Organized student groups gathered outside the Presidential Palace in Nicosia on Thursday morning to protest the implementation of exams on a semester basis.
According to local media, distirct student councils in Nicosia, Limassol, Larnaca, Paphos, and Famagusta were all backing the demonstration staged by PSEM National Student Council following a vote with almost 73% in favour of the protests.
Chants outside the Presidential Palace included “this shall not pass, minister,” "take them back, minister," and “the young generation won't bow its head, the only way forward is resistance once again.”
The students say they are against the semester exams, which are end-of-term examinations first implemented this academic year in tenth grade (first grade Lyceum) for the end of Fall and Spring terms.
According to Kathimerini Cyprus, a PSEM representative said the students were prepared to be marked absent during the demonstration on a school day but expressed concern over possible disciplinary action including possible suspensions.
The government has been pushing for reform in public education and state public schools, focusing on the administration of semester exams that would help students and educators evaluate academic performance throughout the school year.
Students: semester exams "too stressful"
But PSEM says students find the semester exams “too stressful” arguing that some teachers are teaching to the test while adding that semesters neither provide all-round development nor encourage critical thinking.
The government favours the semester system, arguing that teachers would have opportunities to point out early on any weaknesses to students, in the middle of the year, thus enabling pupils to focus on making improvements in the following semester.
Critics of the demonstrations, including organized parents, say improvements are necessary to the new semester exam system but disagree with the student position.
State teachers have been largely against semester exams with reports saying some were sabotaging the process. But a vote late last year by OELMEK union teachers turned down a proposed strike on exam day, with members essentially turning their backs on the leadership that had been calling on members to resist a new semester-based system.
Up until last year, grading based on exams took place at the end of the academic year in all grades, with proponents of the semester system saying students previously had no basis during the year to get valuable feedback.
End-of-semester exams meant that students and teachers would only focus on half the material in each term, instead of being tested on an entire year’s examinable content just once at the end of school year in the summer.