MiC’s Top Tips – How to Choose a School

Whether your child is just starting out in their academic career of whether you have recently moved to Cyprus and you child is switching schools mid-year, here are our top tips to help you decide which is the most suitable educational establishment for your child’s needs.

First and foremost: will you choose a public or private education? From a legal perspective, it is mandatory for all children to go to school. In the public sector, education begins in primary school and secondary school consists of two levels – gymnasium and lyceum. Generally speaking, children enrol in the school situated closest to their residence.

Public schools

The teaching language in Cyprus public schools is Greek, and while younger children can adapt quickly, older students may find it very hard to adjust to both a new school and a new language. Also, keep in mind that the local school-leaving certificate ‘Apolyterion’ does not necessarily represent the levels of testing in other European countries. Extra afternoon lessons are often necessary and your child may be required to take additional exams in order to attend higher education. Still, if you intend to stay in Cyprus long term, being immersed by the local culture can be highly beneficial as it will aid integration. Another big advantage to public schools is that there are no fees associated. Plus, with an Apolyterion, one can apply for highly prized civil service jobs in Cyprus and be able to attend Cypriot Universities for free.

Private schools

There is an extensive selection of private, mostly international schools available in all larger cities. Standards upheld and curriculums vary greatly, so it is essential to do your research. Annual fees range from Euros 2,000 to almost Euros 10,000 depending on the school and your child’s age, with additional costs arising from enrolment, uniforms, books, transportation, extra-curricular activities and school trips.

Define your family standards

No matter how old your child is, start bybrainstorming all of the things that are important to you as a parent within your day to day life, and within your parenting philosophy. Then, write down everything that’s important to your child. These thoughts will help you at the later stages of decision making.

Set the cornerstones

What are your preferences with regards to:

  • teaching language
  • school facilities
  • number of students
  • location
  • opening hours
  • costs
  • curriculum followed
  • teacher credentials
  • staff credentials
  • school/premises accreditation

The foundation

In Primary years, you will want to find out how much time the school allocates to reading and storytelling, and to words in general. Do the teachers foster a love for reading? Do they house an extensive library? What state are the books in? For children to be comfortable around books, and to discover the wealth they offer as early on as possible, will allow them to be more confident in school as they move through the years and get to more demanding subjects.

Breaktime is playtime

What is the school’s attitude towards break time? More time in the classroom opposed to playtime does not mean better grades, quite the contrary is true. Children of all ages need to be able to move around, get fresh air and empty their minds regularly for an absolute minimum of at least 20 minutes during the school hours in order to absorb new material and perform to their best ability.

Move away from the contest mentality

When you research your options, do not focus too much on the standardised test scores of the school. While academic achievements are important for securing a place in higher education, it is equally vital to explore whether the child’s entire skill set will be developed. Move away from the contest mentality, all aspects of schooling are important. How does the school encourage independence? How do they develop the arts? Do they offer extra-curricular activities that adress practical skills?) What is their policy with regards to discipline? How about their exam and homework policy for younger aged children? What is the school’s approach to bullying and cultural integration of various nationalites of students?

Seeing is believing

Make an appointment to go see the schools on your shortlist and take your spouse and child(ren) with you. Go during the daytime when the school is in action, as out of hours visits may feel ‘staged’. How do the students behave with each other and their teachers? Ask to see the premises, computer room, music instruments and science lab. Ask the person showing you around what they believe makes them different from the other private schools. Evaluate the atmosphere and trust your gut feeling.

Decision time

Revisit that list of important things you drew up when you started the research and have a frank discussion with all members of the family as your child should feel very much involved in the decision.

Here are several links to get you started on your research, including an approved list of schools and other useful information.

Website of the Cyprus Ministry of Education and Culture (most information also available in English)
Department of Primary Education (most information also available in English)
Department of Secondary General Education (most information also available in English)
Higher Education (most information also available in English)
Full listing of all schools (in Greek only)

The Ministry of Education website also has downloadable excel sheets of catchment areas, by city, for State Primary Schools (both within the city boundaries and for rural areas) and State Nursery schools (again, both for the city and separately for the wider rural areas). There is only one link for the entire page and it is only available in Greek at present. Below are translations of the different sections so you can know which excel sheet to download:

Εκπαιδευτικές Περιφέρειες Δημοτικών Σχολείων Πόλεων/Δήμων/ Μεγάλων Κοινοτήτων (Catchment areas for Primary Schools within City limits)

Για γονείς (For parents – click to download the excel sheet by city)

Επαρχία Λευκωσίας (Nicosia area)

Επαρχία Λεμεσού (Limassol area)

Επαρχία Λάρωακας (Larnaca area)

Επαρχία Αμμοχώστου (Famagusta area)

Επαρχία Πάφου (Paphos area)

Εκπαιδευτικές Περιφέρειες Περιφερειακών Δημοτικών Σχολείων (Catchment areas for Primary Schools in rural communities)

Για εκπαιδευτικούς και γονείς (For parents – click to download the excel sheet by city)

Εκπαιδευτικές Περιφέρειες Νηπιαγωγείων Πόλεων/Δήμων/ Μεγάλων Κοινοτήτων (Catchment areas for Nursey Schools within City limits)

Για γονείς (For parents – click to download the excel sheet by city)

Εκπαιδευτικές Περιφέρειες Περιφερειακών Νηπιαγωγείων (Catchment areas for Nursery Schools within City limits)

Για εκπαιδευτικούς και γονείς (For parents – click to download the excel sheet by city).

Alternatively, you can visit/call the Department of Primary Education directly (each city has it’s own department) and speak to someone in English.

 

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