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House eyes extending length of school day

The House education committee on Wednesday began discussions on school opening hours and future plans for all-day schools.

Lawmakers met to review timetables and curriculums in primary, secondary and technical and vocational education, following a proposal by the chairman of the committee, Pavlos Mylonas.

Mylonas proposed the start of lessons in primary schools to begin at 8.00am and in high schools and technical schools at 08.30. He also suggested that the teaching time be extended to 50 minutes from the 45 minutes currently in secondary education and technical education, so that teaching has a substantial effect. A proposal was also made to extend students’ break time.

Directors of primary and secondary education and representatives of the Pedagogical Institute participated in Wednesday’s meeting. President of the primary school teaching union (Poed), Myria Vasiliou, pointed out the need for continuous evaluation, updating and improvement of both the timetables and the curricula, with simultaneous renewal of textbooks and educational material.

Regarding the opening hours of schools, she said that socio-economic implications must be taken into account during discussions. “In any case, Poed declares its readiness to submit substantiated suggestions on issues related to schedules and curriculums and is also ready to discuss comprehensive solutions to improve the operating hours of our schools,” she said.

Mylonas added that the opinions of academics from Cyprus and abroad, will be taken into account in the decision-making process. He highlighted problems such as sleepy children who can’t concentrate during the first two teaching hours as well as the fact that many pupils are late to school.

Additionally, Mylonas stated that the aim is to open a general discussion, which will lead to partial changes, with the ultimate goal being an all-day school.

“It is an opportunity to be ready, so that when the new government takes over, we can proceed with the reform for the implementation of the all-day school,” he said.

In response to the day’s debate, Disy MP Giorgos Karoullas expressed the view that school timetables and curriculums touch on issues that concern society as a whole.

“At Disy we say that the focus is on the child, which is why on behalf of the presidential candidate Averof Neophytou, we begin discussions for the construction of an all-day school at all levels of education, with the aim of improving learning outcomes and our proposal covers the whole education system,” he said.

However, opposition Akel MP Christos Christofias, accused the government of exacerbating the problem of para-education with its decisions.

“The essence of education is primarily the curriculum and it has been proven by the school, which has been formed by this government, that it has failed. Para-education, a timeless problem, has been exacerbated because students, mainly in secondary and technical education, focus on grades and sterile knowledge and not the essence of their education,” he said.

Christofias urged the government to engage in a structured dialogue – even on matters of school hours – to conduct scientific studies for there to be a serious discussion on the matter.

“For us, as Akel, the school opening hours are important. But more important is the content of the teaching, the content of the education provided.”

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