Scores of students from Nicosia, Limassol and Paphos skipped school on Thursday to protest outside the education ministry and district offices against a proposal to increase exams in school from once, to twice per year – one every four months.
The protest was instigated by main opposition party AKEL, Education Minister Costas Kadis said.
The students are asking the ministry to cancel the move and adopt their proposal for new ways of assessment such as presentations, cross-curricular work, and assigned projects. This, they said would contribute to the final goal. It would also help weaker students cope since it will offer other means of assessment beyond the standard test.
The ministry’s proposal, it added would result in turning schools into “exam centres”.
The students were mobilised by representatives of the Nicosia, Limassol and Paphos district student bodies (ESEM), who argue that if the ministry’s move was introduced, more students would turn to private tutors as teachers would not have the time needed to teach all material required.
Some students went as far as saying that some might even be forced to quit school as they will not be able to cope financially if they need extra tuition.
Main student body PSEM, under whose authority the district committees come, announced they had nothing to do with the protest. They also said that last week, when a meeting took place at the ministry to discuss the specific issue, the representatives of the three districts which demonstrated failed to show.
Kadis told state broadcaster CyBC, he was baffled because the protesting students had no idea what the proposal entailed as details had not yet been ironed out.
“A few weeks ago we announced the results of a study we had commissioned and there was this suggestion, for which we initiated a dialogue with everyone involved. The final proposal has not yet been announced,” Kadis said. He added that during a meeting that took place to inform students of this proposal, it became clear through their questions that the students did not fully understand what the proposal was about.
“I wonder why these protests are taking place,” Kadis said. He added that it emerged during that meeting that there was a lot of misinformation going around.
“It is clear that where district student committees are controlled by AKEL, we are faced with protests,” Kadis said.
The proposed measure did not come from him, Kadis said. It was a suggestion from the scientific committee appointed to evaluate the education system.
Kadis said that the measure aimed to provide timely support to students because if they fail the first exam they can be worked with to pass the next one. At the moment he said, the students’ energies are focused on the one final exam, and if something goes wrong, if they are ill or face some other problem, their efforts go down the drain.
He said he would rather them going inside the ministry to discuss the issue rather than “yelling outside”.
Kadis’ statements angered AKEL. Christos Christophides, member of the politburo, blamed the minister for interfering in the latest student elections.
The ministry’s new proposal, he said aimed at creating an “exam industry”. Everyone’s efforts would be focused on students’ success, which would benefit private tutors. Some families, he added, did not have the means to send their children to private classes and they would end up marginalised, he said.