Over the last few years we have seen Cyprus come more and more into the international community which has led to a significant increase in the number of expats moving to the region. As a consequence there have been major changes in the education system but what can you expect in Cyprus and what exactly will it cost?
The education system in Cyprus is slightly different to that which many of us may be familiar with and is something which continues to develop and progress as the years go on. We hereby list the basic stages of the Cypriot education system for your information:-
The Cypriot authorities have made it compulsory for every child over the age of three and under the age of 6 to have one year pre-primary education to ready themselves for the main education system and the challenges ahead. This one year of preschool education is aimed at allowing children to develop their own personality, recognise their capabilities and also “make them feel good about themselves”. In effect this is a confidence boost for young children ahead of joining the mainstream education system of Cyprus.
This again is a compulsory element of education which children will join at the age of six and remain there for six years. The education brief for the primary education cycle is very liberal and basically guarantees that children receive the same opportunities and standard of teaching no matter what age, sex, family or their social background. The system does not differentiate between those with differing mental capabilities.
Surprisingly secondary education in Cyprus is not wholly compulsory although it is offered to children between the ages of 12 and 18. This particular stage of the education system is split into two three-year cycles referred to as Gymnasio (compulsory) and Lykeio (non-compulsory). Secondary education in Cyprus consists of core lessons such as maths, languages etc as well as a variety of extracurricular activities such as sports and other interests.
Alternative to secondary education
Students between the ages of 14 and 16 who “drop out of” the secondary education system can apply to join the apprentice scheme which offers on-the-job experience across a host of different careers. The scheme itself is run by the Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance and offers both vocational and technical training for those who decided against secondary education part two.
Those who choose to go for the apprenticeship scheme will also be able to attend evening classes as an alternative means to obtain the relevant school certificate required to move on to higher education.
Higher education in Cyprus
There is an array of public and private universities across Cyprus which offer differing standards of further education as well is differing costs. If you’re moving to Cyprus it is imperative that you check out the local education facilities and the likelihood of your child or children being able to gain entry to them.
Private School education in Cyprus
As well as the state-sponsored schools referred to above there are also private education facilities and international schools available across the country. While the going rate for private education will differ from establishment to establishment, a number of people in the forum have suggested that the cost is anywhere between €5000 and €7000 a year.
The standard of education in Cyprus
Unfortunately there are many people who believe that the Cyprus education system still has a long way to go before it is comparable with the best in Europe and other areas of the world. However, when you consider that this as a country which was for many years casts aside by the International community there have been significant developments and major changes over recent times.
There is one major issue with exam qualifications in Cyprus and this is the fact that there are no external reviews of the country’s examination system and as such, even though the vast majority of Cypriot students leave education with a qualification, very often these are not recognised by other education facilities such as those in the UK. Unfortunately, until the Cypriot government put in place some form of external monitoring of the examination system it seems that Cypriot qualifications will remain largely unrecognised outside of the country.
While we quoted a figure of between €5000 and €7000 per year for the cost of private schooling in Cyprus, many people may be surprised to learn that the vast majority of Cypriot families will also pay for home tuition for their children. There are many posts on the Cyprus Forum which suggest that many families will pay the equivalent of private schooling fees for home tuition per year for their children.
The fact that many people decide to bring in private tuition for their children, at significant cost, does not say an awful lot about the standard and quality of state education as it stands at the moment.
Planning ahead for your children
Many people who move to Cyprus appear to be concerned about the standard of education in the state sector with more and more people moving towards international schools. English is taught in these schools, as well as the local language, and the standard of education appears to be higher than that seen in the state system. As you might guess, as the number of expats continues to grow in Cyprus we are seeing demand for more and more English-based teachers which is in itself attracting more teachers to Cyprus.
As with any family moving overseas there is the problem of the local language and the need to ingratiate into the local community and have at least a basic grasp of the local dialect. If you do not show willing in the early days this could potentially hamper or delay expats from enjoying the Cypriot way of life, climate and social activities. It is exactly the same for children who need to become part of the local community and also grasp the local language as soon as possible.
