During the past decade there has been tremendous progress in the advancement of educational technology, making innovative learning solutions such as e-learning and online education increasingly more feasible in many educational settings. In several countries, the use of e-learning has now begun to noticeably contribute to economic growth. In Cyprus, an island in the Mediterranean Sea located at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa, many large-scale e-learning initiatives are currently being undertaken by both public and private organizations, establishing the country as a center for education in the region.
Between the 1960s and 1990s, educational technology efforts in Cyprus schools were limited to the use of traditional audiovisual equipment and a few educational radio and television programs produced by the government. In recent years, however, considerable efforts have been devoted to promoting lifelong learning and integrating information and communication technologies (ICTs) in all levels of education. These efforts have been supported in large part by significant investments in the island's telecommunications infrastructure, which is one of the most developed in the region.
THE CYPRUS EDUCATION SYSTEM
Cyprus has a centralized educational administration system, with the Council of Ministers as the highest authority for educational policy, and the Ministry of Education and Culture (MOEC) responsible for delivery of education in Cyprus. Specifically, the MOEC is entrusted with the administration of education, the enforcement of education laws and, in cooperation with the Office of the Attorney General, the preparation of education bills. Education is compulsory up to the age of 15 and elementary and secondary education is free. The education system in Cyprus consists of the following levels:
* Preprimary Education. One-year preprimary education that has recently become compulsory for children over the age of 3.
* Primary Education. Primary education is compulsory and has duration of 6 years.
* Secondary Education. Secondary education consists of two 3-year cycles of education - Gymnasio (lower secondary education) and Lyceum or Secondary Technical and Vocational Education (upper secondary education).
* Higher Education. There are currently three public universities (Cyprus University of Technology, Open University of Cyprus, University of Cyprus) and three private universities (University of Nicosia, Frederick University, European University Cyprus).
After several private higher education colleges had been operating on the island for decades, Cyprus established the first public university, the University of Cyprus, in 1992. With the additional expansion of operations by the renowned Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics, government spending on research and development increased substantially and efforts began to promote Cyprus as a center for services, business, and education in the region. These efforts also included a plan to improve higher education provided by both public and private institutions and a recent law now allows the establishment and operation of private universities in Cyprus. The positions that are allocated to Cypriot high school graduates for studies in higher education institutions are distributed among the candidates based on the results of the competitive entrance examinations that are held every year by the Department of Higher and Tertiary Education.
Cyprus' accession to the European Union (EU) on May 1, 2004 also had a strong impact on the country's education, economy, and culture. Cyprus had been a member of the Council of Europe since 1960 and followed policies similar to those of the EU member-states in the field of education. With accession to the EU, Cyprus has been more actively participating in EU-funded projects in the areas of education, e-learning, and vocational …