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Our View: Pointless debate over exams must stop

Education Minister Costas Hambiaouris

THE introduction of four-monthly exams at state secondary schools, like most things to do with a public education system run by unions and associations has degenerated into farce. This was evident, once again on Wednesday, when education minister Costas Hambiaouris informed the House education committee that four-monthly exams would be introduced in the new school year and there would not be another postponement.

The system, whereby students would sit exams twice a year instead of once at the end of the year, was to have been introduced from last September, but was postponed because of pressure from political parties, teaching unions, parents’ associations and the students’ organisation. The government bowed to the pressure in a spirit of compromise in the hope opposition would weaken a year later, but it should have known better.

All the same objections were voiced at Wednesday’s committee meeting, led by the reactionary deputies of Akel, which said it would table a bill that would scrap the law for four-monthly exams, on the grounds there was a need for a comprehensive system for evaluating students, even though the minister had presented one. Akel’s main argument, however, was that the minister ignored the views of teaching unions, parents and students.

In Cyprus’ crazy world of consensus, everyone has a say in how the public education system must operate no matter how clueless they might be. Are parents qualified to decide how many times a year there will be exams? On what educational reasoning do they base their opposition to twice-yearly exams, that the ministry believes would encourage students to study more methodically rather than do very little until the big final year exams?

The lunacy reaches its climax by involving the teenage kids in the decision-making; the representatives of their organisation, have been invited to the House and to meetings with the education minister to give their views, as if they have valid views. Predictably, they are opposed to twice-yearly exams and announced they would “resist until the law is amended and these are scrapped.” Akel schools the children in unionised behaviour.

The only views that could be taken into account are those of the teachers, but could they be taken seriously either considering their number one priority is to do as little work as possible? The opposition could well be motivated by interest in their own well-being rather than educational principles, which their unions do not rate highly.

This is why all this sterile debate must stop. The ministry of education has decided that four-monthly exams will raise education standards, the law for this change has been approved and the new system must be introduced from the new school year. The change might not have the desired results but we will not know this until it is tried for a few years. What we do know is that one of the main reasons for public education failing is because teaching unions and parents’ association have a big say in how it works.

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