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Our View: Media needs to realise teaching union bosses are not in it for education

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There is a strange habit in the Cyprus media always to seek the opinions of teaching union bosses about public schools and education ministry policy. For the last couple of years, for example, they have been campaigning against twice-yearly exams, criticizing the ministry’s decision and encouraging parents’ associations – not to mention unionised schoolkids – to do the same. They had not even given the new policy a chance, slamming it every time gymnasium exams were held.

At the start of every school year, teaching union bosses parade through the media, supposedly to inform us that schools are ready. Invariably they complain about something that has nothing to do with education, such as uncompleted maintenance or building works and the lack of air conditioning units in classes. The latter has been a recurrent complaint of union bosses, as if it were the biggest problem facing public education. Consistently disappointing results, for union bosses, are of much lesser concern than the lack of ACs in the classroom.

This is perfectly understandable, considering that union bosses are not elected for their deep knowledge of educational and teaching issues, but in order to the protect and further the interests of their members. They are elected on the promise of making things better for their members (securing them an even easier working life) and not because they have any commitment to improving educational standards. If they had such a commitment, they would not have become union officials.

As union officials they do not have to set foot in a classroom and teach, their sole responsibility being sitting in the union offices thinking of reasons for rows with the education ministry, so as to show members they are doing their job well. Considering that re-election is the only way to hold on to this cushy job that involves no teaching, elected officials will do everything they can to win support of union members. Making teachers’ working life easier is their priority even if teaching standards suffer as a result.

In seeking the opinions of teaching union bosses about educational issues, journalists and news show hosts are not serving public education. They do not seem to understand that these individuals have no expertise in educational matters as they are paid to only have a union perspective. Their views should only be sought about work disputes, collective agreements and ACs in classrooms – not about the curriculum, frequency of exams, student evaluations or teacher evaluations that union bosses have been preventing for years now.

It is high time news media professionals understood that teaching union bosses only care about their members’ interests and stop seeking their opinions about public education, that they have managed to reduce into an ongoing industrial dispute in which the education of children is an irrelevance.

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