The terms information and communication technologies (ICTs), education technology (EdTech), and digital technologies are used in government documents that refer to the integration of technology in the education system.
Constitution and laws: The 2008 to 2020 Regulations on the Operation of Public Primary Schools and the Regulations on the Operation of Public Secondary Schools regulate distance learning and data privacy, while the 2022 School Design Standards (for primary, lower secondary, and upper secondary schools) provide standards for the installation of ICT equipment in schools.
The 2004 Law on the Regulation of the Electronic Communications and Postal Services is the main legislative instrument governing the operation of electronic communications networks and the provision of electronic communication services. The law includes provisions for universal service, stating that a minimum set of electronic communications network services shall be made available at the level of quality specified to all end users in the territory of the Republic of Cyprus, independent of their geographic location and, in the light of specific national conditions, at an affordable price (Article 108).
There is no reference to technology in the 1960 Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus.
Policies, plans and strategies: The integration of digital technology within the education system is mainly supported by the 2020 Strategy on the Digital Transformation of Education developed by the Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digital Policy and the 2020 Policy on Digital Education led by the Ministry of Education, Sport and Youth (MoESY). The two pillars set out as part of the Digital Transformation of Education and 2020 Policy on Digital Education are 1) the development and use of digital technologies in education; and 2) the development of digital skills and competencies at all education levels (knowledge, skills, attitudes).
The integration of digital technologies in the education system is guided by the European and Cyprus Digital Agenda, which support the systemic integration of digital technologies in the education system. According to the Department of Education Technology, the integration of digital technologies in education is developed through a comprehensive and integrated approach where the education community develops a digital culture based on principles and values supported in the EU and national digital agendas. The harnessing of digital technologies for effective teaching and learning ultimately aims towards the development of the digital competent student, digital competent teacher, and digital competent school. The MoESY’s 2021-23 Strategic Plan similarly aims for the best possible utilization of technology in teaching and learning through the integration of digital technology in schools, development of digital skills and distance education, and enhancement of digital infrastructure.
These education strategies are integrated within the 2020-25 National Digital Strategy, which sets forth the aspirational vision for Cyprus to become a fit-for-the-future society and knowledge-based economy enabled by digital and emerging technologies that will drive sustainable economic growth, social prosperity and international competitiveness. The Cyprus digital agenda aims to develop strong digital competency within the government first, and then other public sectors (including education), with an objective to integrate ICT to support the educational process.
The 2021 National Recovery and Resilience Plan and its strategy ‘Towards a Digital Age’ further support the digital transformation of schools and the development of digital and STEM skills, while the 2020 National Strategy on Artificial Intelligence similarly aims to upgrade the education system through the development of digital and AI skills in schools.
Digital competency frameworks: The government’s digital education strategy and digital skills framework is guided by the EU digital competence frameworks, namely the Digital Competence for Citizens Framework (DigComp); Digital Competence for Organisations Framework (DigCompOrg); and Digital Competence Framework for Educators (DigCompEdu), having contributed to their development and implementation. The Digitally Supported Learning Environment additionally utilises these frameworks for its activities, also supporting the Assessment of Transversal Skills (ATS2020) and development of student ePortfolios.
Changes occurred as a result of COVID-19: As a result of the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government considered it appropriate to officially legalize the provision of distance education within its existing education regulations under “exceptional situations” by decision of the Competent Authority. Distance learning is now officially established as a form of education in situations beyond the government’s control (force majeure) or emergency, which was institutionalized as part of the 2020 amendment of the Regulations on the Operation of Public Primary Schools and the 2020 amendment of the Regulations on the Operation of Public Secondary Schools. The regulations additionally include provisions on the collection, storing, and protection of student and staff data as part of the distance learning amendments (Article 7). The Private Schools Law was similarly amended in 2020 to allow for the provision of hybrid models of teaching and learning and distance education.
In 2022, the Minister of Education additionally issued a statement concerning Digital Technology in Schools, with the aim to systematically integrate the digital technologies developed during the pandemic in 2020 in schools.
2.2.1. Technology infrastructure and digital capacity of schools
Electricity: The 2022 School Design Standards (for primary, lower secondary, and upper secondary schools) include standards on school electrical supply installations that must comply with national laws, electricity and wiring regulations, and fire service regulations (Section 5). Electricity cable systems are also included as part of the universal service obligations (Article 108) set forth in the 2004 Law on the Regulation of the Electronic Communications and Postal Services, which aim for the universal provision of electronic communications services.
