When in the previous week, it was announced that parents’ associations of two schools in Limassol were planning a protest about the sheer volume of the school curriculum, many would have thought it was a joke. What made parents’ associations eligible to decide how big the school curriculum should be? Did the parents have any expertise on education to qualify as advisors of the education ministry or had the associations hired the services of educational experts, to help them formulate their strong views about the curriculum?
We suspect they were protesting about the curriculum because their children were complaining that they had too much work to do, especially after experiencing the reduced curriculum size during the pandemic, when schools were closed for long stretches of time. Presumably they believe that as it had been reduced in the past it can be reduced again, especially as this was what their children were demanding. To pressure the education ministry, the parents’ associations of two schools in Limassol arranged for their children to boycott classes for one hour on Tuesday as a warning.
Only in Cyprus, where union attitudes are so entrenched could parents’ groups be telling their kids to boycott classes as a protest measure. It gets worse. A representative of the parents’ association has warned that if the education ministry did not respond to a letter containing their demands by Friday, the schools would be shut down! The parents were prepared to deprive their children of schooling, in order to impose their dubious educational ideas on the ministry, thus promoting the idea among their children that it is fine to break school rules.
Apart from the smaller curriculum, protesting parents also want the scrapping of the twice-yearly exams, which has become the cause of teaching unions, opposition parties and the students’ association. They have no rational educational argument to back this demand, which is a slogan rather than a legitimate proposal. This bizarre alliance of teaching unions, opposition politicians, parents and schoolkids has been railing against the twice-yearly exams, ever since their introduction a few years ago. Last week the Diko president of the House education committee said he would undertake to scrap the new exam regime, while Akel has described it as a ‘pedagogical crime’.
Education minister Prodromos Prodromou, who has become a hate figure for introducing the new exam regime, has refused to back down, arguing that this was a much more reliable way of evaluating students and monitoring their progress over a school year. Such rationality is completely lacking from the approach of the parents, who seem to have decided that education should be shaped along the lines that their teenage children want.