Choosing a school for your child
With direct similarities to countries such as Spain, where there are many state, private and international schools, you need to appreciate and understand exactly what your child requires and what is on offer. As with the Spanish education system, many experts believe that children of 13 years of age and above may find it more difficult than younger children to join the state education system, learning the language and also improving their academic skills. As a consequence many expats will have a major decision to make upon arrival in Cyprus, do they put their children into state school, private school or an international school?
Moving from private school to state school
One of the threads on the Cyprus Forum has highlighted the fact that one parent has placed their child into an international school for 12 months in the hope that they will pick up the local language and the local culture before potentially joining the state education system. While this is a very brave move, as potentially the child involved could suffer in the state education system, there are pros and cons like any other education system.
The potential to move into the state education system with a background which includes a basic knowledge of the language could be worth its weight in gold. Many people are of the opinion that there is something of a snobbery associated with those who bring their children to Cyprus only to avoid the state education system by choosing either private schools or international schools. Whether this is true or not is open to debate but the quicker you can ingratiate your family into the local community the better for all.
Finding a good school
Whether you are looking towards state schools, private schools or international schools there is no doubt that the variety and quality of schooling in Cyprus does vary from area to area. Many people believe that the entrance examinations in private schools and international schools allows these particular establishments to pick and choose the best crop of children on the island and maintain a high degree of education into the future.
The best way to find a school to suit your child, one which offers value for money and is exactly what you need is to visit a number of education establishments on your next trip to the island. There is nothing better than to see a school with your own eyes, speak to the teachers and gain a general opinion of exactly what is going on. Coupled with advice and information from fellow expats in Cyprus this should allow you to make a decision as to what area of education you should look towards and ultimately which school.
Blended learning is the new buzzword in the education system and effectively offers the ability to bring together an array of different education styles and strategies via remote services. A number of UK universities are looking into blended learning facilities in Cyprus which will ultimately be controlled from the UK but will allow Cypriot students to receive UK standard education on a regular basis. While this is still at a very early stage, and under development, there is a feeling that by incorporating UK standard education via remote broadcasting systems such as video conferencing this will in due course impact upon the quality of Cypriot education and ultimately improve the system.
As you may guess, Cyprus has a high degree of English-speaking students both in the state education system and private education. This is potentially one factor which could assist those who are unable to afford private education for their children as it should improve the “settling down period” your child will experience in a new country and a new school. We must never underestimate the value to your child of feeling at ease in their environment and also the opportunity to speak to people who understand their mother tongue.
Developments in the Cyprus education system
The Cyprus Ministry of Education is an area of government which many people believe has yet to fulfil its potential and ultimately improve the education system on the island. However, there have been major developments over the last few years and while there are still some problems with regards to internal inspections and school licenses, which can take months if not years to come through, there is no doubt that the situation has improved.
One problem which still persists is the fact that Cypriot education qualifications are on the whole not recognised outside of the country because of the lack of external examination inspectors, and the system as it stands is not part of the international education qualification network. This does need to change in the future and thankfully there are signs that the government appreciates this and will be taking action in the short to medium term.
Ultimately there is intense scepticism regarding the quality of state education in Cyprus, and the fact that many Cypriot qualifications are not recognised outside of the country does not help the situation. However, there are numerous private schools and international schools for expats looking to educate the children outside of the state education system where they would be fast tracked with regards to the Cypriot language which should set them up for the future.
Interestingly the cost of private schools and international schools can be anywhere between €5000 and €7000 a year which actually equates roughly to what some Cypriot families will spend on home schooling for their own children. This alone does not reflect well on the quality and quantity of the Cypriot state education system which is free to residents and only compulsory up to 15 years of age.
Even though Cyprus is a well recognised country and one which has attracted a significant number of holidaymakers and expats over the years, there are areas which are still relatively underdeveloped and in need of tender loving care. The education system is one such area which has progressed over the years but which does need further effort and investment by the Cyprus authorities. Hopefully this will come in due course, followed by external exam inspectors which will then open up the Cypriot education sector to the international education community.