By Dr Panayiotis K Mavros
The relentless attack launched on the University of Cyprus and the Technological University by the school teachers unions Oelmek, Oltek and Poed regarding the allocation of vacant places for students with GCE and international qualifications, which does not affect the ones allocated for state school students, should be recorded in the Guinness Book of Records.
The unions’ stance is undoubtedly outrageous and illogical constituting a uniquely universal phenomenon for a teachers’ union to insist on setting the criteria for admission to an autonomous academic institution.
The naive arguments on the above issue forwarded by the teachers’ unions can be regarded as the culmination of irrationality, which victimises private school students. To start with, I feel confident in stating that the public universities of Cyprus should demand the allocation of 10 per cent places since the privately educated students constitute 17 per cent of the whole school population. Besides, a university’s institutional autonomy and prestige should in no way be ridiculed by a teachers’ union.
The unions’ argument that the state National University Entrance Exams (NUEE) are more difficult that the GCE A level exams strikingly betrays their ignorance concerning exams of this nature, for a GCE A level exam is not only stiffer than the NUEE but more importantly contains questions which require critical and creative thinking that in no way can the candidate find in a book in order to memorise and drily transfer onto the paper.
As regards the unions’ claim that the aforementioned proposal does not do justice to state school students, we state without qualifications that the unfair discrimination concerns private school students who up to now have been obliged to sit for the NUEE although they have chosen to follow a different curriculum with the blessing and recognition of the state, which leads to international qualifications. Thousands of state-educated Cypriot students are admitted to good British universities with their Lyceum Leaving Certificate. Would they be happy if they were required to succeed in three or four GCE A Level subjects, the standard requirement British students should meet?
These facts, of course, are regarded as trivialities by the teachers’ unions who are labouring under the delusion that they can always have their own way. Can one name a single university worldwide with absolute uniformity as regards admission criteria without having the authority to differentiate the above criteria according to its wise judgement? It seems that only teachers’ unions can…
Concluding I would like to point out that privately educated students live in a democratic country and choose the school of their taste also bearing the financial burden which, by the way, relieves the government of €12000 for each student a year. Therefore, we should respect their choice which entitles them to a place in Cyprus’ public universities with their GCE qualifications based on their curriculum which is recognised by the state. And we should firmly bear in mind that private school students are also our own children. Consequently, it is the state’s utmost duty to also provide for them and help them in any and every way.
After all private schools do not constitute a threat to state schools since there is no measure of comparison as regards standards due to the fact that private schools are mostly selective, which speaks for itself.
Dr Panayiotis K. Mavros BA, MA, PhD is a former Secondary Education Inspector and Chief Education Officer, Ministry of Education and Culture