Discussion on alternative admission of private-school graduates in Cyprus’ public universities will resume next week at the House education committee, with ruling DISY having stated its intention of having the regulations taken to a plenary vote before parliament disbands ahead of May’s legislative election.
Teacher unions oppose the measure and main opposition AKEL expressed reservations, while the organised parents of private-schoolchildren welcome the discussion.
The committee session was attended by Education Minister Costas Kadis, who told reporters that the agenda included the ministry’s proposal to take over the administration of the annual Pancyprian examinations, through which university spots are distributed, so as to include all school-leavers, from private and public schools alike.
Kadis added that the regulations safeguard knowledge of the Greek language, as the exam for this subject will be common for all candidates, while exam-sitters will have the option of sitting the rest of the exams either in Greek or English.
“These procedures satisfy the concerns raised in the past,” he noted, adding that the proposed procedure does not affect public-school students, since nothing changes as far as public schools are concerned.
The number of university spots on offer through the Pancyprian exams will remain unchanged, with added spots available to all, as is the case in many other European countries, he said.
The alternative procedure will allow private-school graduates easier access to their country’s public universities, the education minister said, adding that the proposal addresses an issue dating back almost a decade.
Kadis expressed the hope that the regulations will be approved before parliament disbands.
AKEL deputy Andros Kafkalias said that AKEL wants private-school graduates in public universities, but added that the new circumstances created by the financial crisis cause some concern, as Cypriot universities are an option for children who can’t afford to study abroad.
“We mustn’t adjust the educational system to fit private schools,” Kafkalias said.
DIKO deputy Athina Kyriakidou argued that the state has an obligation to offer all students equal opportunities for access to its public universities.
Speaking on behalf of all teacher unions, OELMEK’s Demetris Taliadoros strongly opposed the government’s proposal, because “the necessary dialogue with teacher unions was not held”.
“Children from private schools had the right to take the Pancyprian exams, and many did,” Taliadoros said.
“The attempt is to fit the education system to the measures of private schools.”
According to Taliadoros, a proposal for preferential treatment is “unheard of”. The teacher union’s leader cited the University of Cyprus’ former vice-rector, who described the proposed arrangement as “admission to the universities through the back door”.
He added that the proposal puts the irreproachability of Pancyprian exams at risk.
Nicos Shialis, spokesman for the organised parents of private-school students, said the proposal is a fair and just system.
He added that the parents of students at private schools are equally taxpaying citizens.
Shialis added that the private-school education system is different to the public one, and private-school graduates “can’t sit the exams in the same way as public-school graduates”.
“They don’t even want to hear about private-school children,” he said of detractors, describing their stance as “heartless”.