Despite the financial squeeze, the resources allocated to the ministry of education over the past three years has remained constant overall, underscoring this administration’s commitment to fostering learning and culture, Education Minister Costas Kadis said on Monday.
The ministry’s budget for 2017 will be some €2 million higher than that of 2016, Kadis told MPs.
Parliament is currently reviewing the financial statements of each ministry, before approving the 2017 state budget later this year.
The 2017 state budget is the first to be drafted following Cyprus’ exit from the three-year economic adjustment programme.
According to Kadis, the education ministry’s recurrent expenditures for 2017 will be around €11.6 million higher than in 2016, while development-related expenditures have been slashed by €9.6 million.
The overall rise in recurrent expenditures is mainly due to an increase in the payroll, owing to the re-introduction of automatic pay increments to teachers, and to additional hiring.
The reduction in development-related expenditures derives from cutbacks – about €9.2 million – to the ministry’s buildings programme.
Grants to semi-governmental organisations that are under the ministry’s supervision – the Cyprus Sports Organisation, the Cyprus Theatre Organisation and the Youth Board of Cyprus – as well as to the three public universities, would remain constant, Kadis stated.
Responding to a question in parliament, the minister said a study is underway aimed at rationalising resources, including the use of teaching staff, the amount of time educators spend in teaching and administrative duties, and the number of teachers allocated to each school unit.
Discussions are meanwhile ongoing with interested stakeholders, he added.
On higher education, the ministry plans to introduce studies programmes in languages other than the official languages of the Republic (Greek and Turkish).
The ministry is also seeking cooperation agreements with other countries, aimed at attracting more foreign students to the island.
Unimpressed with the minister’s presentation, main opposition Akel insisted that the current administration is gutting public education.
Akel MP Giorgos Georgiou accused the government of implementing a “counter-reform” in public education, based on an austerity drive “that is directed by the World Bank and the IMF”.
In its 2016 edition of the Education and Training Monitor published on Monday, the European Commission said Cyprus has considerably improved its performance on early school leaving and has maintained a very high rate of tertiary educational attainment.
However, the commission added, “persistence of relatively low levels of basic skills and the continued lack of efficiency of public spending in the education system are still major challenges for the country.”