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Teachers give us a break

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State schoolteachers have a unique way of educating our children, and we have entrusted them with this task for decades.

They choose the best of times to give the worst example of how to learn, set and achieve goals, and become a better person.

Days before the presidential elections, where they should have debated the values of an open society, tolerance of diversity, the beauty of multiculturalism, the foundations of democracy, and freedom of speech, they chose another path – one of conflict.

Just because they don’t want to let go of another holiday.

They have proved to youngsters that if you don’t want to lose your privileges, you should fight and set demands, threaten with strikes, and use your trade union votes as leverage.

As if two-and-a-half-months summer break is not enough.

Newly enthroned Archbishop Georgios followed in his predecessor’s footsteps, saying he did not want schools closed on his saint’s day and that children should remain in class.

Perhaps, this day should be used to learn about Saint George, what his holiday represents, and which groups have adopted this saint as their protector or patron, thus introducing the teaching of morals, ethics, culture, and tradition.

The Ministry of Education is also suggesting the abolition of another holiday, the ‘Day of Letters’, established early in the 20th century to merge the celebration of three prelates into one day.

Perhaps by staying in school, that day should be dedicated to the letters, language, historical and national identity.

Again, the teachers’ unions are up in arms.

And the pitiful excuse they use is a reference to an EY study in 2017, showing that Cyprus had one of the highest in-class days in Europe.

However, they fail to acknowledge that no matter how many days our children go to school, the youngsters will learn nothing if the teachers are not up to it.

There are some shining examples, with principals of a handful of primary and high schools caring about the welfare of pupils and students.

They go the distance and find a way to make learning a joy, not a nuisance.

They use modern teaching methods and make the classroom a place children look forward to going, not avoiding.

The other lame excuse by teacher unions is that instead of reducing their holidays, they should be shifted around to allow for longer mid-terms, not just the Christmas and Easter breaks.

But Cyprus has a plethora of national holidays, which, when planned properly in advance, could act as a mid-term break, helping with the studies and preparation for exams.

Also, the Christmas and Easter holidays are far longer than anywhere else, with the summer break in many countries being no more than four weeks.

The outgoing Minister of Education tried to break from tradition and confront some of these issues on several occasions.

The incoming minister will have their hands full.

We hope they live up to expectations and push ahead with radical educational reforms.

They should start by revising the relaxed work schedules of state schoolteachers and introducing performance-related rewards.