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The Cyprus National Round Table: an opportunity to discuss on managing language diversity and second language teaching in the Cyprus Educational System

On 18th October 2013, the Cyprus Pedagogical Institute (CPI) organized a round table meeting on managing language diversity and second language teaching in the Cyprus Educational system for students with migrant background.

The round table brought together about 20 participants:

  • members of the CPI
  • policy makers
  • researchers and members of the academia
  • teachers and school leaders

NGOS representatives who were invited (teacher union representative in the Primary School Committee on Language, MIGS representative involved in the project on young female integration in schools) did not manage to attend the meeting but promised to follow the discussion and sent reports on their arguments.

Participants were welcomed by Pavlina Hadjitheodoulou Loizidou, Head of the In-service Teacher Training Department of the CPI. She presented the SIRIUS network and the situation on language diversity and second language education in Cyprus. This was  followed by an example from a lower secondary school in Nicosia and its practices in implementing the proposed measures presented by Eleni Constantinides. It was emphasized that the round table meeting aimed at giving the opportunity of bringing together the experience of stakeholders who have implemented different measures dealing with the education of pupils of migrant background in Primary and Secondary Education and at building on the input from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki on the implementation of the project “Education of Migrant Students”. After the presentation of the educational context in Cyprus, a preliminary discussion was chaired by Panayiotis Savva, which revealed a lack of information on policies and practices implemented in different sectors of education in Cyprus (pre-primary, primary, lower secondary, upper secondary) and the need for an holistic and continuing approach of the issues, as well as the need for differentiation on policies regarding regulations and teacher training.

During the second part of the round table meeting, the example of the program implemented in Greece by the University of Thessaloniki in cooperation with the Ministry of Education was presented. Through ten different actions, an effort is made to approach the education of migrant students holistically, enhancing, at the same time,all structures and regulations applied in Greek schools that aim at the  socal and educational integration of these children.  Mrs Anastasiadou and Mrs Mitsiaki focused on the theoretical and organizational aspects of the actions while Mrs Leonardou and Mrs Metziki gave examples of how their schools took advantage of the different actions of the program to enhance learning of students and attain professional development of teachers

The round table offered a combination of theoretical reflection, based on academic issues, and more practical debate, based on the input of practitioners or the presentation of the examples from Greece.

During the last part of the round table the participants through a process of “compare and contrast” aimed at reflecting on issues and practices and at creating the framework of strategic planning for managing language diversity in schools in Cyprus. These referred to actions to be taken at the macro (policy) level, the meso-(school, local, community) level and the micro- (classroom) level.

The proposals that came out of the round table sessions have been clustered and prioritized, according to the relevant policy level as follows:

STRENGTHS:

  • Existence of structures for language teaching
  • Decision of cooperation of stake holders towards management of language diversity
  • Ability to plan measures, teacher training etc before the school year starts

WEAKNESSES:

  • Lack of an holistic approach of the issues – existence of partial measures
  • Lack of cooperation between language teachers and teachers in the classroom
  • Lack of cooperation between departments of education and between local authorities and ministry of education
  • Need for re-defining students who are speakers of other language
  • Difficulties in changing school regulations so that they can cover a reception phase, a transit and an induction phase

 OPPORTUNITIES:

  • Opportunities for cooperation with the University of Thessaloniki on areas of language test construction and in-service training
  • Opportunities for cooperation with local authorities (e.g. Municipalities)

THREATS:

  • Reactions of teachers on teacher training on weekends
  • Lack of teacher training personnel with specialized experience and studies

SUGGESTIONS FOR ACTIONS

  • Differentiation of teacher training
  • Teacher training opportunities for those schools with high percentage of students of migrant background
  • Use of project work and drama education to enable second language acquisition
  • Re-organization of various measures applied and collaboration of relevant bodies
  • Introduction of a three-phase system (reception phase, transition phase, induction phase)

“MOTTOS” OF THE ROUND TABLE

  • Second language learning is national profit
  • The key issue of education of students with migrant background is teacher training
  • The school achieves its aims if teachers work and cooperate efficiently, politely showing interest in their professional development.

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