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Cyprus

Audit official slams ‘provocative’ teachers’ perks in new onslaught

Primary and secondary school teachers enjoy a host of perks, the rationale for which has never been accounted for by means of a best-practices study, Audit Service senior official Akis Hadjiosif told state radio on Friday.

The official was commenting on criticism by teacher unions against the Audit Service, which questioned practices followed in public education in a letter to the Ministry of Education last month.

“A lot has been said over the last few days, but what is being ignored is that we have been repeating what we said in the letter in our annual reports over the last 10 years,” Hadjiosif said.

All that the Audit Service has asked for, he added, is for a best-practices study suggesting whether extravagant privileges enjoyed by public-school teachers are warranted, and their merit backed by evidence.

“If the studies prove that [the perks] do not constitute the squandering of public money, then all is well – we cannot argue with the experts,” Hadjiosif said.

“We don’t dictate policy – unless the policy is to squander public funds and a lack of transparency.”

The Audit Service official went on to give various examples of what he considers excessive privileges granted to teachers.

“While the broader public sector works a weekly 38 hours, teachers work 30 – that’s a full day less per week,” he said.

“They also don’t work, but are paid, for prolonged periods of the years – Christmas, Easter, the summer. Does this happen, we ask, in other countries, or in other fields of employment?”

Reiterating that the answers to these questions must come from studies of best practices “in countries better than us,” Hadjiosif listed further examples.

“In secondary schools, teachers are in the classroom teaching 15 hours, or roughly half, per week,” he said.

“The remaining 15 are obviously used for other purposes having to do with their job, and yet there are many cases in which teachers get exemptions from the 15 hours they are supposed to be teaching. Now, obviously, the 15 hours allocated for other purposes are not enough for them, but is there a study somewhere? Is there any evidence supporting this proposition?”

According to Hadjiosif, there are yet more absurd examples to be addressed.

“Once a month, the faculty of secondary schools have a meeting, and the teacher assigned with minute-keeping is exempted for two teaching periods per week for the entire year,” he explained.

“And this when the schools employ secretarial staff, and also has deputy headmasters, who teach a maximum 10 periods a week.”

A similar arrangement exists for teachers assigned the task of preparing the school schedule – once a year – gets exempted for five teaching periods per week, for the entire year.

“Is this reasonable? Is it not provocative? What study has shown that it takes five teaching hours a week to draft the schedule?”

Hadjiosif came close to losing his cool when the radio host pointed out that teachers spend less time in the classroom as they get more experienced.

“When teachers first enter the public school, they teach 24 periods in primary school and 29 in secondary schools,” Hadjiosif said.

“As the years go by, and they become more experienced, and they get promoted, and they get paid more, they teach less hours. When we asked about this, we were told that physical strength deteriorates with age, and that the biological factor comes in. Well, why doesn’t this ‘biological factor’ count for me or you?”


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