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Our View: Stakeholder participation is being taken to absurd extremes

We know that stakeholder participation has been the political trend, for years now, championed by the EU as a democratic and inclusive form of decision-making. In Cyprus, however, we have taken this practice, which could be very constructive if exercised prudently, to an absurd extreme. Nothing illustrates this better than the situation at public schools, in the running of which parents’ associations and teenage students have been given too big a say, resulting in chaos.

Since the start of the new school year, there have been several cases of a school’s parents’ association deciding the suspension of classes because of Covid-19 cases among a few students. The association completely ignores the education ministry policy, which has specific actions for dealing with such a situation that do not include closing down the school. The problem is that the ministry can do nothing when a parents’ association decides, in its wisdom, that the school must close down. It cannot fine it, suspend its operation or suffer the consequences of the unnecessary chaos it creates for the school.

These associations wield great power nowadays. When the lockdown in Paphos and Limassol was announced representatives of parents’ associations were protesting because the third form lyceum students in these districts would supposedly be at a disadvantage, having to engage in distance learning. The ministry ignored these protests, but this is the type of contribution these associations make as stakeholders in public education.

Currently, the confederation of parents’ associations has gone into alliance with the laughable, secondary school students’ union, Psem – a group that in any other country nobody would listen to let alone, take seriously – in demanding the January exams are cancelled because of the pandemic.

This joke organisation has also demanded the reduction of the curriculum for this year and this to be reflected in final year exams. Schoolkids, who always want an easier school life, are now using the pandemic as a pretext to demand it and they have the full support of the parents’ association and those other champions of the easy life – teaching unions.

These three stakeholders’ groups have decided this January’s exams must be cancelled because the pandemic caused problems and inequalities for students! Using the pandemic as a pretext, they are arguing for students to be short-changed educationally and expectations of them to be lowered. And when students are unable to get into university because of the lowering of standards, who will be to blame?

Today, lyceum and technical school students will stage a two-hour walkout from classes to push the demand for lower educational standards – no exams in January, a truncated curriculum and easier final year exams – a demand parents associations fully support. This is not stakeholder democracy, it is a case of lunatics taking control of the asylum.

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