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Our View: Education minister should explain what is really at stake

The investigation ordered by Education Minister Costas Kadis attributed the posting of exam questions online before the exams had begun to an error by an official and omissions by other officials. There was no sabotage, as was suggested by some, but bureaucratic sloppiness, which is not unheard of in Cyprus. Kadis said he would propose the appointment of an independent officer to carry out a disciplinary investigation at today’s council of ministers’ meeting, and would also forward the findings to the attorney-general.

It is unlikely the announcement of the findings would put an end to the noise surrounding the matter, which was exploited by groups opposed to the meritocratic appointment system for state school teachers that the government has introduced. Akel and teaching unions, which support the old system of indiscriminate recruitment of graduates through a waiting list, have engaged in a war of words against the ministry, officials and academics in an attempt to discredit the selection of candidates through exams.

They have resorted to a campaign of rumours and innuendo, unearthing alleged conflicts of interest, procedural irregularities and corruption, none of which was substantiated. This does not matter as the objective is to discredit the new merit-based selection process, which the communists and unions do not approve of. On Monday contract teachers led by an Akel-affiliated union staged a protest outside the education ministry demanding the cancellation of the entire exams procedure, which Akel’s education spokesman also called for.

Aware the mistake regarding the publication of the exam questions was corrected by the setting of another day for the five subjects, Akel came up with other flimsy excuses for cancelling the procedure. Fortunately, Kadis held firm, even though he could have been a bit more forceful in defending the new system and the examination service of his ministry, which had administered countless public exams over the years efficiently and professionally without any irregularities reported.

The minister should also have explained why the new system is a big improvement on the old way of recruiting teachers and challenged Akel to give reasons for maintaining the old system that ensures the appointment of unsuitable and inadequate graduates as teachers. He could also point out that it is unheard of anywhere in the world for any organisation to hire people indiscriminately simply on the strength of their having a degree as has been the case in Cyprus for the last 30 years with disastrous results for public education.

And he should explain to Akel and its followers that the primary aim of public schools was to educate children through good teaching and not to provide highly-paid jobs to anyone with a degree regardless of their abilities. This is what is at stake and not the glitch in the exam procedure.

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