For day nurseries and home-based provision, there are no educational guidelines from top-level authorities.
The preschool education curriculum for kindergartens is approved by the Council of Ministers following suggestions made by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport and Youth. The curriculum is the same for all types of kindergarten and must be followed in its entirety by all Public and Community kindergartens. The current curriculum forms part of a new, integrated curriculum for pre-primary to secondary education, written in the framework of the ongoing Educational Reform.
The integration of the curriculum started in June 2008 with the establishment of a Scientiﬁc Commission for the Revision of the School Curricula (Epistimoniki Epitropi gia tin Anatheorisi ton Analytikon Programmaton), and it was completed by the work of teams of specialists for each subject, consisting of university lecturers and teachers in primary and secondary education. There was a period of public consultation before the new curriculum was officially accepted and published.
The new curriculum has been being gradually implemented since September 2011.
There has been a gradual increase in the age of ﬁrst enrolment in pre-primary education and the ﬁrst grade of primary school. Children today need to be aged 5 years old in order to register for pre-primary education.
The primary role of kindergarten education in Cyprus is to satisfy the basic needs of the child. Pre-primary education is considered fundamental to the development of human nature, contributing to the child’s cognitive, emotional, social, moral, aesthetic and psychomotor development, the acquisition of useful life skills, and the development of the right attitudes and values. The general objectives for kindergartens include:
- Development of creative expression and thinking;
- Pupils’ preparation for primary school, including for maximising their potential for school success;
- Development of personality attributes, such as self-conﬁdence, initiative-taking, optimism and persistence.
Areas of learning and development
Recognising that the first stage of school is a unique and special stage in a child’s life, the following pedagogical principles frame the philosophy of the kindergarten curriculum during that stage.
- This speciﬁc stage has autonomous value and, at the same time, sets the groundwork for the years that follow. It is socially and culturally constructed by the children and for the children, through an active negotiation of social relations within various frames, such as time, place, culture, sex and the classroom.
- Every child is unique and special, with individual learning mechanisms and paces. They have their own voice and they should participate in a democratic dialogue relating to the decisions that concern them.
- Children learn through exploration, through play and through conversation, and actively participate in the process of building their experiences and their lives.
- Learning should focus on the child’s rounded development, and it should be holistic and interconnected.
- The starting point of the learning process should be what children can do, bearing in mind that every child is able and has the potential to develop and learn.
- Relationships between adults and children constitute a key element of children’s development. Close ties between school and family are therefore vital. Parents or guardians are hence regarded as partners to the school.
- Play is a learning and development process, a framework and a way of organising learning, but also a child’s right. It is a social practice that is meaningful for children and it is a means of demonstrating and strengthening their feelings, needs, motives, knowledge and dexterities.
The kindergarten curriculum is designed to be child-centred and focuses on problem-solving activities. These activities help the children to learn to solve problems by experimenting.
Teachers promote group work and cooperative learning in all activities to encourage the children to share and develop their social skills. The teaching is differentiated according to the needs and abilities of the children.
With reference to teaching methods in kindergartens, a balance is set between the cognitive, emotional and psychomotor aims, and special emphasis is placed on affective and social education. The role of the kindergarten teacher is to organise the programme of activities with a balance between structure and freedom in mind, allowing the children access to a variety of activities that will expose them to different environmental inﬂuences and challenges, allowing them the freedom to choose which activity they want to participate in.
The children participate actively in the process of learning using the application of scientiﬁc methods, such as observation, measurement, hypothesis testing, generalising and coming to conclusions, as well as by activating their critical and creative thought processes.
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport and Youth does not specify one teaching methodology that teachers must follow. As all kindergarten teachers in the public sector are university graduates in their ﬁeld of expertise, they are expected to be familiar with a wide range of teaching methodologies and be able to select the most appropriate ones for their teaching context. Increasingly, computers are being introduced to kindergartens and used as a teaching tool by the teachers.
Most of the books provided in kindergartens are purchased by the local School Boards (Sholikes Efories) for the public kindergartens and by the Parents’ Associations for the community kindergartens.
Evaluation in day nurseries in Cyprus is carried out by keeping a personal ﬁle on each child. In the personal ﬁle, in addition to his or her birth and health certiﬁcates, the staff of the day nursery are expected to include a report on the progress of the child. This begins with an initial report completed 15 days after the admittance of the child to the nursery and is then updated with a progress report a minimum of once every 3 months. If any need for support is identified, especially regarding special educational needs, the appropriate steps are taken.
Assessment of children is considered an integral part of the kindergarten curriculum.
Three types of assessment are described in the primary school curriculum, which are to be used by teachers in kindergartens: the initial or diagnostic assessment, the continuous or formative assessment, and the ﬁnal or summative assessment.
Initial or diagnostic assessment takes place at the start of the school year and it involves close observation of the child’s behaviour and note-taking in both a formal and an informal way. The formal method of note-taking involves the completion of a diagnostic report, which contains basic cognitive, emotional and psychomotor objectives. The informal method of note-taking involves free description of the child’s behaviour. The aim of the initial assessment is to identify any behavioural or health problems in order to give the child early support. Initial assessment also serves the purpose of enabling teachers to plan new learning activities in an informed manner. As such, initial assessment may extend throughout the whole year, and is done before the introduction of new teaching activities to make sure that students will be able to participate in the activities.
Continuous or formative assessment takes place throughout the school year by ad hoc or planned observation of the child’s behaviour. The kindergarten teacher records descriptions of the child’s development, progress, maturity and any behavioural problems in the continuous assessment report. It is also possible for a teacher to select and assess what he or she considers to be important objectives from the cognitive, emotional and psychomotor domains.
Final or summative assessment is done at the end of a learning activity or the end of the school year and aims to provide useful information both for teachers’ self-evaluation and for the evaluation of the curriculum.
Transition to primary school
The transition process from pre-primary to primary education includes three very important stages that the school and the family need to understand for the process to take place as smoothly and efficiently as possible for each child.
The ﬁrst stage concerns the preparation of the child for the transition to the primary school. The kindergarten needs to design and implement a comprehensive preparation programme, which, in cooperation with the relevant primary school, should be implemented throughout the school year. This programme may include primary school visits, class attendance and familiarisation with schedule information, breaks, rules and the general operation of the primary school.
The second stage is the separation of a child from their parents or guardians. On the ﬁrst day of school, parents or guardians need to be very well prepared to emotionally empower their children to take this big step. They need to be positive, cheerful and conﬁdent that their child will succeed. First-grade teachers need to create an atmosphere of emotional security in the classroom and, in collaboration with the school management, it is beneficial for them to design and implement a small programme for the smooth transition from kindergarten to primary school.
The third stage is integration of the child into the school environment. To reach the stage of integration, children need patience, perseverance, space and time, as well as ongoing communication and cooperation between family and school.