Education Minister says book ban “fuss over nothing”

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Cyprus Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou played down criticism over a decision to withdraw an English Language curriculum schoolbook for praising modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Prodromou argued: “The discussion over the withdrawal of the book was unnecessary…politically motivated.”

He said the book “is just one out of three used for the lesson” when asked how teachers are expected to continue teaching without the workbook.

“With the contribution of teachers in the schools, we will make sure that teaching continues smoothly.

“There will be no problem.

“And of course, at some point, there will be a book replacing the old one.

“We are already investigating the incident at the Ministry.

“I must say that it was not the only book that was considered problematic.”

“So, in general, there was an issue.

“It seems these books were brought to Cyprus due to bad communication; they were probably intended for another country.

“In any case, it is something that we can deal with and resolve immediately, and I will repeat that with just a delay of a few hours, this issue has been resolved, and all this discussion that took place was unnecessary.”

He attributed the adverse reaction to political motivation tied to the Cyprus problem.

Last week, the Education Ministry withdrew the English language book after an earlier instruction telling teachers to “tear out page 36 before handing it to the students”.

It caused protests by the academic community while sparking a social media outcry.

The English Language and Literature Department of the University of Cyprus issued a statement condemning the ministry’s decision.

“The ministry’s argument that the English language course is not offered nor is it expected to handle such topics or to have room for critical analysis is unacceptable,” said the department.

“Any reference, positive or negative, to any historical figure and any historical event can be used constructively in a classroom to engage in dialogue and to develop students’ critical thinking.”

The Oxford Discover Futures Level 3 is used for teaching English to second-year Lyceum students.

The decision to withdraw the book was solely on the reference to Ataturk, citing crimes against minorities carried out by the Young Turks movement.

The ministry justified its decision saying the reference praised Ataturk as an example of leadership and ‘hero’, while his “name is directly connected with crimes against humanity such as the Armenian Genocide”.

President Nicos Anastasiades last week had conceded his minister mishandled the matter.

“What interests me is how to deal with an issue which, being the 21st century, may require a different approach,” said the President.

The issue will be raised at this week’s Cabinet meeting.