Debate on special education as part of school reform in the Republic of Cyprus is back in the headlines this year, with officials and unions pitted against each other as to how best serve children of different learning styles without compromising the classroom.
During a news program on state-funded radio, primary education director Marios Stylianides said Special Education could be improved in schools by a manual guide that has been created to equip teachers with proper tools.
"The educator can go around the room after assigning class work and attend to students in accordance with their learning group," Stylianides told RIK3.
The union has raised issues with the government’s Special Ed approach, saying colleagues were worried about creating different and unequal student categories in the same classroom
Groundwork in Special Ed as part of school reform involves efforts at creating programs designed to support students with various physical, mental, and emotional disabilities, as well as language issues.
But POED teachers union official Myria Vassiliou, who also spoke on radio Monday morning, raised issues with the government’s Special Ed approach, saying colleagues were worried about creating two different and unequal student categories in the same classroom.
Vassiliou argued in favor of small class sizes, saying it would be impossible for educators to tend to each individual student in a big class.
Stylianides had argued that teachers need not tend to each individual student but deal with groupings of students who may have different educational needs, such as language challenges or other learning needs.
But Vassiliou raised questions about hiring Special Ed teachers, saying primary educators were responsible for their class and additional colleagues being hired to help on different contracts would pose legal issues.
“Education reform needs teachers who will implement the new practices,” she said, with the POED official accusing the government of taking an “economic approach” to solving issues by putting students in the same class instead of creating smaller classes.
But proponents of keeping all students in the same class argue against separating classrooms, arguing that placing students with different needs in different classes would in fact create student inequalities.