Cyprus Mail

Parents ask why private schools were prepared for closures but state schools weren’t

A pupil learning remotely

The education ministry said on Thursday it was exploring the possibility of introducing online, interactive lessons from next week for final year state school students in an attempt to keep some level of functioning learning after schools were closed until at least March 20.

Final year students, who take their exams in May, will gradually start following distance learning classes on a pilot basis.

“The relevant training of the teachers has already been scheduled,” the announcement said.

But the tardiness and vagueness of the ministry’s online learning plans have angered some parents who ask why private schools could plan ahead of time and have trained staff and remote learning systems in place but the state schools could not.

Many private school students, of all years, were already having remote lessons on Wednesday.

The head of the federation of parents’ association Charalambos Dionysiou told the Cyprus Mail that the closure of schools was a bad development that no one was expecting.

“We cannot blame the ministry for lack of organisation as public health is more important,” he said.

But Cleo Savvas, the mother of a son due to graduate in two months’ time, said she could not understand why the ministry did not already have a system ready to go when it was clear school closures were in the pipeline.

“The ministry should sort it out, and I don’t understand why they can’t do it faster,” she told the Cyprus Mail.

“Teenagers are not disciplined enough to study the material by themselves. They need structure.”

Most private schools started teaching students remotely on Wednesday when the initial closures covering just schools in Nicosia came into effect.

“All teachers and students undertook training by our computer science professor on the application last Wednesday,” a Greek language teacher at the American Academy, Nicosia Artemis Achilleos told the Cyprus Mail on Thursday.

“I was a bit stressed because I don’t do well with technology, but I managed to do all the things I had planned for the lesson in the end.”

The American Academy is a Microsoft-recognised school, and they prepared a detailed plan three weeks before using Microsoft Teams. This allows for large conference calls and is used by many private schools.

Distance learning is not the same as physically being in class – home has many distractions – but it is a practical way to follow classes when one is unable to attend school, private school students told the Cyprus Mail.

“It’s something new and it’s easy to operate,” said a 17-year-old student at the American Academy Pygmaleon Neocleous after his online classes on Thursday.

“It helps us not stay behind in our classes,” he said, “but I found it a bit harder to concentrate.”

A student at the Senior School in Nicosia, 16-year-old Maddie Theodoulou, said her lessons on Thursday through the Microsoft application were efficient and easy to follow from home.

“There is an interactive white board and we had access to Power Point presentations or notes given by our teachers,” she said. “We could talk to our teachers and hear other students’ questions.”

Nicosia’s Grammar School, a Microsoft showcase school for the past five years, said it has a well-established virtual workplace where students and teachers collaborate in one centralised location.

This meant the school was well-prepared for its enforced closure and an online learning platform was set up from Day 1 for teachers to deliver their lessons.

“This transition was easily adopted on the same day as Grammar School teachers have had essential training and certifications needed to utilise all the latest educational software in the online classroom, ” said Tonia Galati, head of the school’s innovation department.

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