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Education is not for grandstanding

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The leak by a foolish teacher of the exam headings for the third-year Lyceum students could not have come at a worse time, with too much fuss made by almost every presidential candidate, thinking they could score last-minute points in the election race.

The action was just as condemnable as how the Education Ministry officials dealt with the ‘crisis’, confusing how to interpret regulations. And this is where the problem lies.

Exam regulations are written and constantly reviewed by ministry officials and inspectors, most of whom have been teachers.

And teachers get to have a say in it, often to suit their personal needs and not that of the students.

Instead of Presidential candidates acknowledging the system’s faults, as they have contributed to enhancing the rigidity of the public service throughout their political careers, they should have been talking about a major overhaul in the education sector.

These people keep arguing against students from private schools having equal and fair access to enter the University of Cyprus to create a rift between state and private education, not realising these arguments generate more harm than good.

Worse, Cypriot students seem to tank in the benchmark or international standards every year, resulting from too much meddling by politicians, done solely to appease teacher unions and their demands.

Is this the incumbent Education Minister’s fault?

Hardly, but he and his predecessors share part of the blame for not pushing harder for reform.

This was evidenced when the Covid pandemic broke, first by discovering that taxpayers had been paying for online communication platforms that were never used and teachers refusing to use the tool for fear of their incompetence being revealed.

Of course, there are always a handful of teachers and principals who are true educators who care for their students, who often bend some rules to accommodate needs and take time, patience, and dedication to guide them through high school, to get to university and adulthood.

Decades ago, students knew well in advance what their learning material would be for the entire year, were aware of the exam dates and subjects to be questioned, and no one walked out in protest or was stressed.

A few hundred took matters into their own hands and refused to sit the new examination when the replacement papers were put in front of them.

And they are being rewarded for their callousness by being given a second chance when thousands of others obediently and patiently remained for a few more hours.

Only those with justified absence due to illness should have been allowed to be examined on the new date.

And this is where politicians should have been unanimous, insisting that exams went ahead no matter what.

Perhaps the next time a stupid teacher leaks exam subjects, or even contents, they should first check there are no political events or elections around the corner.

In that case, such crises would go unnoticed, with the backup system kicking in and students returning to class.