IT IS often said by critics of the workings of committee, with ample justification, that a camel is a horse designed by committee. In Cyprus, decision-making by committee has been elevated to the status of religion as we worship concepts such as consensus and stakeholders’ participation, because it is supposedly democracy in action. But this is not necessarily the case as often the alleged search of consensus results in bad decisions, primarily concerned with satisfying all stakeholders rather than providing effective solutions.
The education ministry’s decision to introduce twice-yearly exams at secondary schools is a perfect illustration of what happens when everyone claiming stakeholder status demands and is given a say, in the name of consensus. Originally, twice-yearly exams were to be introduced in the school year that just ended, but this was put off for a year as a compromise brokered by the parties, because teaching unions and parents’ associations were vehemently opposed to the idea. Teenage kids that, ludicrously, were also given a say opposed it as well.
With the teaching unions and the students still against it, a Diko deputy came up with another compromise proposal that is scheduled to be put to the vote at Friday’s House plenum. Panicos Leonidou proposed that twice yearly exams are introduced in instalments. He suggested that the exam be introduced for first-year lyceum students in 2019-’20, then in 2020/’21 to add in year-two students, and the following academic year to include year-three students. Leonidou also submitted proposals on how the final mark of students would be calculated – how many marks the final exam would account for and how many the verbal.
It is plain lunacy, that a deputy has taken it upon himself to rewrite the education ministry’s exams policy, which was probably the result of countless hours of research and study by educationalists. But because the self-interested teachers (they said the new system would involve more work for them) and clueless teenagers did not want twice-yearly exams the exam policy has been rewritten by a deputy whose motives are not good education practices but rather finding a compromise.
If the officials at the education ministry cannot be trusted to forge policy for schools why are we paying them to do this? The parties should just ask the teaching union what suits its members, the teenage students what they want, then get the approval of the parents’ association and then draft a policy that satisfies all of them. This is an education policy designed by committee. It might not be in the best interest of schoolchildren, but it might avert the promised strike by teachers in December.