Literacy and Contemporary Society: Creativity, Equity, Social Action
The Minister of Education, Sport and Youth, presented during the dates December 4-6, 2023, the vision of the Ministry for the coming years: The formation of literate citizens, with a complete personality, capable to contribute creatively to the development of society and deal with challenges of the future, as well as the improvement of the quality of life through education, sports and youth empowerment.
The Minister referred to the importance of literacy and its role in modern society, focusing on creativity, equality, and social action. She emphasized the need to cultivate citizens with skills, responsibility, democratic ethos, historical identity, and respect for diversity. The main points of her presentation included:
- Shift towards a modern, inclusive school
- Emphasis on cultivating skills and abilities of students
- Strong political will with education as a priority
- Modernization and reduction of curriculum content
- Evaluation and improvement of special education
- Integration of digital skills into study programs
- Promotion of sports and empowerment of youth
- National strategy for lifelong learning
- Enhancement of environmental education
- Collaboration with other ministries and organizations for youth empowerment
- Promotion of Cyprus as an international and regional center for higher education
Actions by the Ministry of Education to improve learning results
The Ministry of Education, Sport and Youth has prepared through the Programme for International Student Assessment in December 2023, a list of actions necessary to improve learning outcomes.
- Cyprus education system needs reorganization and improvements, multi-level.
- Structural changes are needed to improve learning outcomes over time
- International surveys are not an end in themselves but self-assessment tools
- Cyprus education system has remained attached to knowledge, without giving sufficient emphasis to skills/abilities
- Teachers teach/cultivate what the assessment imposes on them
- A change in pedagogical culture and emphases is needed
- Competencies (knowledge, skills, attitudes) to be assessed
- Already, concrete measures are being taken and others are being planned within the framework of the Program Governance in the right direction and on the basis of research
Measures to improve learning results
- Detailed Programs
- Teaching approaches – continuous training
- Modern student evaluation system
- Modern system of evaluation of teachers and educational work (already institutionalized)
- Introduction of prevention programs in preschool education (literacy, etc.)
- Digitization of education
- Introduction of innovative programs (eg prevention, school bullying)
- Introduction of CITIZENSHIP skills and knowledge
- Emphasis on critical thinking, creativity, internal motivation of students
- Targeted training
- Presentation of good practices from EU countries.
- Practices of meaningful participation of students in research
- Monitoring and continuous evaluation
The vision of the Minister of Education, Sports and Youth towards a modern education system
Cyprus Minister of Education, through an article on August 20th, 2023, states her vision for a modern school, which will be inclusive and democratic, in which the students will be able to acquire the necessary knowledge, and also to cultivate necessary abilities and skills, such as critical thinking, assessment, creativity, innovation, etc.
Her vision is to make schools into places with satisfied students and teachers, who will act with dignity and equality, with the aim of the best learning outcomes for the children.
She believes that for this to become possible, the chronic distortions that have been established over the years, must be resolved. These include the excessive material of each course, the content of the syllabus, and the evaluation of the students and the teachers. Modern pedagogical teaching approaches, of uniform and continuous education must be introduced.
Quality assurance at day nurseries is the responsibility of the Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance. Both the institutions and the teaching staff are inspected by the inspectors of the ministry.
At the school level of education overall responsibility for quality assurance rests with the Inspectorates of the Ministry of Education and Culture. The inspectors of the Ministry are responsible for both supervising the public schools and appraising their teaching and management staff. They also supervise the private schools in order to assure that they comply with the provisions of law. The teaching staff of the private schools is appraised by the directors of the institutions.
The Ministry of Education also assumes responsibility for the system of internal evaluation of public schools recommending that an annual informal report is submitted to the Inspector General at the end of every school year by each school.
National Strategy for a Better Internet for Children
Following the approval of the "National Strategy for a Better Internet for Children" by the Council of Ministers (decision date 9/12/2017 and decision number 83,979), the Pedagogical Institute will coordinate the Cybersafety project and will monitor the implementation of the project in Cyprus for the years 2019 and 2020.
The proposed CyberSafety II project continues the successful work of the Cyprus Safe Internet Center, with the involvement of even more stakeholders, in order to promote a secure online culture and enhance creative, innovative and critical-thinking citizens of the digital society in which we live.
Approaches and methods for quality assurance
External evaluation of teachers and headteachers
There is a system of teacher evaluation at all stages of their career in the public sector of school education, which is controlled by Regulations ΚΔΠ 223/1976. Teachers are inspected and assessed by the inspectors of the Ministry of Education and Culture. During the teachers’ two-year probationary period, their evaluation involves a report on their progress, completed by their inspector as well as the headteacher of the school every six months. As part of this evaluation, the teacher is observed in the classroom. Once the probationary period is successfully completed, a teacher is evaluated once a year for the first two years and then at least once every three years thereafter. This procedure stays in place until a teacher has completed twenty-five years of service, at which point he/she is evaluated once every four years.
