There are seven types of education needs in Cyprus:
- Pre-school primary (3 – 6)
- Pre-teen (6 – 12)
- High school (12 – 18)
- Special needs
If I am elected president, I will instruct the education minister to start with a blank piece of paper and provide formal recommendations to improve all seven education areas after involving various stakeholders. These must include internationally respected experts, unions, teachers, parents, other countries’ best practices, and commercial partners.
In parallel, I want students from every gymnasium and Lyceum high school to elect a committee of spokespersons to answer a fundamental question: what should be done to improve their education? In other words, what do our children want? A 15-year-old is not allowed to drive, vote, or marry. However, many in that age group probably have more nous than some Cyprus politicians I’ve recently watched on TV.
Subject to feedback from all stakeholders, my vision is shown below:
- To increase the school leaving age from 15 to 16.
- To create a public national league table of how every high school performs in pan-Cyprian exams compared to other schools. Competition is good as it encourages better teaching and should not be feared. The worst-performing schools will be given the best teachers and headteachers, so their standards improve. It will be similar to American football (NFL) where the worst-performing teams this year have priority to select the best-of-the-best players from American colleges next year.
- To implement chess training from age 6 and hold inter-school competitions.
- To select the most gifted teenagers in sports and specialist studies to optionally attend academies part time. These children will be our future leaders, sports stars, Michelin chefs, Einsteins, chess grand masters, and business leaders, so let’s not hold them back from excelling. Let’s incubate this talent and make it grow.
- To train our youth to care for our planet, our community, and each other. And to learn that bullying and violent gangs are wrong. (I wish to make clear that morality education and religious beliefs are for parents to teach, not the state)
- To use shock tactics so our children never become drug addicts. By ‘shock’ I mean visits from former addicts, police presentations, photos, graphic films, or similar. If our children leave these lectures uncomfortable or nauseous, then this initiative has been a success. I want to create a generation that will view drug use as a total taboo, similar to eating human flesh. [Personal experience: Having been a volunteer for an emotional support hotline charity for 12 years, I’ve listened to distraught persons, sometimes suicidal, who wished they had never tried drugs when they were at school.]
- To ensure every child that wants to, learns basic first aid, lifesaving at sea, fire prevention and control, earthquake preparedness and rescue skills. I want Cyprus to be the first nation in the world where 90% of its teenagers over the age of 13 can safely resuscitate a tourist, friend, family member, or stranger from death’s door with or without a defibrillator.
- In partnership with top Cypriot chefs who will provide the recipes, to teach teenage boys from age 13 how to cook four or five Cypriot gourmet dishes, learn how to clean, and how to iron. Let’s create a nation of men whose partners will adore them, not spoilt mummies’ boys holding on to apron strings. [Personal experience: I was an only child. My yaya and mother brought me up in London. I do not recall knowing how to wash dishes or iron a shirt until I got married. However, I did learn basic cookery at school. I persuaded my friends to take (the optional) cookery classes so our high school would put us in the same room as the girls so we could flirt with them. There were so many ‘lads’ (Greek ‘palikaria’) that applied, there was no room for any girls in our class.]
Special needs education
As part of my promise to empower those with special needs, a radical review will take place with the help of stakeholders. I will also review how some adults with mental challenges can safely live in the community in sheltered accommodation yet enjoy day centre facilities to enjoy their lives. In days gone by, children and adults with special needs were locked up in mental institutions. Other than in exceptional circumstances, this must never apply in a modern, caring Cyprus.
100 years ago, Cyprus was a nation of farmers, mostly poor. So poor, children were not forced into compulsory education until the 1960s, in case they had to care for family farms. I will change this. If an 80-year-old grandfather wants to learn about astrophysics and multiverses, astronomy, Wagner, or how to use a PC, the state will partner with commercial organisations, schools, and universities to subsidise this part-time training. Countries such as Denmark follow this model.
Refer to my manifesto section, ‘Businesses, entrepreneurship, job creation, and the CSE’.1