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Our View: Students can’t be blamed over skipping school for private tuition

SECONDARY school teachers have been complaining because many of the institutes offering private lessons had opened and were operating in the mornings, before the state schools had closed for the Easter break. This resulted in many children not going to school in order to go to institutes which normally operate in the afternoons.

The head of OELMEK, the secondary school teachers union, Demetris Taliadoros confirmed this was the case, according to a report in Phileleftheros, and said the phenomenon constituted one of the diseases of the education system. He said it was unacceptable that students, instead of attending their school lessons, chose the institutes in order to prepare for the end of year pancyprian exams, on which a place at university depended.

Taliadoros’ proposed solution was a change in the school regulations so that unjustified absences were not tolerated and justified absences were limited. He also proposed the establishment of “support teaching”, which would most probably lead to the hiring of even more teachers for state schools, because this is how the union solves problems. Meanwhile, the education ministry has prepared new regulations that would treat unjustified absences as a punishable disciplinary offence and restrict the number of justified absences.

How predictable that both the union and the education ministry are addressing the symptoms rather than the disease. Neither has asked the question why so many students use the private institutes for additional learning and are even willing to miss school, because they would rather not answer it. It is because standards at state schools are very low and students that want to get a place at a public university in Cyprus or in Greece feel they need additional teaching if they are to be successful. Could we blame them?

Parents would not be paying money for extra tuition if they believed state schools were providing all the help their children needed to pass the pancyprian exams with good results. Unfortunately this is not the case and everyone knows it. In fact many of teachers, members of OELMEK, give afternoon private lessons to state school students, which is why the union only protested about institutes working during school time. It has never asked about the phenomenon of afternoon private lessons at institutes or teachers’ homes which is a very lucrative industry. Thousands of students go to institutes in the afternoons because the education offered at state schools is substandard.

This was noted in European Union report released a couple of weeks ago. If OELMEK and the education ministry want to stop children skiving off school and going to institutes they should work at raising standards rather than changing the regulations on absences.

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