After the meeting of President Nikos Christodoulides with the members of the Education Service Commission, for the submission of its annual report, the government spokesman announced the commencement in September of a “big national dialogue to make attainable the holistic, long-term planning for the modernisation of education.”

Spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis did not specify who would participate in this national dialogue, because the government’s grand visions do not bother with details. Would the confederation of parents’ associations, the students’ body Psem and the teaching unions all participate in this dialogue, now that their alliance has succeeded in scrapping the twice-yearly exams, without citing a single educational argument?

Presumably, exams were preventing the modernisation and upgrading of public education, for these self-proclaimed educational experts. Yet for decades public schools have not had even the most basic evaluation system for teachers, who were hired indiscriminately, based on a waiting list system, and it did not occur to anyone that this was a cause for the poor standards at public schools.

Not only were unsuitable graduates hired without the propensity for teaching but thanks to the waiting list system, they could have a career at public schools, getting promotions and pay rises they did not merit, because their performance was never evaluated. Teaching unions, on principle, always opposed the introduction of a reliable evaluation system and no government persisted with the matter.

The issue was raised on Wednesday at the meeting at the presidential palace, with the president of Education Service Commission, Panayiotis Antoniou, saying that the commission had been pressuring the authorities for an evaluation system that would really reward teachers that make a bigger contribution. Of course, the Commission would like to have before it – when deciding promotions – candidates who had distinguished themselves in their job, he said. He described the current evaluation system, which gives all teachers top marks, “anachronistic,” which was a polite way of putting it.

This is an issue that can be tackled now and will improve the standard of teaching as it would motivate the good teachers, whose efforts would no longer go unrewarded, and identify those who are not up to the job. There is no need for a big national dialogue to fix this problem. All it requires is a government decision and the political will to impose it, without interminable consultations and dialogue with the teaching unions and political parties.

As the employer the education ministry has every right to impose an effective evaluation system that would allow it to get the best out of its employees that would, in turn, benefit school children. Having good and committed teachers in the classrooms and as heads of schools would make the desired modernisation of education much easier. The government should think about this before it embarks on the big national dialogue that will probably change nothing.