By Constantinos Psillides
A TOTAL of 120 conscripts in the National Guard (NG) will attend distance learning courses as part of a pilot programme starting in January 2015, Defence Minister Christoforos Fokaides said yesterday.
In a joint press conference with Education Minister Costas Kadis, Fokaides said the army was aiming to help conscripts accumulate credits for their post-service studies
The first 120 conscripts will join a pilot programme. The ministry aims at expanding it to include a larger number of conscripts, although Fokaides refrained from giving specifics. He told the press that the complete long distance learning programme would take effect in September 2015.
The conscripts selected will attend a total of five courses throughout their 24-month military service, which corresponds to almost a full academic year.
According to the education minister, the initiative is launched with the aid of the Cyprus Open University (COU) which uses the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS). ECTS is considered the standard for comparing the study attainment and performance of students of higher education across the EU. Each class successfully completed corresponds to 10 ECTS-credits. A total of 60 ECTS-credits is usually considered equivalent to a full academic year.
“We expect this to benefit not only them but their families also. Through this initiative their stay at a university will be decreased since their will already have completed some courses, which in turn means that they would join the workforce earlier. At the same time they will use their leisure time in the army productively and get acquainted with new technologies,” said Kadis.
The university fees, coming up to €36,000, will be covered by both the defence and education ministries.
The conscripts selected for the pilot programme will come from forward garrisons or other remote army camps, said Fokaides, stressing that their selection would be carried out based on their economic status. The conscripts will attend classes in their free time so that their military service isn’t affected.
“Our goal is to make military service as useful and productive for our soldiers as possible. This is only the first one of a number of initiatives we are working on,” said Fokaides, explaining that offering this service would also decrease draft-dodging.
COU professor Costas Christou said that courses would be tailored to accommodate the needs of the conscripts selected. Christou specified that the courses would concern e-business, computer studies or learning a foreign language but he didn’t exclude other courses if the need arose.