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Digital minister expects mixed system when school reopen

Kyriacos Kokkinos

The government wants all pupils to have access to remote education if necessary and any personal data issues should be resolved by the education minister and the data commissioner, a senior official said on Tuesday.

Research, Innovation, and Digital Policy Minister Kyriacos Kokkinos said based on the current epidemiological situation, he expected the new school year to involve a mixed system of classroom and remote learning.

But if things worsened, education should be able to go fully online, Kokkinos said.

“What we must have in place is readiness for full remote education and no physical presence of pupils in classrooms,” he said. “This is the toughest scenario, which is not the desirable one but when we make our preparations, we should be ready” for it.

Kokkinos warned however that it will not be all smooth sailing when schools officially open on September 7.

The minister said preparations started at the end of May. It involved upgrading school infrastructure to be able to handle remote education.

“If there are any small problems, we will resolve them on the way,” he said.

Of any personal data issues, mostly raised by teachers during the previous school year, Kokkinos said there were two key questions: whether the teacher will be able to see the pupil at home “and the answer is no,” and whether the pupil would have access to the blackboard, their fellow pupils, and the teacher or just have audio connection and not visual.

“The answer to this is that they must have access to the board at least – it is desirable to have access to the board and the teacher – but not their fellow pupils,” Kokkinos said.

These matters should be resolved by the personal data commissioner and the education ministry, he added.

Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou said on Monday the government would seek to ensure classroom instruction as far as possible, though a lot would depend on the prevalence of the coronavirus, which can change from one week to the next.

The minister said no final decisions have been made pending the instructions and advice of the government’s team of experts.

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou is expected to meet the government’s scientific advisers on Wednesday where schools are set to be one of the main topics of discussion.

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