as being the worst in Europe last year when it came to sciences, second worst in maths and they had the third worst reading skills.
Regarding Cyprus, in 2012, some 32.8 per cent of 15-year-olds had poor skills in reading, the third worst in the EU after Bulgaria and Romania. A total of 42 per cent also exhibit problems so far as math was concerned, ranking second to worst in the EU after Bulgaria while in sciences, the percentage was 38.6, which was the worst in the EU.
“Everyone is to blame. Political parties, educators, parents and society as a whole,” said Kenevezos. “We are responsible for these results. Moreover, we are responsible for future assessments so it is our duty to accept responsibility, overcome problems and create the necessary structure to give students the chance to reward us with smiles of success.”
Kenevezos stressed that was in nobody’s best interest to “hide behind antiquated procedures that should have ended long ago”.
The education minister promised that the report’s findings would be utilised so that education reform –which has been going on since 2005- could be evaluated. “To be able to properly deal with the education problems and modernise structures we must be determined and ready to proceed with changes, even if that won’t please everyone. It’s our fault,” he added.
The education ministry is in the middle of revamping public educators’ appointment process, with teachers union POED and secondary teachers union OELMEK strongly opposing the proposed method. The ministry wishes to scrap the current method of appointing educators – based on seniority – and instead go through an exams and evaluation process. The unions are opposing the change, arguing that the process isn’t transparent and that it would be influenced by political parties.
Themis Poliviou, head of OELMEK also commented on the report yesterday, admitting that there were indeed problems with education but he questioned the methodology used in the report. “Children in other countries are selected and coached for these studies. Our participants were not,” said Poliviou, adding that only when everyone was competing under the same rules could accurate results be determined.
He also said that was ridiculous that the report considered some high school students unable to read. “There are five or six students in each class that are non-Greek speakers. They are trying now to learn the language. This report gives a distorted image of our education,” said Poliviou.
DISY MP Efthimios Diplaros, speaking on behalf of the party, said that modernising and re-evaluating the current education system is an absolute necessity. “Educators appointment procedures is a part of the equation but all the negatives highlighted in the report call for immediate re-evaluation, upgrade and modernisation of our education system,” Diplaros said.