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Continuation of the National Youth Strategy 2017-2022
The second action plan of the National Youth Strategy 2017-2022 (NYS) for the period 2020-2022 is currently being implemented. Upon the completion of the 2nd action plan, a new National Youth Strategy is expected to be implemented for the period 2023-2030. For this reason, discussions and consultations among relevant stakeholders and the Youth Board of Cyprus in relation to its development are expected to start within 2021.
Validation of non-formal learning
The project in regards to the “Establishment of mechanisms for the validation of non-formal and informal learning and pilot implementation” is also under development, based on the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport and Youth Annual Report 2018 and 2019 Annual Report. The Project aims at: a) mapping the current situation in Cyprus regarding the validation of non-formal and informal learning; b) elaborating a National Action Plan for the creation of validation mechanisms, and c) piloting mechanisms which will focus on adult education, youth and volunteering.
A draft Action Plan was created for the purpose of conducting open consultations with young people and relevant stakeholders from all over Cyprus in regards to the topic, and following their recommendations the document was finally approved by the Council of Ministers in October 2018. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport and Youth is currently in the phase of evaluating the offers of the government tender regarding the elaboration of the basic tools for the pilot implementation of the non-formal and informal learning mechanism. This process will begin soon, with one of the deliverables being the professional model/occupational standards for youth workers.
In December 2018, the Chairman of the Youth Board of Cyprus announced in an event («Γνώσεις & Δεξιότητες με χαρακτήρα: Το σχολείο που θέλουμε») in Nicosia the launch of the programme “STEAM Schools” which aims to develop, along with key competences in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics, young people’s horizontal skills, such as communication, teamwork and creativity. In order to set the foundations right, the YBC has launched a series of programmes, namely the STEAMers, the Youth Makerspace and the Mobile Makerspace, to prepare both infrastructures and soft resources for the launch of the comprehensive STEAM School project.
A few months later, the YBC submitted a policy proposal to the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports and Youth and the Council of Ministers, highlighting the benefits of STEAM education and requesting for the adoption of the concept by the relevant Ministry. The paper was approved and the YBC presented the proposal in June 2019, as one of the three new pioneering projects being introduced by the YBC and the government.
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport and Youth had consequently announced in July 2019 the pilot implementation of the STEM Schools in 9 primary schools for the school year 2019/2020 (Πιλοτική εφαρμογή Προγράμματος STEM σε σχολεία Δημοτικής Εκπαίδευσης). The classes take place in the afternoon, after the completion of the official school programme. Based on the expected results and learning achievements of the students, there will be provision of a further expansion of the programme in more primary schools as well as secondary schools.
The Ministry is also in the process of developing a mechanism for validation and recognition of non-formal and informal learning (including the sectors of volunteerism and youth).
New bill for inclusive education in Cyprus
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport and Youth is planning to reform and upgrade the current legislative framework and practices of Special Education to make it more inclusive and coincide with other European and national policy models. The initiative is funded by the European Union through the Structural Reform Support Programme. For this reason, as it is mentioned in the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education official website, the process is currently on a second round of working groups with several stakeholders (such as education professionals, parent and student groups, representatives from universities, ministry officials) where a specific thematic area of inclusive education was discussed in each of them. Following a series of discussions and procedures, the recommendations will be used to develop the draft regulations. The draft regulations will define in more detail the operational set-up of the topics included in the new draft bill on inclusive education. It is expected that the preparation of the new bill will be completed with 2021. For more information on the phases of the process, please read the Agency’s news section or the Ministry’s official website of Special Education available only in Greek (Μεταρρύθμιση της Ειδικής Εκπαίδευσης).
The major current debates that are taking place in the public sphere regarding the above-mentioned topics concern the implementation of the National Youth Strategy 2017-2022, the validation of non-formal learning and the development of youth work in Cyprus.
The mapping of the current situation in Cyprus regarding the validation of non-formal and informal learning was presented in the “Recommendations for development of youth work in Cyprus” by the youth policy advisory mission of the Council of Europe which took place in April 2019. Within 2020, the Youth Board of Cyprus established a dedicated Working Group on Youth Work, consisted of Youth Board officers and representatives of umbrella youth organisations, with the mandate to work on the development of an action plan for the holistic and quality development of youth work in Cyprus. As previously mentioned in the forthcoming policy developments, the Ministry is also in the process of developing a mechanism for validation and recognition of non-formal and informal learning (including the sectors of volunteerism and youth). .
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport and Youth Annual Report 2019 (p.121) mentions that under the collaboration with the Ministry’s Departments of Education (Primary, Secondary General and Technical and Vocational), a policy towards the internet access in schools is being planned, including Wi-Fi radiation measurements in schools. However, the teachers and parents’ unions raised several times their concerns about the wi-fi radiation in schools, and especially in pre-primary and primary schools.
In addition, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport and Youth each year discusses several initiatives and programmes to enhance formal education (curriculum, evaluation, enhancement of special education and education of vulnerable groups, etc.). The latest educational reform for upgrading the curriculum of several subjects as well as the school timetable of primary and secondary education is still under progress and evaluation. However, there are still a lot of sectors and policies to be further developed and discussed especially in relation to recognition of non-formal learning.