Discussing the 2022 budget for the ministry of education at the House education committee minister Prodromos Prodromou said the target was to submit the plan for the evaluation of teachers and their performance for approval before the end of the year. Introduction of the scheme was one of the targets the government had to meet to receive money under the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Plan.

We should be thankful to the European Commission because without it setting conditions for the release of funds no reforms would take place, especially in the public sector which is controlled by powerful unions opposed to any change. Education ministers of different governments have for decades tried to introduce a proper evaluation system but encountered the obstruction tactics of the teaching unions which did not want their members’ work to be evaluated as this would put an end to the promotion of lazy and incompetent teachers.

Public sector unions have always defended the principle of mediocrity as this is what they base their power on as it allows them to maintain a strong hold over their members. The unions insist that the only criterion for promotion should be seniority – years of service – regardless of ability and job performance. In short, the biggest enemies of meritocracy in the public sector are not the political parties with their nepotistic practices, which also contribute, but the unions with their uncompromising promotion of seniority.

A few weeks ago Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides expressed outrage at the fact that Pasydy had renounced an agreement on a new way of administering promotions in the public service, insisting that seniority should remain the main criterion. The government had formulated a much fairer system which would allow employees to apply for senior posts that involved being tested orally and in writing. Although it had originally agreed to this, Pasydy subsequently changed its mind, angering the minister.

The dispute now remains, even though less than two months are left for the reform to be approved – the release of the first tranche of EU funding, at the beginning of next year, is conditional on the public service reform being implemented by the end of 2021. The introduction of the evaluation of teachers also has to be done this year, but no agreement has been reached yet. All Prodromou was prepared to say on Monday was that the dialogue with the unions was at an advanced stage, whatever that means.

The fact the ministry is discussing with unions how it will evaluate teachers suggests it will not be a proper evaluation system. It is a shame that ministries are trying to reform the public sector by securing the consensus of the unions when they could take a tougher line citing the EU funding. Consensus solutions mean reform will be only in name.