Education Minister Addresses Preschool Expansion Concerns

In a recent development concerning early childhood education in Cyprus, Education Minister Athena Michaelidou has addressed concerns raised by the private preschools association (Sipek). The association’s representatives, who had gathered to protest outside parliament, voiced their apprehensions regarding the state’s handling of the expansion of compulsory preschool education.

During a House education committee meeting, Minister Michaelidou acknowledged the “misunderstandings” with Sipek and assured that efforts are underway to resolve them. She clarified that the discussions revealed the association’s primary concerns are with the programme already in place.

Last year, Sipek criticized a law that has led to confusion among parents of children attending private educational institutions. The law, which is still under debate, proposes to lower the age of compulsory preschool to four years from the current requirement of four years and eight months. This change is expected to be phased in over the next three school years.

Private preschool owners are worried about the potential loss of autonomy and the impact on their businesses, including employment for their staff. The minister reminded that the current administration did not initiate the debate but inherited the programme, which needs to be implemented promptly due to commitments made under Cyprus’ Recovery and Resilience Plan set by the European Commission.

Minister Michaelidou emphasized the importance of concluding parliamentary discussions quickly so that the education ministry can proceed with the programme’s implementation. She acknowledged private kindergartens as crucial partners in this initiative.

When questioned about parental choice and subsidies for private kindergarten attendance, Michaelidou confirmed that if it falls under compulsory education, parents would have a choice, and subsidies would be provided. Regarding the financial aspect of the programme, she disclosed a budget of approximately €130 million over nine years, extending the initial two or three-year plan to ensure public finances remain stable and that the ministry can adequately manage the situation with available facilities and capacities.

The minister’s comments have been met with interest as stakeholders await further clarification on how these changes will affect early childhood education in Cyprus.

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