Computers and devices: The 2022 School Design Standards (for primary, lower secondary, and upper secondary schools) specify that different classrooms (such as science classrooms or labs) should be provided with a specific number computers connected to the internet and other digital equipment, including interactive whiteboards at the secondary level. The provision of digital devices (such as tablets, laptops, computers and assistive technology) that promote the Digitally Supported Learning Environment are additionally supported in the MoEYS’s 2021-23 Strategic Plan, 2022 statement on Digital Technology in Schools, 2020 Policy on Digital Education, and 2020 strategy on the Digital Transformation of Education.
According to a 2023 Circular based on the Strategy for Digital Transformation of Schools, which was developed as part of the 2021 National Recovery and Resilience Plan, the government provided €100 subsidies for the purchase and provision of tablets to primary school students (3rd grade) and €300 subisidies for laptops for secondary school students (8th grade), to support the digital transformation of teaching and learning and the development of student digital skills. The subsidies are given to families who receive child benefits with specific annual income.
To supports schools with the provision of distance learning during the 2020/21 academic year, the government provided a significant number of tablets and internet cards to schools and students in line with the Cyprus Digital Strategy that aims to integrate ICT to support the educational process. Primary schools were equipped with modern teaching and robotic tools (e.g. control devices, floor robots, and software), while teachers received €200 to purchase a laptop to be used for teaching (when necessary) as part of a Subsidies’ Fund/Scheme.
In 2022, the ICT Unit, through Framework Agreement of eProcurement, additionally purchased 4,000 mini PCs and 800 video projectors for classroom use, which was additional to the 2,200 mini PCs and 1,557 laptops delivered to public schools in the year 2021. The supply of the equipment aims at creating digital classrooms and labs, which are equipped with up-to-date digital equipment and tools funded by national resources and sponsorships. The Ministry has additionally signed a contract with Microsoft to use their software for all computers in public schools.
In addition, in 2022, a €20 million contract was signed for the project "System of Support Services", which provides for the development, installation, maintenance and operation of a complete Digital Computer System Transformation through which school management will be improved. The main goal is for parents, students and teachers to be able to quickly handle all their daily activities and statutory procedures related to the school unit and interact with each other with any "smart" device they have (e.g. mobile phone, tablet or any type of computer).
Internet connectivity: The enhancement of internet connectivity in schools is supported in several government strategies, including the MoEYS’s 2021-23 Strategic Plan, 2020 Policy on Digital Education, and 2020 strategy on the Digital Transformation of Education. The latter additionally supports the provision of about 2,000 internet connection packages to students who do not have internet connection at home. The 2021-25 National Broadband Plan similarly supports the Gigabit connectivity for all main socio-economic drivers (including schools). The government has contracts for structured cabling with fiber optic and internet connection for secondary school classrooms (which aim to be extended to all schools) in cooperation with the European Funding Management Unit and the University of Cyprus.
The 2022 School Design Standards (for primary, lower secondary, and upper secondary schools) also include provisions for internet connectivity in schools. Internet connectivity is also included as part of the universal service obligations (Article 108) set forth in the 2004 Law on the Regulation of the Electronic Communications and Postal Services, which aim for the universal provision of electronic communications services.
2.2.2. Technology and learning environments
The first systematic implementation of distance learning in Cyprus was in 2008. At the tertiary level, the 2002 Law on the Open University of Cyprus provides for the provision of open and distance learning, with the Open University of Cyprus being the only higher education institution in Cyprus specialising in open and distance education.
During COVID-19, distance learning was implemented for students in all schools, which included an online synchronous education program, new website with educational material posted, and state and private television broadcasting. The government established a dedicated website on e-Learning in schools, which provides guidelines, recommendations and tools for safe and responsible distance learning (for teachers, students and parents), learning and teaching resources, and the curriculum for primary and secondary schools. In collaboration with various national television stations, the Ministry additionally prepared educational television programs for primary school students through WebTV, which are broadcast through television and used for distance education (also after the pandemic). The Ministry also continues to provide online courses to students outside of school hours with the aim to continuously empower them in matters of social interest and individual improvement.