As part of the assessment procedure, teachers are usually observed in the classroom. Notice is given a day before that the evaluation will take place. Following the lesson observation, a meeting between the teacher and the inspector takes place, during which the strengths and the weaknesses of the lesson are discussed. The inspector’s comments may be sent to the teacher in writing as well, but this will take place in exceptional cases of very weak lessons or disagreement between the two.
At the end of the year of assessment, a team of three inspectors presided over by the teacher’s assigned inspector, are responsible for preparing a confidential report based on the results of the classroom observation and informal reports by the school head and the teacher concerned. The appraisal report contains both comments and quantitative evaluation of the teacher in the following four areas:
•Professional qualifications (1-10 grades);
•Professional sufficiency (1-10 grades);
•Management, administration and human relations (1-10 grades); and,
•General behaviour and action (1-10 grades).
The grades assigned, but not the whole report, are communicated to the teacher. The teacher has the right to official objection, which will be examined by the same team of inspectors. A final answer will be sent to the teacher whether the objection has been accepted with new grades assigned, or it has been rejected.
A different approach is followed for a headteacher’s assessment. Headteachers are evaluated by a team of inspectors (usually 2 inspectors) presided by the Inspector General. The focus is on school management instead of teaching, therefore headteachers are not observed in the classroom. Notice is given some days before, that the evaluation will take place. At the end of the year of evaluation, a confidential report (the same as that one for teachers) is prepared by the team of evaluation. The headteachers have also the right to official objection (the same processes as those for the teachers).
The results of the evaluation in both the case of teachers or headteachers have no impact on salaries, but they constitute one of the criteria regulated for promotion.
Within the on-going dialogue for educational reform, the current system of evaluation is under consideration. A proposal by the Ministry of Education and Culture on developing a new evaluation system has been set up in November 2014 concerning the evaluation of the educational work and educators. The proposal is based on various discussions on the subject during recent years.
External evaluation of educational institutions
Institutions are both internally and externally evaluated. External evaluation is carried out by ‘major inspections’ (μείζων επιθεώρηση), by teams of inspectors usually coordinated by the Inspector General of the Ministry of Education and Culture. Major inspections cover all areas and aspects of school life, with the main aim to ascertain the effectiveness of the school as a complete unit and not the performance of individual teachers.
The school to be inspected is notified at least one month in advance and the headteacher is asked to complete a questionnaire and submit it to the inspector in charge a week before the inspection begins. The following information about the school is required:
- A historical overview of the school since its establishment;
- The school timetable;
- A list of the teaching staff;
- A list of administrative and other staff;
- Information on the student population;
- A report by the headteacher on the school and its extracurricular activities;
- Details of staff meetings and the major issues raised;
- A sample of teaching material;
- Information on school based in-service training for teachers;
- Student welfare information;
- Details of relationships with parents and the wider community;
- Comments on school equipment;
- A plan of the school building and its premises and comments on the effectiveness and suitability of the school premises; and,
- Any other information the headteacher feels is necessary for the team of Inspectors.
The inspection process may take more than one days, during which the school continues to operate as normal. The team of inspectors meets with the headteacher and deputy headteachers to receive information on the methods used in the school in order to ensure that objectives are met. They will also meet the representative body of the pupils and the parents’ association in order to hear their views on the functioning of the school.
Inspectors may observe lessons and, with the consent of the teacher, obtain verbal or written feedback from pupils. They may review lesson plans and check the written work of the pupils, in order to ensure that the work being carried out is in line with curriculum requirements. The team of inspectors may also review the minutes of staff meetings, school publications, correspondence with parents, task allocation programmes, activity timetables, and supplementary teaching material.
Following the inspection, a comprehensive report covering all aspects of the school, prepared by the Inspector General, is submitted to the school authorities. The report is based on predetermined guidelines, but it may also include additional comments considered important. The report must provide a complete picture of the conditions under which the school is functioning, as well as of the quality of its work. Achievements, as well as weaknesses and limitations, are recognised and suggestions are made for measures to be taken to address problem areas.
Internal evaluation of educational institutions
There are not many features of institutionalised internal evaluation in public schools in Cyprus. The only feature in use is an internal evaluation that public schools carry out in the form of an informal summary report on the operation of the school, which the headteacher draws up with the cooperation of the deputy heads and the teaching staff and submits to the Ministry at the end of each school year. The purpose is to report whether the school has reached its stated targets and bring any other important issues to the attention of the Ministry of Education and Culture. The report serves as feedback for the Ministry of Education as regards individual school units.
Evaluation of the whole education system
Evaluation of the education system is not regulated. However, the recently established Centre for Educational Research and Evaluation (CERE) is expected to carry out research and evaluation studies on the whole educational system. So far, a major evaluation has been carried out by a team of UNESCO experts, in 1996/97. Small scale research studies into specific areas of the educational system have also been carried out by the Department for Educational Research and Evaluation of the Pedagogical Institute.