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Finland has much to teach Cyprus

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By Dr Tassos Anastasiades

Cypriot leaders need to consider transforming the education system for the Finnish model as a source of ideas that work effectively.

It is one of the best in the world, free of charge, children and adults have access to new technology, may borrow books and videotapes of educational content at any time, public libraries are located next to schools, for teachers and students to use.

Recent studies have shown that Finnish children are ranked first as regards reading and writing.

There is a national curriculum; however, schools have the autonomy to timetable and deliver the curriculum in whatever way they think is most effective for the learner.

  • Decentralised schools
  • Administrative responsibility lies with local administration
  • An excellent system of public libraries
  • The National Educational Board determines the principal guidelines of education

There is close cooperation of the whole educational community with the Ministry of Education.

Teachers enjoy a high status in Finland.

Teaching is usually in the top two in Finnish opinion polls of desirable professions and is among the hardest to break into.

All class teachers must have a postgraduate degree in education.

In comparison, education service in Cyprus is characterised as highly centralised.

The Ministry of Education controls the curriculum, the textbooks and other resources required to deliver it. The appointment of teachers is highly centralised through the Education Service Commission appointed by the Government.

The Ministry funds local school boards, and their role is restricted to building maintenance and supplies.

It directly controls schools through the inspectorate and the school heads, the latter having less devolved responsibility than in many other school systems.

The Ministry of Education is organised into departments that largely reflect the structure of the system.

Complete centralisation is regarded as the greatest plague of the Cyprus educational system.

Conservatism is linked to the nature of educational systems themselves. On the one hand, they have to introduce innovations and progressive trends. On the other hand, they must preserve tradition and the past.

Cyprus’ educational system has the highest degree of union intervention in a school setting.

The union movement seems year after year to be interested firstly in lessening teaching hours and the increase of teacher’s salaries rather than the progress of the educational system in which they live and work.

The ideologies of the two educational systems have many differences.

The Finnish model has thrived for over 40 years; the Cyprus education system has recently has identified its weaknesses and desperately attempts to make a huge step towards change.

The need for educational reform has been broadly discussed in Cyprus.

The question at hand is modernising the Cyprus educational system to become a system of learning, which answers the challenges of a new era.

An educational system compatible with the European Union levels cultivates and invest towards learning through an education system that formats citizens with critical thinking, skills, research, and composition.

Citizens that take advantage of methods, means and supplies provided by the educational system.

It needs to be a system that will cultivate a competitive society with optimism and confidence.

No educational model of any country can be transplanted in another country directly.

However, the Finnish model deserves consideration, and the factors leading to success should be considered seriously.

The Cyprus government needs to take initiatives regarding educational reform, such as recruiting good educational leaders and advisers whose professional experience can lead to innovation and a paradigm change.

In this dialogue, the Finnish model could be considered as a source of ideas and food for thought.

They need to look ahead to introduce innovation and progressive trends.

It is believed that progress is achieved easier with decentralisation, as the system escapes from conservatism, acquires more elastic structures and gets revived.

I think conservatism lies not only in systems but mainly in people who will have to follow and adopt them.

The philosophy on which the Cyprus educational system is based has to be transplanted with the philosophy of “we” instead of “me”.

Finally, to understand the role that education plays, we have to be in a position of always foreseeing the future.

We have to have the vision to see what kind of society students will be invited to live in, in the future when they are adults, to design the curriculum accordingly.

To live in the present, we have to be able to have a vision for the future.

All of this has to be built on the past because any person without a history is like a tree without roots.

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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