THE EUROPEAN Commission report about the low standard of public education in Cyprus despite high state spending could not have come at a better time. Ever since July union bosses have been disputing the correctness of similar claims made by politicians, whom they accused of misinforming the public. Will they now dispute the figures cited by the Commission and its conclusion that Cyprus has an education system with low effectiveness, since spending is high but educational outcomes low?
The facts cited by the Commission report speak for themselves. “At 6 per cent of GDP in 2016, public spending on education remains well above the EU average of 4.7 per cent. Measured as a share of total government expenditure, Cyprus spent 15.6 per cent on education in 2016, more than any other EU country.” The biggest part of expenditure on education – 73 per cent – went on teachers’ wages, but educational achievement, that is, “the knowledge, skills and abilities students attain as measured by the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa), are low.”
Yet all summer, teaching union bosses were telling us that public education was under threat because the government had decided to end the ludicrous practice of reducing teaching periods according to years of service without consulting the unions. Having teachers teaching all the hours they were paid to be at school was an attempt to destroy public education insisted the ubiquitous union bosses. Yet they had the nerve to accuse the government of misinforming the public.
The truth is poor standards, to which teaching unions with their anti-educational measures have been making a big contribution, are destroying public education. Unions have been defending the criminal waiting list appointment system that guarantees the indiscriminate hiring of graduates as teachers. This is why in 2016, 40 per cent of teachers were over 50 years of age, a point made by the Commission report, which explained this was because entry into the profession was not by merit, but by waiting time. From this year half of the appointments were by merit, but 50 per cent of teachers will carry on being appointed indiscriminately according to the list for another eight years.
This was at the insistence of the unions, which have also been resisting education ministry suggestions to introduce a reliable evaluation system for teachers, thus protecting bad teachers hired indiscriminately via the waiting list.
If there is anyone that has destroyed public education it is the teaching unions that have imposed measures and practices that guarantee an easy working life for teachers while treating the educational needs of students as an issue of minor importance.