By Angelos Anastasiou
Enrolment to any programme of study at the University of Cyprus should be freely available to all for the first year, with only the best and brightest making it to year two, UCy rector Constantinos Christofides has proposed to Education minister Costas Kadis.
Representing the University of Cyprus at a meeting organised by the Education ministry, in which it asked for suggestions by representatives of primary, secondary and tertiary education boards for the separation of the so-called Pancyprian examinations into distinct school-leaving and university-entry exams, Christofides tabled his radical idea to a dumbfounded audience.
The proposal described a system similar to the French model, in which Pancyprian examinations for entry to the state university, as well as state schools in Greece would be abolished and every applicant to study at UCy would be accepted unconditionally in the programme of their choice for the first year of study.
At the end of the first year, Christofides explained, only those scoring the highest in the programme’s courses would progress, according to the capacity of each department of study.
The rector said the cost of this system is estimated to be approximately €5 million per year, which is “not prohibitive” as it is only marginally higher than the cost of the Pancyprian examinations.
Such an arrangement, he added, would also allow public secondary schools to focus on their true role – the school-leaving certificate – and relieve students of the added burden of after-school tutoring classes.
The current format encourages secondary-school teachers and students to focus on preparing for the Pancyprian exams in order to gain entry to state universities, thus casting elective or non-major subjects in a less favourable light.
In turn, this translates to increased private tutoring for students in the final years of secondary education – often forcing them to bear a hectic schedule – to ensure success in the one-off school-leaving and university-entry exams.
“In fact, I have not yet formally presented my proposal,” Christofides told the Cyprus Mail.
“This is a model used in France, Germany, and Austria. The university can cope with the extra students with an added budget of €5 million. It will do away with the private-tutoring industry once and for all.”
Kadis said he would be willing to discuss Christofides’ proposal, if and when it is fleshed out and submitted.
Unnamed sources present at Wednesday’s meeting said the only one who dismissed the rector’s bold suggestion right off the bat was the secondary-school teachers’ union rep Demetris Taliadoros, suggesting that they stood to lose the most if the proposal were adopted.
Meanwhile, the ministry’s proposal calls for the separation of the Pancyprian examinations into two separate exams – one to determine graduation from secondary school and one to determine entry to a state university – and the introduction of mid-term examinations to facilitate better formative evaluation.
Further, the ministry proposes that resits of exams that students have failed be moved up to June – instead of September – and students taking them be offered two-week booster courses.
The Education ministry has allowed political party and education board representatives until October 30 to submit their views on the proposals in writing.
The aim is to come up with a definitive proposal in a bill that will be brought to parliament before the end of 2015 so that the new examination system can be adopted for the next academic period, starting in September 2016.