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Cyprus needs education paradigm shift

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By Dr Tassos Anastasiades

As a leading European country, Cyprus is ready for innovation in education.

Dr Charalambos Vrasidas, Dr Sotiris Themistokleous and the Centre for the Advancement of Research & Development in Educational Technology (CARDET) reported that Cyprus made significant progress implementing the 2030 Agenda.

Providing quality education underpins all targets’ successful implementation, developing leaders ready for the 21st century, confident, critical thinkers, great communicators, collaborators, and creative in problem-solving and innovation.

According to the government’s recent review, the main aim was to: “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”.

In other words, they recognise that we are all born with unique gifts and talents.

Cyprus made significant progress in implementation because many of its targets are linked with EU policies and the framework of its Education and Training 2020 (ET2020).

Educational policy is based on equality, inclusivity, creativity, innovation, and lifelong learning.

Cyprus still provides free and easily accessible education to everyone at all levels (pre-school, primary, secondary general and secondary technical and vocational education, and training) without discrimination.

In spending 6% of its GDP on education, the money is there.

The Ministry of Education and Culture is undertaking initiatives on promoting human rights education, gender equality, promoting a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity.

However, TIMSS 2015 revealed that primary students performed quite well in mathematics and less good in science – the proportion of low achievers in Cyprus is the largest in the EU for mathematics (43%) and science (42%).

It is the third-largest for reading (36%) according to results from the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA 2015).

Cyprus’ results have further deteriorated compared to 2012 in all tested areas, placing the country well below OECD and EU averages.

There is a need to redesign the curricula with a comprehensive action plan for improving student learning outcomes at all school levels – a paradigm shift.

Perfect storm

The time is right as the ‘perfect storm’ demands a review of assessment methodology, 21st-century skills, a different paradigm of measuring academic success.

Perhaps now is the time to look at successes in other countries, such as the Finnish System, Singapore, and International Baccalaureate.

All parents want their child to attend a school where they can achieve the best academic success but also develop leadership skills, creativity, critical thinking, communications skills, self-belief, self-confidence, grit, determination and be a confident navigator of their own learning – and this should not be based on affordability.

The business community is looking for different skill sets in its youngsters as it innovates much more rapidly than its source of leaders – schools!

To provide the business community with youngsters who will lead and impact society, we should be preparing our children to lead their learning based on the challenge, reading and evaluating articles, media, resources from the internet, and the environment.

Most important, we should inspire them to understand concepts, to dig deeper, think critically, to not accept anything at face value without challenge, rather than the repetition of similar problems until they can ‘pass the test”.

Where there is innovation, enterprise in learning styles, learners becoming resilient – they no longer depend on the teacher -they can find out things for themselves.

When students use technology to further their learning, they can think critically where there are high levels of student engagement and challenging learning activities, creative and inspiring in the classroom.

There is flexibility in learning a focus on conceptual understanding rather than just listening to the teacher dictating factual knowledge.

There is no adherence to a textbook – but an open recognition of inquiry-based learning using multiple resources.

Testing is important but not as a judgment of the child.

Data and assessments are important, but the most valid is evidence of learning, just like a doctor diagnoses his patients – the evidence will better inform the treatment.

Academic rigour is about the level of opportunity we provide for students to take learning into their own hands, in and beyond the classroom.

When children can look objectively at their own strengths and areas for improvement rather than compare themselves with others, this maximises their learning through self-motivation and self-belief.

Ownership and determination kick in.

Cyprus’ paradigm needs to change to speak about progress, not about the end of the journey.

We speak about the quality of the teaching and learning, not the test results; we talk about deeper learning,  skills, authentic learning so that our youngsters can make a difference to the community.

It is being able to articulate the learning style relevant to them and become innovators who can apply their learning to real-life situations.

These are the school’s fundamental obligations – where leaders are grown, leaders who will undoubtedly add glory and achievements to the history of civilisation in a way that will inspire the world.

It is with such leaders that Cyprus can once more become a global leader in education.

Dr Tassos Anastasiades is an innovative educational leader with school leadership positions in UK, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, China, Nigeria, Zambia, Malaysia, Ghana and Cyprus

 

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