Education Ministry probe into bookgate

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Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou has ordered a probe into English teachers instructed to “tear out” a page from a school textbook referencing the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

This was revealed in a Presidency statement following Tuesday’s meeting about the book fiasco between Prodromou and President Nicos Anastasiades.

Prodromou was called to the Presidential Palace after a public outcry against the ‘tear out the page’ order, which was replaced by the book’s withdrawal.

According to the Presidency: “The minister informed the President about the unfortunate incident but also the unacceptable way it was initially handled with the instruction to remove the page”.

The statement, however, said the President was satisfied with the briefing and “recommended more effective procedures” to be put in place.

It was understood, the controversial order had come from Prodromou’s office and communicated to English teachers through secondary education teaching inspectors.

The statement said Prodromou “does not condone” such methods.

It said: “From now on, stricter procedures will be followed in the way of evaluating textbooks, based on modern perceptions as befits a European state.

“To determine the real events, the education minister has already ordered a probe into how the issue was handled”.

Prodromou refuses to take responsibility for the debacle claiming that “protests were politically motivated”.

Speaking to Politis Radio on Tuesday, Prodromou argued that protests came from ‘left-wing teachers’ instigated by opposition party AKEL.

“All these teachers, along with the AKEL spokesperson, can buy these books and read them from morning to night,” said Prodromou.

He said the books were “probably meant for Turkey” and that the Oxford University Press, the book’s publisher, has “in some manner apologised” for the mistake.

He further argued that no pages had been torn out of books, as “this is impossible as the book does not exist in the eyes of the ministry”.

When Politis Radio’s journalist asked what he meant, Prodromou repeated: “This book does not exist, so how could pages be torn out of a book that doesn’t exist. What don’t you understand?”

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.

Political dimension

The book ban was slammed by Turkish Cypriot officials and Turkey’s Foreign Ministry as more proof of the Greek Cypriots “unwillingness” to reach a Cyprus settlement.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said: “This latest action of the Greek Cypriot administration, which has condemned the Cyprus issue to insolvency for years, shows they do not have the patience to share power and prosperity, nor do they want to live together with the Turkish Cypriots”.

The Oxford Discover Futures Level 3 is used for teaching English to second-year Lyceum students and was removed from schools.

The decision to withdraw the book was solely on the positive reference to Ataturk as an example of leadership and a ‘hero’.

“His name is directly connected with crimes against humanity such as the Armenian Genocide,” the ministry said about its decision.

The academic community has taken a stance with the English Language and Literature Department of the University of Cyprus, 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.”