Primary Education is compulsory and has a duration of six years. It is responsible for the education of children between the ages of 58/12 to 118/12 years old, who are attending primary schools. The fundamental principle defining the aims of Primary Education has always been the balanced development of the children’s personality, with the creation of favourable conditions for the conquest of knowledge, the development of equitable attitudes and the cultivation of skills, rendering them capable of undertaking future responsibilities and action in the continuously changing world.
The main aim of Primary Education is to create and secure the necessary learning opportunities so that all children, regardless of age, sex, family and social background or cognitive abilities, can be enabled to:
- achieve a balanced development in the cognitive, emotional and psychomotor domains, while making the most of the means offered by modern technology,
- deal successfully with the various problems they may come across, including possible adjustment difficulties to the school and wider environment and be prepared for active and constructive participation in social, political, cultural and financial contexts,
- acquire positive attitudes towards learning,
- develop social understanding, belief in human values, respect towards cultural heritage and human rights,
- develop an appreciation for beauty, a disposition to creativity and a love for life and nature, in order to become sensitised in preserving and improving the environment.
Both public and private primary schools operate in Cyprus. All children, residing permanently or temporarily in Cyprus, have the right to registration and free attendance in a public primary school. The maximum number of pupils in all grades of primary schools does not exceed 25 pupils.
Schools in the occupied area of Cyprus
Today, approximately 330 Greek Cypriots and 110 Maronites are living in the occupied areas of Cyprus.
Although initially three primary schools managed to operate in the occupied areas, despite the Turkish occupying regime’s restrictions – one in Rizokarpaso, one in Agia Triada and one in Kormakitis – two of them have now closed. During the school year 1996-1997, the Primary School in Agia Triada was compelled to close down due to the denial of the Turkish occupying forces to allow the school teacher Mrs Eleni Foka to return to her village, regardless of the intense efforts of the Republic of Cyprus for her return. In addition, during the school year 1999-2000, the Kormakitis Primary School also had to close down; due to lack of pupils (the last and only pupil of the school graduated the previous year).
During the school year 2004-2005, following constant, insistent and intensive efforts of the Republic of Cyprus, the Rizokarpaso Gymnasium operated again for the first time after the Turkish invasion in 1974. Furthermore, by the end of the same year, on 11th April 2005, children between the ages of 3 to 58/12 years old were given the opportunity to attend the newly established Pre-primary School that started functioning in one of the classrooms of the Rizokarpaso Primary School.
A number of difficulties are surfacing every year since 1974, due to the efforts of the occupying forces to control and restrict the work of the schools. Such difficulties are censorship of textbooks and non-approval of specific teachers by the occupying authorities.
Nevertheless, the education which is provided by the three schools mentioned above is considered satisfactory. The Ministry of Education and Culture ensures that all necessary teaching materials and textbooks are sent to these schools, while the Educational Service Committee provides the educational staff needed for the operation of the schools.
Education for Children with Special Needs
The Law for the Education and Training of Children with Special Needs [113(I)/1999], is the legislative framework which regulates the detection of children with special educational needs; their assessment and the development of an individualized educational program; their placement in the most appropriate educational setting with provision of both teachers and educational resources to meet their needs and the ongoing evaluation of their progress.
The State’s obligation to provide education and training for children with special needs commences at the age of 3 years and continues until the completion of the education and training process. This will normally end at the age of 18, unless they attend higher education. However children attending special schools can continue up to the age of 21, where this is necessary.
Children with special needs are educated in public schools, which are equipped with the suitable infrastructure, according to the Law for Special Education. The majority of children with special educational needs are educated within the mainstream classroom. Special educational provision is also given in Special Units at mainstream schools. Children attending Special Units are also assigned to a mainstream class where they can attend integrated lessons and participate in celebratory or festive events.
Children with severe difficulties are educated in special schools, which are equipped with the appropriate staff (psychologists, speech therapists, nurses, physiotherapists and other specialists, as well as auxiliary staff) in order to provide high quality support and education.
The educational and other needs of children in Pre-primary Schools, in Primary Schools, in Special Units and in Special Schools are being met through programmes for Special Education.
Cyprus Educational Mission in the UK
Through the Cyprus Educational Mission in the UK, the Ministry of Education and Culture supports the efforts of the UK Greek Cypriot Community to maintain its ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic identity. The Cyprus Educational Mission in the UK achieves this aim through the teaching of the Greek language, the organisation of events for national and religious festivals and the familiarisation of pupils with the customs, traditions and history of Cyprus.
The educational mission is staffed by seconded teachers from Cyprus as well as part-time teachers from – or based in – the UK. The Ministry of Education and Culture further supports the work of the mission by publishing and providing the mission with relevant textbooks as well as providing training for the teachers and organising annual Summer Camps in Cyprus, which offer Greek Cypriot children living in the UK the opportunity to visit Cyprus and acquire first-hand experiences of its local traditions.
Education for the Greeks of Diaspora
In its efforts to offer educational help to Greeks living in other countries, the Ministry of Education and Culture has proceeded with the following:
- The provision of books and other educational materials to all Greek schools and other Greek organisations who request such help.
- The organisation and provision of educational camps for children of the Greek Diaspora. The camps offer educational programmes related to the Greek language and culture.
- The provision of educational support to repatriated Cypriots and Greeks of Diaspora through programmes offered within the schools as well as by the Adult Education Centres. These programmes offer free Greek Language courses to both children and adults.
- The teaching of the Greek language to children and teachers of the Greek Orthodox schools in Jerusalem.
Educational and Summer Camps
The aim of the Educational and Summer Camping Programme is to offer children of the 5th and 6th grades of Primary Schools in Cyprus and other countries, the opportunity to get to know and love the natural environment of the countryside, to develop positive attitudes and behaviours towards the environment, to make friends with children of their own age, to learn about Cyprus culture and the history of the island and learn about the island itself in general. Children from abroad, who participate in educational camps in Cyprus, have the opportunity to learn the Greek language and visit some of the most interesting attractions in non-occupied Cyprus.
Furthermore, the Educational and Summer Camping Programme offers children the opportunity to live for a few days away from their families, in an organised community, enabling them to socialise with their peers and develop their self-awareness and self-respect, to improve their collaboration skills and develop their sense of responsibility as well as their ability for self-organisation and self-support. Moreover, the programme helps in improving the children’s health and offers children organised entertainment activities, supporting current trends in education through experiential environmental education and the organisation of social life in educational camps.