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Accueil > Chypre > Débats actuels > Archives des débats > 2008

2008

  • September 2008 : School history curriculum

The beginning of the new school year in the fall of 2008 has brought with it a heated controversy involving the government, political parties and the Orthodox Church of Cyprus. The cause was a circular issued by the Minister of Culture and Education, Andreas Dimitriou, proposing new guidelines for schools as part of a comprehensive educational reform. The circular put forward a program of cross-cultural education in history lessons that is in line with the current government’s attempts at reconciliation with the Turkish Cypriot community.

The new school curricula should focus on cultural traditions common to both communities thereby advancing an education in the spirit of peaceful coexistence of Greek and Turkish Cypriots. The minister also suggested inter-communal projects between schools on both sides of the border. The central task of the reform is the revision of the history books currently in use. Despite wide implementations of new history teaching practices throughout Europe, the curricula in Cypriot schools have remained unchanged for decades. The presentation of the history of the Cyprus Conflict is often biased and over-emphasizes certain events to conceal or justify others.

Typically, the Greek Cypriots have focused on the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974 as the central problem of the crisis, while the Turkish side has emphasized the attacks on Turkish Cypriots in the 1960, presenting the invasion of 1974 as a peace operation. But while the Turkish Cypriot schools have recently adjusted their school books towards a better presentation of elements of peaceful coexistence between the communities, the Greek-Cypriot curricula continue to teach history as a means to strengthen ethnocentric pride.
The new guidelines for educational reform have caused an outcry in the conservative quarters of the Greek Cypriot society. The Archbishop Chrysostomos II, as well as the party of DISY (Dimokratikos Synagermos) have accused the minister of meddling with history. A major bone of contention is the discussion of the responsibilities of extremist groups for the inter-communal violence of the early 1960s and the ensuing military crisis. The responsibility of groups such as the TMT, but also the EOKA B, is not adequately stated, while the blame for the plight of Cyprus is exclusively assigned to outside forces, such as American imperialism and Turkey.

The suggested correction of history curricula has led the Archbishop, the Bishop of Paphos and members of the previous government to accuse the current administration of wanting to demolish Hellenism and to corrupt the youth. In a rather dramatic response, the Archbishop pledged his unfaltering opposition to the reform, to the point that he would encourage pupils to dispose of their history books, should history be ‘distorted’. With regard to the planned inter-communal projects he also threatened to close the checkpoints.

14 octobre 2008