It was encouraging to hear the president of the confederation of parents’ associations of secondary schools lash out against the teaching union Oelmek after its decision to stage a one-hour work stoppage next week to underline its opposition to twice-yearly exams. For a long time, the confederation representing parents sided with the teaching unions, showing an unjustified understanding of their unreasonable positions, and often urging the education ministry to give in to their demands.
On Tuesday, even the president of the confederation, Kyriakos Nikiforou, attacked Oelmek saying its leadership should be “ashamed” for urging its members to support disruptive measures, given that it had agreed to the compromise proposal on twice-yearly exams. The proposal, submitted by a Diko deputy, envisaged the introduction of exams every four months by stages and was approved by the legislature after the union gave its go-ahead. Nikiforou, understandably, was furious that Oelmek was now opposing the compromise it approved a few months ago.
The untrustworthiness of teaching union bosses is nothing new. Last summer, when they were rowing with the government for two months over an extra hour of teaching, the bosses would reach an agreement with the government only to reject it subsequently. Perhaps the union members were more militant than their leaders, who feel obliged to pander to them because they would need their votes when they stand for re-election.
Whatever the reasons, their behaviour is disgraceful and sets a very bad example to the students that are acting as militantly as their teachers. The students’ union, Psem declared it opposed the “criminal measure of examinations every four months,” and would fight it all the way. Is it up to teenage kids to decide how many times a year they will sit exams, even if their demand has the support of their indolent teachers? This is a case of the lunatics taking over the asylum.
That the confederation of parents has finally woken up to the harm being done to public education by the teaching unions is a positive development and a first step towards society forging a united front against them. Teaching unions have been running public education, for the exclusive benefit of their members, while students’ interests are relegated to secondary importance. This disgraceful state of affairs can only be stopped by the rest of society taking a firm stand and refusing to give in to the blackmail of Oelmek which is planning more disruptive action closer to the exam period in December.
These unions must be told, in emphatic terms, by parents, government and the parties that enough is enough – public education is not their ownership and society will no longer give in to their blackmail.