President Nikos Christodoulides on Monday addressed the launch of discussions regarding the upgrade of special education in Cyprus, emphasising the government’s commitment to creating an inclusive educational system.

Speaking at an event held at the presidential palace, Christodoulides stressed that education and health are top priorities for the government. He underlined the need for an all-encompassing school system that guarantees equal educational opportunities, while fostering active participation in society for all children.

Furthermore, he stressed the importance of equal participation for children with disabilities and those requiring enhanced support.

“Over the past two decades, significant efforts were made to align educational policy with contemporary pedagogical and social views, striving for equal opportunities and quality education,” Christodoulides said.

“We need a comprehensive review of our special education programmes, including the assessment of children with special needs, teacher training, hiring criteria, and technological access for students,” he continued, adding that interdisciplinary cooperation and professional engagement to support children with disabilities and their families will also be a part of the discussions.

Christodoulides added that the overarching goal is not only legislative change and timely access to education, “but also the establishment of a new mindset, one strongly rooted in inclusivity, aiming to eliminate exclusion entirely.”

Speaking after the president, Education Minister Athena Michaelidou announced the initiation of dialogue with relevant stakeholders, aiming to implement the first phase of changes by September 2024.

“The main objective is a gradual shift from special to unified and inclusive education,” she said, acknowledging the challenges posed by the existing 1999 legislation on special education.

“Key aspects include early identification and assessment of children, early intervention with support and reasonable adjustments, and training for all involved parties,” Michaelidou said.

When asked about the financial implications, Michaelidou noted that each proposal would be assessed individually. She stressed that education funds, including those destined to special education programmes, are already substantia.