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Twice-yearly exams proposal ready within the week, education minister says

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The education ministry’s proposal for an alternative to twice-yearly exams will be ready within the week after it is examined by the legal service, Education Minister Athena Michaelidou said on Wednesday.

She was speaking after attending a House education committee session, where the “urgent” issue, as she said, was prioritised.

“We are working on two levels,” she told reporters, explaining that one level is the present school year, which calls for a timely solution.

At the same time, she added that “the most important thing is for us to complete consultations about long-term planning, meaning how our pupils will be evaluated in the coming years”.

Quizzed on what is on the table when it comes to moving beyond twice-yearly exams, Michaelidou said that the intention is to look at student evaluation in a more holistic rather than fragmentary way.

This connects to more pedagogical measures such as the decluttering of learning material, modern teaching approaches and other solutions which will be included in the ministry’s proposal, she said.

She also specified that a proposal for the scrapping of the exams would need to be submitted to the House for consideration by her ministry, and not by individual parties.

Asked whether the twice-yearly exam system would be restructured or replaced with something new altogether, the minister said that the idea would be to keep some of the positive aspects of its philosophy, such as dividing the material into two parts, among others.

House education committee chair Pavlos Mylonas said deputies would wait to see the ministry’s final proposal, adding however that “both personally, and as part of Diko together with my colleague Chrysanthos Savvides, as well as the party’s education faction, I have decided to back the efforts to abolish twice-yearly exams”.

He added that the committee would begin discussing the matter towards the end of the month after completing discussions on university budgets.

“We understand that there is no time, and we respect the positions of the executive power, but we will move forward for the abolishing of the exams, if and as long as there is a common understanding and path,” he added.

“If not, we will see how things will develop”.

Disy deputy Giorgos Karoullas called twice-yearly exams a major issue concerning the public at the moment, adding that his party will always advocate any improvements that are agreed upon “in the context of a specific and structured dialogue with all involved.

He added that the institution of twice-yearly exams has many advantages which must be put on the table alongside its weaknesses and issues that have been identified, to come up with a new, reliable evaluation system, “always for the benefit of the children and of our education system”.

The government’s position on the issue is still not entirely clear, but the only certainty is that the exams in their current form cannot be maintained, Christos Christofides of Akel said.

“For us, it is crucial that this pattern, with schools closing for a month with no classes, and the pressure placed on children, finally ends – and it will end, one way or another,” he added.

Commenting on the education minister’s statements, he said they bordered on “constructive vagueness; there will be amendments, but it is not clear what they will be,” he said.

This, he said, raises reasonable questions as “there is a clear commitment from the president, a clear reference to his governance programme and while the position is so clear, we have so much difficulty repeating after the election what Mr. Christodoulides had committed to before that”.

The Akel deputy also recalled the president’s recent statements, where he said that twice-yearly exams have failed and called for legal reforms to abolish them.

Edek deputy Andreas Apostolou also weighed in, saying that his party is “deeply troubled by the failure of the institution,” but was prepared to discuss the matter without excluding any possibilities, including its abolition.

Meanwhile, Alekos Tryfonides of Dipa said that the attorney general’s opinions will be out by Friday, expressing the hope that the first examination, which took place in January, will bear a lower weight than it usually does, 5-10 per cent instead of 40 per cent.

“We expect a new and alternative way of assessing students to come soon, which will not exhaust students and cause them undue stress,” he said.

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