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Our View: Absurdity of consulting children on education policy

Students demanding a say in education policy

IN A COUNTRY in which trade unions are given a say on everything in the name of social consensus and use this illegitimate power to impose their diktats on the rest of society, putting members’ interests above everything, it is inevitable that we witness surreal goings-on.

Not only do we have semi-unionised army officers and policemen demanding work privileges, but a couple of months ago we heard the recently recruited National Guard privates complaining that they had too many night duties each month and they were planning to organise themselves into a union.

Some years ago, a public sector union managed to have the boss of an independent state service sacked because he had installed CCTV in the office area to ensure employees did not skive off work. It was, the union claimed, an invasion of privacy.

Nothing, however, beats the absurdity of having a union of secondary school students that demands to be consulted about educational issues. This union goes by the name of Psem and it is recognised by the minister of education who often invites its teenage leaders to his office to discuss education policy. “My door is always open,” the minister has said in the past after being accused by spotty teenagers of not engaging in dialogue with them.

The ideology of consensus and mindless unionisation dictates that even underage school-kids should have a say in education policy. In well-run countries the education minister’s door would have always been closed to immature teenagers playing the union game, but in Cyprus we are so democratic we give a say to kids who know nothing about education but everything about having an easy life.

Criticising this appalling practice of giving a say to children in the past we had half-jokingly written that before long the school-kids would demand the abolition of exams. They moved a step closer to proving us correct recently by opposing the education ministry’s plan to introduce exams every four months in state secondary schools.

Psem wants the old system of end of year exams to stay in place and has threatened to tell students to boycott classes in protest against the ministry’s decision. It also objects to the re-introduction of school uniform and students being marked as absent when engaging in ‘union business’.

What sort of consensus is it, after all, if we do not consult teenage students over whether they want to sit exams and just impose decisions on them arbitrarily? Angered by this social injustice, Psem on Friday organised a protest march to the House of Representatives where a rowdy mob of students pelted policemen standing guard with stones, sticks, fire-crackers and plastic bottles, while chanting ‘no to more exams’ and ‘no to more experiments with education.’

If the education ministry gives in to the students, who are supported by the federation of parents’ associations, it would not be long before Psem demanded that all exams were abolished and all students received the top grade on their leaving certificates. Entry into university could then be decided by draw or on a ‘first come, first serve’ basis along the lines of the teacher appointment system which completely ignores ability, competence and academic achievement.

In the public sector the unions have ensured all employees receive top marks for job performance, so why should it be different for unionised schoolchildren?

We are happy to report, however, that there have been some signs of resistance to teen unionisation. The House education committee which discussed the new exam regulations on Wednesday did not allow the representatives Psem to give their views at the meeting. It was the second such meeting at which the teenagers were refused a say. A representative of Psem was quoted by Phileleftheros as saying that “we tried to express our opinion at two meetings but our voice was not heard.”

It was about time their voice was ignored. Some deputies acted sensibly and refused to comply with the ridiculous practice of giving them a say, in the name of consensus. They deserve congratulations for taking a rational stand, even though the great consensus champions of Akel were not happy and criticised their Disy colleagues and particularly the chairman of the committee.

At least someone has recognised that limits must be set and that consulting children about education matters is a show not of advanced democracy but of political immaturity and foolishness. Perhaps the education minister, Costas Kadis, who is largely responsible for making teenagers believe they have a legitimate right to a say on education matters will take courage from this and end the absurdity of inviting Psem to his office for consultations. State education is in such a mess that it needs strong leadership, not rule by committees that include clueless children and their parents.

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