Distance learning was officially institutionalized as a form of education under “extreme circumstances” in 2020, with existing regulations distinguishing between synchronous, asynchronous, and hybrid education. According to the MoEYS’s 2021-23 Strategic Plan, the Ministry aims to further establish distance learning programs in the education system.
The Department of Educational Technology (DET) utilises the European digital competency frameworks DigComp, DigCompOrg and DigCompEdu for its digital skills programs and frameworks for students, teachers and schools, guided by the basic principles that every person and organisation (including schools) must have all the opportunities to have basic knowledge in digital technologies and digital education. Based on DigComp, the tool Assessment of Transversal Skills (ATS2020) has additionally been developed at the EU level and is used in Cyprus for the assessment of student transversal skills through the ePortfolio.
The development of student digital skills, knowledge and competencies is supported in many strategy documents, including the 2020-25 National Digital Strategy, 2020 Policy on Digital Education, 2020 National Strategy on Artificial Intelligence, 2018-23 National Strategy for Better Internet for Kids in Cyprus, MoEYS’s 2021-23 Strategic Plan, and 2021 National Recovery and Resilience Plan (including its strategy ‘Towards a Digital Age’). The development of STEM education is supported as part of the 2020-25 National Digital Strategy, with the Digitally Supported Learning Environment aiming to increase girls’ participation in STEM subjects. During the past few years, the syllabi of all Information Technology (IT) courses taught in secondary schools have been updated in order to meet European standards and current trends, while the new curriculum includes Success and Competence Indicators for learning. The government also introduced Design Technology – Digital Technology Education to incorporate problem-solving skills into its curricula.
The DET additionally offers various programs (including competitions, workshops, and young coaches programs) to promote the integration of digital technologies in teaching and learning processes and for the development of digital competencies. To develop a school’s digital capacity, primary and secondary schools are encouraged to participate in the Innovative Schools for the Integration of Digital Technologies Program (which has been operating since 2008), which aims to help schools gain a better understanding of their needs in terms of the use of digital technologies to support teaching and learning and develop their own digital action plan which addresses their identified needs. The schools that participate in the program and successfully complete their obligations receive a relevant certification of digital capacity as an innovative school for the integration of digital technologies, while educators who led the program receiving a corresponding teacher certification for the integration of digital technologies in the school system. According to the 2022 Circular on Participation in Programs and Activities for the Integration of Digital Technologies in Teaching and Learning, schools can also make use the EU Self-reflection on Effective Learning by Fostering Innovation through Educational Technology (SELFIE) tool that assists them in self-assessment of the innovative ways digital technologies are integrated in the school system to support teaching and learning.
The strategy for the development of teacher digital skills and competencies is guided by the EU DigCompEdu framework, and supported in the 2020 Policy on Digital Education and 2021-23 Strategic Plan. The main purpose of the Digitally Supported Learning Environment is to support the professional development of educators’ digital competence so they can apply innovative pedagogical approaches for the effective achievement of learning outcomes. The use of digital technologies in teaching is also included as part of pre-service teacher training.
The Cyprus Pedagogical Institute of the MoECSY implements the Programme “Digital Competences Development for Educators”, which aims to strengthen and further develop teachers’ digital competences in order to promote the effective use and integration of digital technologies in the teaching and learning process. The intended outcome of the programme is for teachers to be able to use online learning environments, electronic learning tools, open digital educational content and learning communities, in order to enhance their professional development and lifelong learning skills; and for teachers to develop the necessary digital skills to become effective in providing innovative learning environments in the Cyprus educational system. The programme is offered via distance learning through the CPI’s eLearning Environment and contributes to the implementation of digital education policies, as well as the policy for teachers’ professional development. There are often annual professional development programs for educators on digital technologies and the DET aims to develop further central professional development programs for teachers at all education levels to enhance their digital capacity. Teachers that lead the Innovative Schools for the Integration of Digital Technologies Program in their schools are additionally offered professional development training on the integration of digital technologies in the teaching and learning process. During the 2020/21 academic year, synchronous and asynchronous training courses were organized for teachers with an emphasis on familiarizing teachers to use digital education in teaching and learning.
