By Elias Hazou
Whereas the World Bank’s reports on Cyprus’ state education are not binding, their findings are a “useful tool” in shaping much-needed reform, education minister Costas Kadis said on Tuesday.
He was speaking to the media following a session of the House education committee, where Kadis discussed with MPs the two World Bank reports released earlier this month.
The reports, commissioned by the Cyprus government on the advice of the island’s international lenders, found that “little has resulted” despite several attempts at reform.
One of the reports zeroed in on teacher policies, the other on the educational structure. The World Bank said Cyprus’ high expenditure on education is not translating into improved learning for children, and advocated scrapping the teachers’ waiting list.
It also said the education ministry is overstaffed and there was little if any formal assessment of student learning. The World Bank noted moreover that the country’s investment in education does not yield commensurate outcomes. Public expenditure on education in Cyprus is around 7.8 per cent of GDP, which is high by international and European standards.
But Kadis reiterated that the reports are not binding; rather, he said, they would form the basis for planned reforms to the education system, reforms that would be reformulated with the help of experts.
“The [World Bank] findings will not be adopted as is, word for word,” he said.
For each of the issues raised by the World Bank, the education ministry has appointed work groups that will subsequently thrash out a new plan. This blueprint would then be put to a “structured dialogue” with social partners and stakeholders to achieve consensus.
For each measure eventually adopted, there would be a specific timetable for implementation, ranging from a few months to a few years.
The World Bank report focusing on teacher policies is of particular interest. Kadis said that it deals with three broad issues: the appointments process, the assessment and promotion of teachers, and on-the-job training for teachers.
The ultimate goal and core philosophy of the proposed measures is to appoint and promote through the system the most capable educators, the minister said.
In response to a question, Kadis said the ministry’s objective is not to make staff cutbacks. Rather, he added, spending needs to be re-jigged so that children can get the best education possible.
The performance of public-school students in exams is currently “very poor,” the minister said.
Communist AKEL was none too impressed with the direction the ministry is taking. Party MP Andreas Kafkalias said the World Bank reports are clearly inspired by “neo-liberal policies based on the logic of smaller government and a downgraded public education.”
By Elias Hazou