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A creaky start to the school year

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It was back to primary school for children after the gymnasiums and lyceums opened last week, with politicians and wannabe presidential candidates blurting out bright ideas about education reform.

This is the first school year post-Covid, as students return to some sense of normalcy, picking up where they left off, with buildings needing repair and school boards rushing to upgrade their equipment and install infrastructure and networks.

However, according to opposition MP Pavlos Mylonas, the biggest challenge facing the sector is that a whopping 70% of the state budget for education is allocated to payrolls.

This has created a dilemma, with conflicting ideas about how to improve the standard of education, as Cyprus very often falls behind in leading indicators.

The MP, which often proposes controversial, but practical solutions, says it is time the whole educators’ issue is reconsidered, especially with a small bunch of rotten apples giving a bad name to the majority of teachers who do an excellent job.

He was even critical of ‘golden’ wages to some university professors and rectors.

Most are beyond reproach simply because they got their job through political intervention or acquaintances.

The truth is, many teachers abuse their position and, after securing their permanency start to relax and frequently couldn’t care less about their students’ standard of attainment.

Private tutorials are expected to solve this problem.

However, Mylonas has had some harsh words about this practice, saying that if teaching had been of a better standard, parents would not need to resort to institutes in the afternoon to boost their child’s progress.

For sure, members of the administration will want the current status to drag on for another six months, after which the winner of today’s growing list of presidential candidates would have to put their hand in the fire and take some tough decisions.

Of course, by the time the next government is sworn in and the cabinet members get down to work, the school year will almost be over, so we won’t see much reform until the next school year, starting in September 2023.

But will anyone have the courage to challenge the stranglehold of the teachers’ unions that allows them to dictate the terms of the education system?

So, brace yourselves.

After a slow start to the current school year, the pace should pick up after the elections in February, and we are in for a tumultuous summer.

Hopefully, the next resident of the Presidential Palace will take the commitment to improve education more seriously than an afterthought.