After the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis hundreds of teachers and school pupils, but also thousands of parents, are the protagonists of a truly moving effort, under extremely difficult conditions. We are referring to the efforts to provide on-line distance learning. Without the necessary technological infrastructure and sufficient guidance they continue to sustain the education process. We express our appreciation and full support for their efforts.
At the same time our Universities, evidently better prepared, are working at adequate levels, filling us with satisfaction, but also with hope for the day after. We express our support towards our students who are continuing the effort.
Our thoughts, especially in these times, are with our students who are abroad and going through a difficult time far from their families.
Despite the emotive and conscientious efforts of teachers, school pupils, students and parents there are a number of serious problems. There is also a need to elaborate timely scenarios for the education system depending on how and to what extent the coronavirus crisis will continue. As the days go by, this need becomes ever more pressing.
We have studied the situation in depth and discussed proposals, pointing out problems and weaknesses. As a result of our efforts to help in this endeavor, we call on the Ministry of Education should address the following as an urgency:
- It should be ensured that there will be no problems in accepting the fact that part of University lessons during the current, at least, semester will be done by on-line distance learning. There should be corresponding consultation with the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. Where required, legislative regulations need to be approved.
- Many children don’t have computers, i-pads or smart phones and as a result are in effect excluded from the learning process. Children from poorer socio-economic backgrounds usually face the most difficulties at school. Their exclusion in effect exacerbates the problem. The Ministry of Education must take measures to promote participation and provide support to these children.
- The Ministry of Education must make absolutely clear what teachers are expected to do during the distance learning process. So far, we’ve had ambiguities that enable classes to engage in repetitions and others to give classes. Differences also exist between schools.
- There should be a timely answer as to what exam material is to be considered at the end of the year and the focus should be on it.
- We need to elaborate on even more pessimistic scenarios in the event that it won’t be possible to hold exams by the summer. How will graduation be done? How will there be entry into Universities if we cannot hold Pancyprian exams? In what ways could distance exams be organised? How will pupils be promoted from one class to the next? Universities must answer the same questions.
- The Ministry of Education, together with Universities, should prepare for the possibility of mass transfers from abroad of Cypriot students and to meet the increased demand.
- Legislation will be needed on a number of issues, most likely concerning Pancyprian exams and school rules.
- Parents should be supported with directives and proposals on how they can provide support to their children, for example, how educational material is used in primary education. Not all parents have this possibility.
- At some stage, the work done by every school needs to be checked and registered so that we can have a true and realistic picture.
- In both University, as well as in Technical education, the Post-Secondary Institutes of Vocational Education and Training (PSIVET) and in other cases as well, there is a serious problem with laboratory courses and graduate training.
- Even now, schools and teachers should be supported with technological means so that that distance learning is made more feasible or efficient.
Furthermore, we need a more comprehensive plan so that the situation today will for us all be a lesson for the future.
The Education Affairs Bureau of the C.C. of AKEL is elaborating numerous positions and proposals. We are at the disposal of the Ministry of Education to make our own contribution in this difficult endeavor.