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Cyprus Education

Striking students to be punished says ministry

Secondary-school student union Psem’s decision to call a one-period universal strike of all students in lyceums and technical schools on Wednesday morning in protest of education reform will result in every participant being awarded an ‘unjustified’ absence, the education ministry said on Tuesday.

On Monday, Psem issued a statement calling a general strike by students in all public lyceums and technical schools for the third period on Wednesday as a means to apply pressure on Education Minister Costas Kadis to abort the planned introduction of mid-term exams and increased testing during the academic year.

The regulations are slated for plenary vote in parliament next month.

“The key issue our peers raised at general assemblies has been the rejection of the increase in the number of tests and the mid-year exams,” the union said.

“We believe the measure will turn the school into a large examination centre, with students in constant agony over exams and in a perpetual race to prepare for them.”

Psem added that it raised these concerns with Kadis in a meeting last month, but was faced with firm rejection.

The union responded by organising a referendum in all schools across Cyprus, which – it claimed – vindicated its views.

In its statement, Psem cited school regulations permitting students to participate unobstructed in their union’s “events”.

“The strike is a Psem event and should be regarded as such,” it said.

In a statement of response, the ministry said it was shocked by the student union’s announcement, but argued that the previous Psem council had participated in the formulation of, and agreed with, the proposed reforms.

“Psem’s new council is expressing completely different approaches to those expressed by Psem last year,” the ministry protested.

“The ministry, and the state in general, cannot be expected to accommodate the diverging views expressed by each Psem council.”

With regard to the ‘referendum’ the union organised, the ministry added, under no circumstances can it be considered valid since some of the questions were pointless, while others were phrased in a misleading manner, “resulting in obscuring the true will of the students”.

“For instance, there was a question on the education ministry’s new policy on uniforms, when the new regulations change nothing on the issue,” the ministry said.

In any case, it added, student absences from class for protests staged by student unions cannot be considered justified.

“According to school regulations, students abstaining from class on Wednesday will be awarded an unjustified absence from the class,” it warned.

The union replied to the ministry’s argument of non-accommodation of different views coming with each union leadership by defending plurality.

“Psem’s views and opinions change every year, reflecting the change in the people comprising the council,” it said.

“By the same logic, policies and views on any given topic would remain unchanged with every new government. Is the minister obliged to follow the decisions of previous ministers on all matters relating to education?”

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