2.4.1. Data privacy
The 2020 Regulations on the Operation of Public Primary Schools and Regulations on the Operation of Public Secondary Schools regulate the protection of collection, processing, and storage of student and teacher personal data (Article 7), in accordance with the 2018 Law on the Protection of Personal Data. A provision for data protection was included as part of the 2020 amendment in both education regulations, following COVID-19.
2.4.2. Online abuse and cyberbullying
The protection of students in online/digital education environments is supported in the 2018-22 National Strategy for the Prevention and Management of School Violence and National Strategy and Action Plan to Combat Sexual Abuse, Child Exploitation and Child Pornography. Schools are expected to have the ability to prevent and deal with issues that may arise with the use of digital technologies in the classroom. The 2018-23 National Strategy for Better Internet for Kids in Cyprus, which is guided by the EU’s Better Internet for Children strategy, additionally aims to educate youth on the responsible use of the internet, and applies to students, teachers, parents, and school systems. Schools are called to strengthen their cybersecurity and provide learners with cybersecurity skills, offer help/support services to students on cybersafety issues, ensure a safe online learning environment, and reduce cases of cyberbullying and online abuse.
The government offers various school programs, workshops, presentations, and competitions that promote cybersafety in schools, including the eSafety in Schools program which aims to support schools in carrying out actions and strategies for internet safety, and to strengthen student and teacher digital skills on cybersecurity. Schools that participate in the program and succesfully complete the requirements are certified with an eSafety label since 2013.
The Helpline and Hotline support the work of the Safer Internet Centre of Cyprus (CyberSafety). The Helpline aims to ensure that all users receive expert advice and support on issues related to the use of digital technologies and the Internet, providing information, advice and assistance to children, young people and/or parents, teachers and professionals, on how to deal with harmful content, contact (such as grooming) and conduct (such as cyberbullying or sexting).
Young coaches for the Internet is a Cyprus Pedagogical Institute (CPI) programme operating since 2013 which aims to engage students in training others on the safe use of the Internet, with the guidance of their schoolteachers and the support of specialists on the subject.
The Ministry of Education, Sport and Youth (MoESY) has set high priority on the integration of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in the educational process and on the development of digital skills for all students and teachers to enhance teaching and learning, with a dedicated unit on ICT, namely the Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) Unit.
The ICT Unit aims to better manage and coordinate ICT-related projects and modernize the administrative structures, procedures and services of the MoESY. It is also responsible for equipping public schools with technology infrastructure and tools needed to support teaching and learning and school administration. The ICT Unit is composed of four Sectors: 1) the Sector of Administrative Procedures Management (responsible for the design, development and management of digital educational material) 2) the Sector for the use of ICT in the Learning Process (responsible for using digital technologies to support teaching and learning), 3) the Technology Infrastructure and Equipment Sector (responsible for the management of ICT infrastructure in schools) and 4) the Contract and Tender Sector (responsible for the procurement of hardware and software).
The Department of Educational Technology (DET) (part of the Cyprus Pedagogical Institute of the MoESY) promotes innovative practices for the integration of ICT in the education system, guided by national and EU digital strategies. It specifically promotes the development and enhancement of digital competencies for students, teachers, and schools; implements programmes of continuing professional development in ICT, promotes innovations related to the use of new technologies in education; and provides pedagogical and technical support facilitating the effective use of ICT (including online learning, communication and management). In addition, DET implements projects that support the work of the Ministry’s ICT Unit and more specifically the Use of ICT in teaching and learning. Specific objectives of the DET include the promotion of digital competent students, teachers and schools as a long-term goal, digital technologies to serve pedagogy; utilization of digital technologies in all classrooms, schools and life beyond schools; and utilization of digital technologies in line with the European and Cypriot Digital Strategy.
Since 2016, DET coordinates the Cyprus Safer Internet Centre – CyberSafety which aims to strengthen efforts for the creative and safe use of the Internet in Cyprus through the implementation of education and awareness activities on cybersafety for children.
The Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digital Policy is responsible for implementing an ambitious digital transformation reform for Cyprus to become a dynamic and competitive economy, driven by research, scientific excellence, innovation, technological development and entrepreneurship.
The Department of Information Technology Services is a department of the Ministry of Finance. DITS is the responsible governmental authority for issues related to the promotion and implementation of ICT and e-Government in the public sector.
In 2019, the MoESY banned the use of mobile phones, tablets, and smart watches in schools as part of their national regulations.