CYPRUS had the worst performing students in the EU in 2015, according to the latest education survey by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) of the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In fact, Cyprus’ scores had deteriorated in all the three subjects in which 15-year-old students were tested – sciences, literacy, maths – since 2012, the last time the survey had been conducted.
Seventy-two countries had participated in the survey with Cyprus students finishing in 49th place overall below many poorer countries. These are appalling results for a country which spends so much on education and has the second highest paid teachers in the EU. We are getting a very poor return on our investment, considering the education standards are higher in much poorer countries. Our students have scored well below the average set by the OECD.
We have written on countless occasions that the main reason for Cyprus’ poor education standards is because state education is run by teaching unions and has been designed to serve the interests of teachers rather than students. The education ministry still uses for teachers’ appointments the criminal ‘waiting list’ which ensures that even the most unsuitable and inept graduates become teachers who entered the classroom without any training. Individual teachers’ work performance has never been properly evaluated, while teaching methods are the same as 50 years ago.
If public education was treated as a business this situation would never have been allowed to continue. First, shareholders would not allow the unions to run the operation; second, the employees would not receive generous pay rises every year regardless of performance; third, management would improve its recruitment methods in order to exclude unproductive and unsuitable applicants from being employed; fourth, if the standard of the service it was providing kept falling it would have changed work practices and carried out a radical re-organisation; fifth, it would have got rid of unproductive workers and ineffective managers; and sixth, it would have linked annual pay rises to productivity.
None of this has taken place in public education. Teachers are guaranteed their pay rises regardless of how poor they might be at their job, anyone with a degree and little else is hired, and nobody is allowed to do anything to change things. The politicians are too scared of the unions – the current education minister is a classic example of this cowardice – to undertake radical change, but worst of all the parents never complain. For education standards to improve there needs to be a revolution, but unfortunately there is nobody prepared to stage it, not even the parents of the children that are being so badly let down.