For the first time, the positive view among Greek Cypriots towards changing the island’s history books and creating common Greek and Turkish Cypriot schools has moved into majority figures, new research by the University of Cyprus Centre for Field Studies (UCYCFS) has found.
According to the results of a survey carried out last month of 501 Greek Cypriots over 18 some 50.3 per cent would now favour teachers and historians from both communities engaging in such a project compared to 29.9 per cent who were not in favour.
In a similar poll in 2010 – the last such one – 40.1 per cent were in favour and 40.9 against.
The issue of changing the history books has been a bone of contention during the terms of successive governments and Cyprus peace processes but no concrete action was ever taken due to reactions from some political parties and teaching quarters.
The 2016 survey also found a significant increase in the percentage of those who would support the creation of common schools with 57 per cent in favour and 24.3 who were not. In 2010 the respective figures were 33.1 per cent and 45.7 per cent.
The majority also favour the creation of the newly-formed bi-communal Technical Committee for Education, set up last year by the leaders of the two communities, with 56.4 per cent agreeing it was needed to help make a Cyprus solution viable. When asked the question, 35.93 per cent said they ‘totally agreed’ and 20.53 per cent said they ‘agreed’.
Some 14.78 per cent said they ‘totally disagreed’ and 9.24 per cent said they ‘disagreed’ while 19.51 per cent said they neither agreed nor disagreed.
Regarding the possible concrete measures that the committee could launch of particular note the survey said was the fact that 62.3 per cent believed that contacts between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot teachers and pupils was positive. One such visit to the north took place recently, and on Thursday Turkish Cypriots will make a reciprocal visit, visiting the School for the Deaf, and a Lyceum and elementary school in Nicosia.
Dr Harris Psaltis, Assistant Professor at the Department of Psychology at the University of Cyprus and Director of UCYCFS, and who is also a member of the bi-communal Technical Committee for Education, headed up the study.
He told the Cyprus Mail on Tuesday the most striking aspect of the poll was the huge shift in attitudes over the past six years, especially on changing the history books. “The most important part is that compared to previous similar research it is the first time a majority supported such views,” he said.
Asked whether any teachers had been polled as part of the survey, Psaltis said they had but that the process of comparing their answers with those of the general public surveyed had not yet been completed. He said the specific survey n education was more or less aligned with a 2015 general survey on attitudes towards Turkish Cypriots in relation to the Cyprus issue, and the poll was also the first time positive views had shifted to an over 50 per cent majority as well.
Through analysis of the results, Pstalis said there was a link between the reduction of prejudice towards the other community and increased support for educational reforms. “In this [new] research, the two go hand in hand with the positive climate.”
Psaltis, told Politis, which published the poll results on Tuesday, that the views of what used to be a minority among Greek Cypriots had now become the majority but the population at large had still not realised the extent of the shift. “This is because we are accustomed to regard these [positive] views as coming from the minority.”