Should we be cheering, that the government has finally woken up to the absurdity of giving a say to teenage students about education policy? At long last President Anastasiades took a stand on the matter on Thursday night a few hours after secondary students had boycotted classes for four periods to stop the introduction of twice-yearly exams.
Speaking to the teachers’ movement Allagi, the president reminded his audience that it is the responsibility of the government to shape education policy and then said: “It is with sadness I observe the student movement getting involved and wanting to define policy; to define when, how and where they will be examined. Inconceivable.”
It is inconceivable having clueless and immature teenage students wanting to define the state’s educational policy and practices, but who allowed them to believe they should have a say? It was the education ministers of the Anastasiades government that would invite the leaders of the secondary school students’ union Psem to the ministry to air their views on educational reform. It was the Anastasiades government that allowed the children to have ideas above their station and to think they had a right to give their views on educational reform.
The only view they had, predictably, was that they did not want to sit school exams twice a year. If they got their way on this, they would subsequently demand the abolition of homework as well on the grounds that it was anti-educational. On the issue of the exams they were merely following the example set by teaching union Oelmek, which had threatened strike action even after the twice-yearly exams was enacted into law. The schoolkids behaved in an inconceivable way because they were encouraged to do so by the irresponsible behaviour of their teachers and their treatment as stakeholders by the government.
Anastasiades avoided taking responsibility for this absurd situation, preferring to blame the political parties that encouraged and led the students. He was referring to Akel, without naming it, as everyone knows the party cultivates and promotes unionisation at every opportunity. This is what the party does, but the government could have thwarted Akel’s plans by its education minister refusing to engage in these ludicrous talks with the representatives of the children in the first place.
At least now, the education ministry is taking a firm stand, announcing that the students that boycotted classes on Thursday will suffer the penalties stipulated by school regulations. This is a first step. The next would be for the education ministry to stop all contacts with children’s organisations as a matter of policy. Enough of the absurdity of treating teenagers as adults.