By Loucas Charalambous
WHAT a relief that Cyprus is nothing like Japan, because if it were half the teachers in secondary education would have committed suicide in the last week. This is the first thought that comes to mind seeing the results of this year’s national exams for university entry.
Not that they were much better than those of previous years, but for Greek these were the worst in history. The average mark fell to 7.97 out of 20, compared to 9.48 in 2014 and 9.52 in 2013.
The president of OELMEK, the secondary teachers union, Demetris Taliadoros, instead of hiding himself because of shame for the achievements of the teachers (they are mainly to blame), had the nerve to make public statements. He said: “This year both the candidates and their parents are crying. The results justify the criticism exercised by philologists about the exam essay (in Greek).”
But Taliadoros, who every so often closes schools to demand more benefits for teachers that produce semi-educated students, did not tell us what was to blame in the previous years when the average mark for Greek was also below the pass mark. Was the essay question always to blame?
After all, the problem is not restricted to Greek. The situation is almost same for all subjects. Even in history the average mark was below the pass mark at 9.75. There was no difficult essay question in history to confuse students so it would be interesting for Taliadoros to tell us what was to blame in this case.
I calculated the percentage of students that failed to score results above the pass mark of 10 in all the subjects. In Greek it was 8,588 students (74.76 per cent), in biology 1152 (60.79 per cent), in history 598 (56.47 per cent), in maths 1,319 (45.37 per cent), in physics 675 (37.62 per cent) and in chemistry 194 (27.13 per cent). For Greek, one in four students received a mark below 5 (out of 20) and this after some leniency was exercised in the marking because of the uproar over the ‘difficult’ essay question.
With these results, the first who should be crying are the teachers who produce all these semi-literate kids, followed by the parents and the students. But more than anyone, it is the president of OELMEK that should be crying for his habit of calling work stoppages at schools every few months over the most trivial issues.
It is apparent that our schools have degenerated into nurseries for illiterates. I do not ignore the responsibilities of parents and the state, but teachers cannot deny the fact that the main blame for poorly performing students is theirs. This becomes even more shocking when we take into account almost every demand they have made with regard to work conditions has been satisfied.
Take for example the reduction in class sizes that was supposedly aimed at improving teaching and raising standards; the real objective of course was the hiring of more teachers. We have reached the stage of class sizes of between 20 and 22 children. Yet our schools continue to produce poorly-educated students. In my time there were between 45 and 55 students in every class. This did not prevent us from acquiring a decent education in sharp contrast to what is happening today, with the schools producing semi-literates that would have difficulty writing their name correctly.
It would also be an omission not to mention the responsibilities of our populist politicians who, having put right all the wrongs of the country, also felt obliged to interfere in education issues. The notorious ‘waiting list system for appointments’, which resulted in filling schools with inadequate teachers and is now in the news because the government has been trying to abolish it, was the joint achievement of union bosses and the demagoguery of our politicians. They also played their part in the production of failing students.