Reflections on Policy and Practice in Multicultural Education in Cyprus

Article excerpt

Abstract: Contemporary Cyprus society is no longer homogeneous. Increasingly, Cypriots have contact with people of different cultures. The same happens in schools in Cyprus. In this article, through an ethnographic study, we investigate what happens today in Cyprus regarding the education of international and repatriated students. Analyzing the case study of a primary school class and two vignettes we try to clarify the status quo in the first part of the article. In the second part we attempt to answer the question: 'Is our educational system a melting pot of every alien civilization and a kettle of cultural assimilation that perpetuates biases, cliches, racist behaviors and cultivates the idea that the different has no place among us?' Using naturalistic models of research, we developed the case of a girl from Iran who studies in a primary school in Cyprus. Through the analysis of two other vignettes, we attempt to answer the above question and at the same time to present a critical view of the situation of multicultural education in Cyprus presenting its prospects for the future. Our article, it is hoped, will give stimulus for possible changes and reforms within the Cyprus educational system. In such a way, the Cypriot system will be able to initiate progressive international developments in the area of multicultural education.


Over the last two decades various social theorists have been engaged in discussions regarding the phenomenon of globalization and how it impacts different aspects of the society and education in particular (e.g., Burbules & Torres, 2000; Mason, 1998). Globalization is defined as 'the process by which the peoples and nations of the world are increasingly drawn together into a single entity (Porter, 1999, p. 53). This new condition seems to have an impact on the society of Cyprus. Until recently the society of Cyprus was relatively homogeneous. However, over the last few years there has been a continuous amplification of its multicultural character. A short walk in the old "within-the-walls" town of Nicosia (the capital of Cyprus) will convince anybody about the reality of this recent amplification. During the last decade a significant number of international workers and housekeepers from Asia, entertainment artists from the former eastern bloc, as well as repatriates from the former Soviet Union have been added to existing social groups. ('Repatriate' is used throughout this article to refer to the resettling of people from the Greek diaspora back into Greek culture, in this instance settling in Cyprus.) So there is an increasing number of Cypriots who come in contact with people having different cultures. According to a recent report during the year 2003 there were 43.426 (5.8% of the population) legal workers in Cyprus and it was estimated that another 40.000 workers worked illegally (Department of Social Insurance and Police Records, 2004). Through this contact, there is an obvious need for symbiotic and synergetic relationships among these divergent groups and individuals.

The growing multicultural character of Cypriot society has raised previously unencountered problems that the government has had difficulties in dealing with. Through reading the newspapers and following the different TV documentaries, we very often confront problems arising from intercultural misunderstanding and conflict. Also, we see in the mass media various people who are desperately asking for understanding, respect for and tolerance of their ethnic or cultural difference. For example, in Cypriot newspapers, a series of articles has been published that create emotions of fear and hate against the 'bad foreigners' who came to Cyprus to get our jobs, and they are also blamed for the crime increase of late (Tharros, 1998; Pissas, 1998; Romanos, 1998). There has been a reaction to the above articles emanating from the 'Foreigners Support Movement'. Their accusations, from time to time, talk about a parastate (or unofficial policy) with exploitation of foreigners, official violence, employers that ill treat their workers, and the connivance of employers with state services (i. …


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