The Ministry of Education and Culture (MoEC) in Cyprus has planned a legislative reform of its special education provision. This reform aims to make the education system more inclusive, in line with the stated priorities at European and international level. At the request of the Cypriot MoEC, the European Commission Structural Reform Support Service (SRSS) contracted the Agency to assist in analysing the current policy framework regarding special needs and inclusive education. The analysis aimed to identify the system’s strengths and weaknesses. It also aimed to produce recommendations that could be used as the general principles and the basis for a new bill on special needs and inclusive education.
The first step for the Agency was to prepare the draft recommendations based upon the results of a mapping framework developed for the SRSS programme in Cyprus. The mapping framework was a structured tool which used a grid to analyse documentary evidence from Cyprus regarding inclusive education. As a result of this analysis, draft recommendations were developed and presented as a proposal.
The next step for the Agency was to further develop the draft recommendations by consulting key decision-makers in Cyprus. In October 2018, the SRSS team held a workshop and consultation meetings with stakeholders in Cyprus with the aim of informing and discussing the draft recommendations.
The meeting began with a welcome from the Minister of Education and Culture, Kostas Champiaouris, who reiterated the MoEC’s commitment to supporting the legislative reform. The meeting continued with five separate meetings with MoEC officials, representatives of the Commissioner for Children’s Rights, the Commissioner for Administration and Human Rights (Ombudsman) and key stakeholder representatives. During the meetings, two European policy-makers from Finland and Scotland presented the developments in inclusive education in their countries. Participants discussed the current challenges and new priorities for promoting inclusive education in Cyprus and reached agreements about the draft recommendations.
During the October visit, the MoEC also organised a meeting at the House of Representatives, at the request of the Parliamentary Committee on Educational Affairs and Culture, to present and discuss the draft recommendations. The brief presentation of the key points of the draft recommendations was followed by a constructive discussion with the Committee members.
Based on the draft recommendations, the feedback from the Steering Committee, MoEC officials, the SRSS and key stakeholders, and the results of the workshop discussions, the Agency has prepared 24 final recommendations that have been approved by the MoEC and the SRSS. The final recommendations, like the draft recommendations, take into account the country priorities, as indicated by the MoEC.
The next step of the Agency’s work in Cyprus is to provide support in the development of the new bill on special needs and inclusive education, which will be based on the final recommendations.