|Cyprus Table of Contents
One of the most important institutional changes introduced during the period of British rule was the allocation of a small subsidy for the establishment of primary schools. A great increase in the number of primary schools throughout the island was made possible by the Education Law of 1895, which permitted local authorities to raise taxes to finance schools. In 1897 there were only 76 schools, run by voluntary and church donations; twenty years later there were 179. Colonial officials also subsidized teacher training and agricultural courses, but did not interfere with local and church authorities in the area of secondary education.
As a result of a campaign against illiteracy launched by British authorities, the percentage of illiterate adult Cypriots fell from 33 percent in 1946 to 18 percent in 1960. After independence the illiteracy rate dropped still further, to 9.5 percent in 1976, the last year for which there are statistics. In that year, 15 percent of women were illiterate, as were 3.2 percent of men. This improvement reflected the growing school enrollment. In 1960 as much as 25 percent of the population had never attended school, but by 1986-87 this figure had dropped to 6 percent. Another indication of the expansion of education was that in 1946 only 5 percent of adult women had attended secondary schools; forty years later 30 percent had.
During the colonial period, the main educational goal was the inculcation of national ideals and the strengthening of ethnic identity. After independence, goals became more practical. A welleducated population was seen as the best way of guaranteeing a thriving economy, a rise in overall living standards, and a vigorous cultural life. The great importance attached to education could be seen in the significant rise in government spending on it during the period since independence. In 1960 education accounted for 3.4 percent of the gross national product (GNP). By 1987 education accounted for 5.6 percent of GNP and 11.6 percent of the government's budget.
At the beginning of the 1990s, there was an abundance of qualified teachers for all levels and types of schools, as well as administrative personnel, all of whom were accredited by a special committee of the Ministry of Education. All public schools had uniform curricula; the preparation of school textbooks was the responsibility of committees of teachers and administrators, working in close cooperation with educational authorities in Greece. Some instructional material for both primary and secondary education was donated by the Greek government. Cypriot schools were also well provided with modern teaching equipment.
A principal challenge at the beginning of the 1990s was providing education more responsive to the needs of the economy. The first vocational-technical schools were established after independence in an attempt to provide the rapidly expanding economy with technicians and skilled workers. However, Cyriots retained a tendency to choose academic rather than technical courses, for reasons of social prestige. Cyprus therefore faced a chronic shortage of skilled workers and a high rate of unemployment for university graduates. In the second half of the 1980s, this trend had ended. In the 1986-87 academic year, only 5.3 percent of students opted for the classical academic course of studies, compared with 46.2 percent in the 1965-66 academic year. About half of all students chose to concentrate on economic and commercial courses; about one-fifth percent chose scientific courses; and onefifth percent, vocational-technical courses.
The Greek Cypriot education system consisted of preprimary and primary schools, secondary general and secondary technical/vocational schools, and special schools for the blind, deaf, and other teachable handicapped persons. In addition, there were institutions for teacher training, specialized instruction, and informal education. As of 1990, there was no university in the Republic of Cyprus, and until one opened in the early 1990s, further studies had to be pursued abroad. There were a small number of private schools.
The constitution of 1960 assigned responsibility for education to the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communal chambers. After withdrawal of the Turkish Cypriots from all state institutions, the government proceeded with the establishment of the Ministry of Education in 1965. Under this ministry, the education system evolved its present structure: one to two and one-half years of preprimary schooling for children aged three to five and one-half years; six years of primary school for children aged five and onehalf to eleven and one-half years; six years of secondary schooling, followed by two to three years of higher education for those who did not go to study abroad.
The development of preprimary education was a relatively recent phenomenon in Cyprus. In 1973 only 11 percent of children under five years of age attended public or private nurseries or kindergartens. Following the 1974 invasion, the state became much more involved with preprimary education through its establishment of nurseries and kindergartens for the thousands of refugees from northern areas. The 1980s saw a further expansion of public education of this kind.
Primary education was always free in Cyprus and aimed at the all-around education of young children. After 1962 primary education was compulsory, and primary schools were found in all communities, even remote villages. In the 1986-87 academic year, there were 357 public primary schools, and l6 private ones (most of the latter for the children of foreign residents).
Secondary education, which was also free, but not compulsory, was open without examination to all children who had completed primary schooling. It was divided into two stages, each consisting of three grades. During the first stage, the gymnasium, all students were taught the same general subjects, with a special emphasis on the humanities. The second stage consisted of either the lyceum, which offered five main fields of specialization (classical studies, science, economics, business, and languages), or a vocational-technical course. Schools of the second category aimed at providing industry with technicians and craftsmen. Vocational schools trained many students for work in the country's important tourist industry; technical schools emphasized mathematics, science, and training in various technologies.
After independence the number of students at the secondary level increased rapidly, rising from 26,000 in the 1960-61 academic year to 42,000 ten years later. By the second half of the 1980s, 98 percent of those who completed primary school attended secondary schools, compared with about 75 percent twenty years earlier.
Although Cyprus had no university of its own (the long-planned University of Cyprus was expected to begin enrolling students for some courses in 1991), many Cypriots were at foreign universities, and the percentage of students studying at the university level, 29 percent, was among the highest in the world. During the 1970s and 1980s, an average of more than over 10,000 Cypriots studied abroad annually. During the 1970s, more than half of these students were in Greece, and about one-fifth were in Britain. In the 1980s, the United States became an important destination for students going abroad, generally surpassing Britain. The number of women studying abroad increased markedly during the 1970s and 1980s, going from 24 percent in 1970 to 40 percent in 1987.
Cyprus did, however, provide some opportunities for third-level training, and in the late 1980s attracted some of those who earlier would have studied abroad. In 1987 there were seven public and ten private institutions of higher learning, where about one-fourth of the island's secondary school graduates were enrolled. The public institutions were the Pedagogical Academy of the Ministry of Education, which trained kindergarten and primary school teachers; the Higher Technical Institute of the Ministry of Labor and Social Insurance, which trained mechanical, electrical, and civil engineers; the College of Forestry under the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources; the School of Nursing, the School of Midwifery, and the Psychiatric School of Nursing under the Ministry, of Health; and the Hotel and Catering Institute under the Ministry of Labor and Social Insurance. Private institutions offered courses in business administration, secretarial studies, mechanical and civil engineering, banking and accounting, hotel and catering, and communications.
Source: U.S. Library of Congress