SSection 6.1 focuses on the organisation of the level/branches concerned (like General lower
secondary education, etc.). This section is divided into several subsections describing types of
institution, admission requirements and choice of school, age levels and grouping of pupils/students
as well as organisation of school time.
Types of institutions
General lower secondary education is offered by the gymnasia (γυμνάσια). The gymnasium includes the first three grades of secondary education. Since 1986/87 attendance has been compulsory. The educational emphasis is on general subjects and the humanities. In 2018/2019 seventy-six gymnasia were in operation across the country.
Gymnasia operate in urban, suburban and large rural communities. Because of the small size of Cyprus, no schools are considered as ‘remote’, therefore no special provisions, such as flexible hours, are offered. However, students from rural areas who use buses to attend schools in urban areas are entitled to a subsidy.
Admission requirements and choice of school
There is no examination for admission to a gymnasium. A birth certificate and a school-leaving certificate from a primary school are the only requirements for enrolment.
In the public sector, parents have not the right to choice of a gymnasium for their children. As regulated, a pupil attends the nearest school in their neighborhood, as defined by the catchment area of each school. In the public sector, families do not have a say in the choice of a gymnasium with the exception of the families of children with special needs.
Admission to private schools is based on criteria determined by the owners of the school. Some private schools set entrance examinations.
Age levels and grouping of pupils
There are three grades at the gymnasium level. Pupils are usually grouped by age unless a pupil repeated a year. Mixed-ability grouping is promoted, meaning the pupils are not grouped by ability. No classes are organized on the basis of the level of proficiency, aptitudes or achievements, as the mixed-ability grouping is promoted. The maximum/minimum class size is determined by the Council of Ministers upon suggestions made by the Ministry of Education and Culture. The maximum class size at the gymnasium level is twenty-five pupils, reduced to twenty for laboratory-based or practical sessions.
As teachers at the secondary level of education are subject specialists and teaching is structured by discipline, a number of teachers are assigned to teach in each class. There are no regulations concerning the number of years a teacher may teach the same pupils, but ministry recommendations are that this should not be for more than two academic years.
Organization of the school year
The school calendar and the weekly and daily timetables for gymnasia are determined by the Ministry of Education and Culture and approved by the Council of Ministers. The academic year begins on 1 September and ends on 31 August. Lessons start within the first ten days of September and end within the first week of June. The exact dates are set annually by the Minister of Education. According to Amending Regulations (ΚΔΠ 338/2010) applied from 2010/11, the school year is divided into two four-month terms, as follows:
The first term is from the beginning of the year (the fifth working day of September) to the middle of January and the second term starts at the second half of January till the end of May.
The two days between the two terms, called Teachers’ Days, are used by schools for in-service training and planning purposes. Pupils do not attend school on these two days.
During the teaching year schools are closed for two weeks at Christmas, for two weeks at Easter, with an additional eleven days when schools are closed for public, national or religious holidays.
As this pattern for the organization of the school year is fixed, the annual number of days when gymnasia are open is always the same - i.e.approximately 162 working days.
There are a number of days when teachers are working but not teaching, which are used for examinations. These are either at the beginning of the academic year or before and after the main examination period in June.
Organization of the school day and week
At the gymnasium level, students attend schools five days a week, from Monday to Friday. The school day starts at 07.30 and finishes at 13.35. Each day is organized in teaching periods with a total of thirty-seven periods in a week. There are seven 45-minute periods with three breaks totaling fifty minutes, on three of the days (any days) in the week and eight 40-minute periods with three breaks totaling forty minutes, on the remaining two days of the week.
There is no out-of-hours provision for pupils at the gymnasium level, either before or after school. However, a number of all-day gymnasia within Educational Priority Zones (economically and socially degraded areas), as well as musical and athletics schools operate in the afternoon till 4.00 p.m. with the permission of the Ministry of Education and Culture. School premises are used for one single group of pupils a day.