ΤΕΥΧΟΣ 14

ΤΕΥΧΟΣ 14

ISSUE 14

Spring 2010

EDITORIAL

E. Klerides

CONTENTS

The article looks into and analyses the relationship between comparative education as a field of study and educational policy.

It traces the origins of this relationship back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, in a period when selective cultural borrowing had just led to the establishment of national systems of education. The need to explain the significant differences that existed across those systems – both in ideological and institutional terms – despite extensive borrowing, was one of the driving forces that gave birth to comparative education.

During the first half of the twentieth century, the subsequent attempt to discover the factors and forces that lied behind the development of education systems established yet another link between comparative education and educational policy; a link that was further reinforced during the first decades of the post war period when the process of democratisation and economic development posed a large number of problems, with comparative education aspiring to make a substantial contribution to their resolution.

The article focuses then on the present form of this relationship, seeking to analyse the roles of politicians and comparativists in policy making, the arena of their co-operation, their different perspectives when it comes to analyse educational problems and to formulate educational policies, and, the techniques they employ to overcome their differences.

It concludes by identifying the perils that this co-operation entails for comparative education as an academic field of study.

This article picks up one motif within the multiple contradictions and tensions that would need to be acknowledged in – and which would shape – a serious comparative history of comparative education. 

The article uses, as its narrative device, a brief discussion of a couple of moments of confidence about (i) the kind of knowledge which «comparative education» tries to create and (ii) its own expectations about its correct contribution to public life. The article uses as its intellectual device the tension between the fact that we have histories of ourselves as a field of study; but we are also part of history itself.

The world changes. Perhaps we have been very alert to our changing epistemic sense of ourselves, but less alert to our contemporary historical condition. Currently, in what senses are we well fitted to the Zeitgeist? Are we doomed to be successful?

This is a comparative-historical analysis of the discourse on educational reform in Cyprus, as it is articulated in official texts (e.g. speeches, committee reports, circulars and other documents) and in newspaper interviews, articles and other reports by key actors in the civil society (e.g. political leaders and political parties, the universities, the Church, teachers’ unions) from 2004 until 2009.

Thematically, the study is organised in four major parts. The first part deals with the Report of the Committee of Seven Academics, entitled Democratic and Human Education/ Paideia in the Eurocypriot Polity (State) which was submitted to the Minister of Education and Culture in August, 2004. The Report examined certain «critical zones» of the educational system of Cyprus (e.g. ideology, governance, institutional structure of schooling, curriculum, teacher education and in-service training, school evaluation and teacher assessment, and university education), and made recommendations for the re-formation and modernisation of Cypriot education. The second part examines the discourse on educational reform as it is articulated mainly in the text «Strategic Planning» (2007), which was issued by the Ministry of Education and Culture during the administration of President Tassos Papadopoulos. The third part discusses the discourse and activities of the ongoing current reforms by the Leftist government of Dimitris Christofias. The fourth and final part reviews critically the three «moments of reform» or «episodes» and it shows how the reform discourse «morphs as it moves» within the philosophical-ideological framework of «a democratic and human paideia in the new Eurocypriot polity».

The paper presents the difficulties of implementing the major educational reform proposed to the Cyprus Government by the Educational Reform Committee in August 2004. It focuses on the reactions (understanding, reception, strategy, expectations and procedures) of five major social actors (government, the public, political parties, educational organisations and parents) and identifies three major problems in the implementation of reform: implementation inconsistencies, confusion and long delay.

In conclusion, the article argues that the difficulties could have been much lesser, (a) if on the part of the government, there was required experience in implementing major changes in education; (b) if more attention was paid to the historical and cultural contexts; and, (c) if there was less haste.

The aim of this paper is to investigate the role of the curriculum in the educational reform in Cyprus today. It is argued that curriculum is a text with multiple philosophical, political and social functions, and, an educational document with intended learning outcomes and content; from that point of view, curriculum has been used as a mechanism for the alienation of students, parents and teachers from the educational and pedagogical praxis. Curriculum characteristics have been “naturalized” in such a way that there is no space for (a) an awareness of its hidden function that serves to prevent change, and, (b) an awareness of the inequalities reproduced by the educational system. Over-loaded curricula contribute, for example, to the shaping of teachers’ syndrome to focus on the content of teaching, justifying their misconception that focusing on that is their most important task. Moreover, the fact that teaching is mainly based on content acquisition implies that the task of the students is the mere memorisation of useless information, which is unconnected from their life, their problems and their dilemmas. Additionally, pre-packaged teaching material and content-based books make teachers to focus more on passing on information to students and less on their learning, development and well-being. The objectification and depersonalisation of education, the positioning of students as consumers of information, and, the absence of teacher autonomy devalue schooling and teaching.  Curriculum as a set of sequential teaching topics that needs to be taught to students, enslaves both students and teachers in a routine operation and a “closed” institution – the school and the classroom – that reproduce inequalities and oppression, hegemonies and marginalised groups. Differentiation of teaching and learning in a mixed ability classroom and societal cohesion remain vague aims in the rhetoric of the reform and the new curricula.  Moreover, the hierarchical structure of the curricula becomes the means of labelling students either as able to learn and find a place in society, or, as unable to learn and led a decent life. It is also stressed that educational reform and new curricula need to be supported by other measures, e.g., raising the socio-economic status of the families of marginalised students, and, that we cannot change school unless we change their living conditions and the way they and their families perceive themselves and others. Schools in ZEP (Zones of Educational Priorities) indicate that social inclusion cannot be achieved only by improving teachers training systems and schools facilities: we also need to change students’ lives. Finally, it is argued that from a critical perspective the empowerment of teachers should be based on their ability to reflect on what happens in schools, classrooms and the society as well as on the alienating functions of curricula and schooling. By awareness and analysis of the mechanisms of power and marginalisation, reflection on the routine “naturalized” conditions and ethos of reproduction, and new action throughout formal education can prove effective in the development of all students and the promotion of real communication, and interaction in a dignified and humanised society.

This article is divided into five parts. The first part is a short historical account of attempted educational reforms in Cyprus and Greece. After that, the Cypriot policy of following the Greek model of education is briefly discussed. The third part offers a brief account of the ongoing educational reform in Cyprus. The fourth part focuses on a particular aspect of the reform, i.e., on the contested proposal of the comprehensive school, arguing that the reactions to this proposal originate in historical representations and stereotypes. In the last part, the author argues that the policy decision of the Cyprus authorities to follow Greece’s educational models was historically wrong, and, urges them to follow a different education pathway in the future, along the proposals of the Educational Reform Committee but away from European neoliberal agendas.

This article looks into the ongoing and contested process of re-conceptualising school history in Cyprus from the perspective of educational transfer.

It is argued that the effort to re-imagine local history is an effect of the transfer of new history discourse to Cyprus. The transfer of this discourse creates conditions for the disparagement of traditional history, as well as for legitimating the re-articulation of history teaching and writing along the theoretical and methodological lines of new history. It also reflects the aspirations of the agents involved in the processes of transfer: that new history can solve certain local and wider European problems, mainly of political ilk.

The article is divided into four main parts. The first part defines the theoretical framing upon which the narrative of the article is constructed. After that, the emergence of new history in the international educational arena is examined, paying special attention to sketching its major features and characteristics. In the third part the transfer of this discourse to Cyprus is analysed and the agents of transfer are identified. The focus of the fourth part is on the translation and metamorphosis of new history as it moves to Cyprus.

The conclusion of the article offers the locus of comparative education as a “teacher”, teaching lessons that are useful to our understanding of educational reform and policy formulation.