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Cyprus remains below the EU average (10.20 %) and the Europe 2020 national target of 10 % regarding early school leaving (9,2% among 18-24 year-olds in 2019). The Education and Training Monitor 2020 Report for Cyprus states that early school leaving is on the rise. Since 2015, it appears that there is an upward trend in the percentage of early school leavers. From 2015 when ESL was at its lowest at 5.20 %, it went up to 7.80 % in 2018 and 9.20 % in 2019 among 18-24 year-olds. The report mentions that this is primarily caused by a strong increase among foreign-born students, whose ESL share went up 9.40 % to 23.30 % from 2018 to 2019 while the share decreased among native-born to 4.8% (-1.40 %).
Concerning students' mobility, there are no official data available related to the number of students going abroad for studies for the last years. The latest available data provided by the Cyprus Statistical Service (Education Indicators) refer to the academic year 2010/11 where the gross enrolment ratio abroad for tertiary level was 27 % (gross enrolment ratio for a given level of education is derived by dividing the total number of pupils at this level regardless of age, by the population of the age group which according to national regulations should be enrolled at this level).
In addition, the official data (Στοιχεία για τα προγράμματα και τις υπηρεσίες του Οργανισμού Νεολαίας για το 2020), provided by the Youth Board of Cyprus (YBC), reported that 4.056 young people participated in the Erasmus+ Youth programme in 2020, out of which 2.178 young people participated in trainings for youth workers and youth exchanges. Moreover, based on similar national statistics of the YBC (Στοιχεία για το πρόγραμμα Erasmus+: Νεολαία), for the period 2014-2018, 21 948 young people participated in the various activities of the Erasmus+ programme, of which 8 279 participated in youth mobilities and trainings for youth workers, 9 756 participated in transnational cooperation, 3 316 participated in the process of structured dialogue for youth and 597 participated in volunteering activities.
Based on the Education and Training Monitor 2019 Cyprus Report and the Education and Training Monitor 2020 Cyprus Report, the main challenges in young people’s participation in education and training in Cyprus are:
- Tertiary education attainment has risen further, but underutilisation of skills remains a challenge given the specific features of the Cypriot labour market.Measures have been taken to upgrade vocational education and training and adult learning, but the attractiveness of both sectors and participation in them remain low.
- Several initiatives in vocational education and training (VET) aim to improve labour market links, yet participation in upper secondary VET remains low.
- Almost 2 out of 3 students (58.9%) from the lowest socio-economic quartile are low achievers in reading (EU average: 36.4%). In the top socio-economic quartile, 29.7% are low achievers, the highest share in the EU (where the average is 9.5%). These findings underline the need for policies that tackle underachievement across the socio-economic spectrum while maintaining and strengthening specific support for disadvantaged groups. Digital skills need to be further strengthened. Individuals with above-basic digital skills are fewer in Cyprus (22%) than across the EU (36%).
- Digital education is clearly a policy focus, but implementation needs to be improved. Distance learning highlighted several gaps.
- No policy guidance exists for providing post-secondary education for young migrant adults, even though the proportion of recently arrived refugees aged 18-34 is especially high at 62%, in 2018.
As for the validation of skills, the Cyprus Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport and Youth (MOECSY) and the Youth Board of Cyprus are in the process of developing a mechanism for validation and recognition of non-formal and informal learning (including volunteerism and youth work). For more information, please read the forthcoming policy developments under section 6.10.
Last, a major topic in the Cyprus Education is the integration of children with a migrant background. The 2019 Annual Report of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport and Youth mentions that the Ministry has recently developed and implemented an upgraded educational policy pertaining to Multicultural Education, aiming at the smooth integration of pupils with migrant background into the educational system of Cyprus. For more information, please consult section 6.6.
The Education system in Cyprus consists of the following stages:
Pre-Primary education is compulsory for all children between 4 8/12 – 5 8/12 years old. Children are also accepted over the age of 3.
Primary Education is compulsory for all children over the age of 5 8/12 and has a duration of 6 years.
Secondary Education offers two three-year cycles of education – Gymnasio (lower secondary education which is mandatory) and Lykeio (upper secondary general education which is optional) – to pupils between the ages of 12 and 18. The curriculum includes core lessons, interdisciplinary subjects and a variety of extracurricular activities. Education is compulsory up to the age of 15 and free of charge for both cycles. Upon completion of Lykeio, pupils receive a school leaving certificate (apolyterion), providing access to Institutions of Higher and Tertiary Education in Cyprus or abroad.
Instead of the Lykeio, pupils may choose to attend Upper Secondary Technical and Vocational Education.
Upper Secondary Technical and Vocational Education offers a wide range of technical and vocational initial training and lifelong training programmes to eligible gymnasium leavers and adults. Formal mainstream upper secondary initial technical and vocational education programmes are offered at technical schools free of charge. They are offered in two directions, the theoretical and the practical direction. Upon completion of secondary technical and vocational education, pupils receive a school leaving certificate (apolyterion), which is equivalent to that awarded by lykeio, providing access to the world of work or to Institutions of Higher and Tertiary Education in Cyprus or abroad.
Post- secondary non-tertiary education is offered to graduates of secondary education (18+ years old) at the Post- Secondary Institutes of Vocational Education and Training.
Higher Education is offered in public and private institutions.
Adult Education. The institution of Adult Education Centres (AEC) was initially established in 1952, mainly in rural areas. Today it operates in all non-occupied areas of the Republic of Cyprus, offering learning opportunities for further personal, professional and social development to thousands of adults aged 15 and over. The AEC offer a variety of interdisciplinary courses, which focus mainly on the teaching of foreign languages, arts and crafts, cultural programmes, health, and other issues of general interest, as well as on the teaching of professional and vocational skills. Furthermore, every year the AEC organise free of charge learning activities for various target groups, such as people with literacy difficulties, people with special needs, enclaved Cypriots, prisoners, soldiers, mentally ill and elderly people. They also offer free of charge Greek language courses to the children of repatriated Cypriots, political refugees, and Turkish Cypriots. Moreover, Turkish language courses are offered free of charge to Greek Cypriots.
The definition of Special Need Education (SNE) in Cyprus has been specified in the Laws Special Education Law 113(1) of 1999 (Περί Αγωγής και Εκπαίδευσης Παιδιών με Ειδικές Ανάγκες Νόμος του 1999) and 69(I)/2001.
In addition, there is no official definition of non-formal education in Cyprus. However, the Council of Europe’s definition in the Recommendation CM/Rec(2017)4 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on youth work is used.