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Our View: School protests highlight need for leadership not consensus

Students demonstrating against the new school regulations last month

EVERY week the irrationality that has become a feature of Cyprus life is taken a little higher. On Tuesday the confederation of parents’ associations issued an announcement urging political parties to postpone the Friday vote in the legislature on the regulations that would introduce exams at public schools at the end of each semester, to allow time for dialogue.

If the legislature ignored the parents’ plea and voted through the regulations, the parents would consider closing schools in protests. The announcement said: “These measures will be substantive and school closures are not ruled out if the education ministry and parliament continue to ignore the voice of organised parents.” This would be done in order to “safeguard the interests of their children and public schools”.

Have parents in any other country ever threatened to close down schools in protest against the government’s education policy? By so doing they are being as immature as their kids, who staged a protest that turned violent outside the legislature some 10 days ago. They don’t even have the excuse of being hot-headed teenagers. A fine example they are setting their children by resorting to public threats in order to get their way. Then again, teaching unions have secured an enviable standard of living for their members by systematically resorting to such tactics.

These parents should consider gathering outside the legislature on Friday, when the bill is discussed, shouting abuse and throwing objects at policemen, just as their children did a few days earlier. Maybe, by doing so, they would not feel obliged to close down schools.

The absurd behaviour of parents is the direct result of the consensual way of doing things which involves asking the opinion of every interested party before a decision is taken by the government. Rule by committee gives a say to clueless individuals and groups whose only concern is their narrow interests. This is what has happened in the case of the education ministry’s attempt to introduce exams twice a year. The education minister consulted teachers, a group representing students and the confederation of parents, giving them the impression that they should have a say over how public education should be run.

Neither the parents nor the children have any expertise in educational matters and should never have been given a say. The new exam plans should have been sent to the legislature for discussion and approval without any prior consultations with anyone. Cyprus needs leadership – not consensus – to solve its many problems. Indeed, consensus is a major cause of far too many of its burning issues.

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