Α. Kazamias, D. Matthaiou
Some of the most important research findings summarized in the article include:
Demographic findings concerning teachers and pupils: The teaching force is gradually aging and feminized, while most of its members come from lower socio-economic background. On the pupils’ side there is an increase in the participation of girls in secondary schools and of young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds as well, while there is also a substantial increase in the number of repatriate and foreign students, a development that has presented school with a number of difficulties not yet fully accounted for.
Findings concerning the teaching process from planning the course to its evaluation: It is noticed that over the 20 year period examined emphasis has been constantly given by the school to cognitive objectives and to memorization rather than to the development of critical thinking. On the other hand, the relative emphasis of the 80s in making school courses more relative to the realities of social life has been substituted in the 90s by a rather moralistic sort of objectives, reflecting perhaps both a conservative turn in the Greek society and the pressure from the university entrance examination system. On the contrary no major change has been observed in the teaching methods which stick to the traditional schema “examination plus lecturing” a fact that is basically attributed to the teachers’ inadequate initial and in-service pedagogical training.
Findings concerning pupils’ school records and their transition to higher education: The first finding verifies that the socio-economically privileged pupils have more learning incentives, are supported financially and morally by their parents, get higher scores in all school subjects, show preference to general education type of school (89% of the pupils that were enrolled in technical vocational schools in 2000-2 were of lower socio-economic background) and have a better rate of success in university entrance examinations.
The second finding of major significance, especially in comparative terms, is that girls’ rate of success in school as well as in the university entrance examinations is much higher than that of boys, a state of affairs attributed to the greater diligence girls normally demonstrate. The third very important finding asserts that the upper secondary school has been increasingly loosing its pedagogical character under the pressure of external examinations while at the same time it cannot also provide proper tutorial to the pupil/ university candidate who is thus obliged to turn to private cramming courses a fact that in turn further enhances social inequality in school.
Findings concerning school life and the pupils free time: School life – in the sense of pupils’ participating in non-cognitive, leisure or cultural activities within the walls of the school – is almost non existent in the Greek school. This is attributed to the school timetable with its successive teaching periods and short breaks as well to a longstanding tradition which considers the school a place for work. The situation has not improved over the years despite the fact that some attempts have been made to relax the cognitive character of the school, mainly through the introduction in the curriculum of various cultural activities.
On the other hand relationships among students both inside and outside the school have been steadily improving, while student-teacher relationships are also found to be satisfactory, despite the fact that student behavioural problems have been deteriorating. Parent-teacher relationships remain good, although rather formal and limited.
A significant change is observed as far as the students’ free time is concerned. In addition to athletics and play pupils spend increasingly more time watching TV, listening to music and going to the cinema. Leisure activities are highly dependent on the pupils’ socio-economic background (working class pupils occasionally work part-time), on gender (increasingly leisure activities of both sexes converge) and on the school level (Gymnasion allows for more free time).
Finally, building on the research findings, the article provides some suggestions as to the measures that should be taken from state officials and teachers.
Hellenocentrism in the content of education and convergence with Greek education policies have characterized Cypriot education policy making during the early independence period: education goals, structure, organization, curricula and textbooks, teacher education were all copying/ following the Greek pattern. Official statements however and pro-Hellenic public opinion did not prevent critical voices from being heard. AKEL (the Cypriot Communist Party), the then minister of labour (today’s president of the Republic Tassos Papadopoulos) and several other circles were supporting the idea that Cyprus should and could follow – and in practice it actually did follow in e.g. technical education – policies that were more relevant to the country’ s specific circumstances and priorities without at the same time running the risk of breaking cultural links with the national centre; after all Greece during the 60s seemed unable to stabilize its own education policy, while Cyprus was more eager and willing to adopt the view – so widespread at the time – of education being primarily an investment and a fundamental prop for economic development.
By 1976 a new Minister of Education and Culture proceeded to a major reform which, although it remained faithful to hellenocentrism, it placed its main emphasis on democratic citizenship, on the strengthening of the state, on democratization and on modernization. The clash between supporters and opponents of the reform would finally lead to a compromise, with some reform policies remaining intact and others being withdrawn and replaced by the more traditional policies of hellenocentrism and classicism.
Education in the 90s bares witness of an inventory of education problems prepared by invited UNESCO experts which brought to the forefront of public debate the educational issues that have never been actually resolved. The country’s accession to E.U. provides a new frame of reference to this debate: despite the fact that Cyprus scores better than many European countries on a number of indicators, political authorities and the wider public complain for comparatively lower standards and call for a sort of catch up education. In this context, a number of special education committees are presently working to prepare a comprehensive reform proposal. It is thus believed that the long-standing problems of Cypriot education will finally find their solution.
The field of comparative education is by nature interdisciplinary, and purports to be both wide-ranging and able to offer perspectives which are of value to most other fields in the domain of educational studies.