NON-STATE ACTORS IN EDUCATION
2.2 Non-state education provision
3.1 Regulations by distinct levels of education
- Early childhood care and education (Entry/Establishment ○ Financial operation ○ Quality of teaching and learning ○ Equitable access ○ Quality assurance, monitoring and accountability)
- Primary and secondary education (Entry/Establishment ○ Financial operation ○ Quality of teaching and learning ○ Equitable access ○ Quality assurance, monitoring and accountability)
- Tertiary education (Entry/Establishment ○ Financial operation ○ Quality of teaching and learning ○ Equitable access ○ Quality assurance, monitoring and accountability)
3.3 Supplementary private tutoring
The Private Schools Law 2019 (as amended in 2020), which governs non-state education from pre-primary to upper secondary level in Cyprus, broadly defines a “private school” as “a school other than a public school which is regulated by the provisions of the Law”. The “owner” of a private school is defined as a “natural or legal person, including the composition of a group in the form of a partnership, to whom the ownership of the school belongs”. “Private education” is understood as “private primary (including kindergarten), general secondary, and technical and vocational secondary education”, while the Law further distinguishes between a “Greek language school” and a “foreign language school”. The Private Universities (Establishment, Operation and Control) Law of 2005 (as amended in 2011) refers to a “private university”, defining an “applicant” as a “legal person who has applied for the establishment and operation of the university”. Finally, the Tertiary Education Institutions Laws of 1996 to 1999 (as amended in 2019), which governs non-university level private institutions, defines a “private institution” as a “non-public institution”.
2.1 State education provision
In Cyprus, most education at primary (6 years, ages 6 – 12) and secondary (6 years, ages 13 – 18) level is provided by the state, which covers 92% of all schools at primary (with 90% of enrolments) and 75% of all schools at secondary (with 82% of enrolments). Article 20 of the Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus 1960 (last amended in 2020) and the Compulsory and Free Education at the Primary and Secondary Level Law 1993 set that education is free between the ages of 5 and 18 (including 1 year of pre-primary) and compulsory between ages 5 and 15, covering pre-primary (1 year, ages 5 – 6) to lower secondary (gymnasium) level (3 years, ages 13 – 15).
One Greek-Cypriot state school in the (occupied) area of Rizokarpaso provides education at pre-primary and primary level.
Non-state managed, state schools
No information was found.
Non-state funded, state schools
No information was found.
2.2 Non-state education provision
Independent, non-state schools
Private schools are independent non-state schools which are established and managed by private individuals or businesses and (usually) run for-profit. According to the Private Schools Law 2019, these institutions can mainly be categorized into three types according to the curriculum offered, schools of the same type (as state schools), schools of a similar type (to state schools), and schools of a different type (to state schools and the aforementioned categories). Schools of the same type strictly follow the national curriculum and take part in national examinations, using Greek as their language of instruction. Schools of a similar type teach 2/3 of the national curriculum subjects (along with other subjects) and use either Greek or English as their language of instruction, while schools of a different type follow a different curriculum and examination system and commonly use a language other than Greek as their medium of instruction. Students at the age of 5 – 15 (compulsory school age) who are citizens of the Republic of Cyprus are required to attend a school of the same or similar type and must be taught the official language of the Republic (Greek for Greek-Cypriot students) for at least 6 hours a week. Several minority communities in Cyprus have established private schools that cater to their needs and teach in English, Arabic, Russian, or French (also referred to as foreign language schools).
In 2021, 173 Private Kindergartens, 31 Private Primary Schools and 39 Private Secondary Schools operated in the Republic of Cyprus categorized according the types listed above.
Private schools also include Catholic schools, multinational schools, and English-speaking international schools. In the academic year 2018 – 2019, private schools accounted for 8% of primary schools and 25% of secondary schools in Cyprus. According to the Global Catholic Education Report 2021 5 Catholic primary schools catered for 745 pupils and 4 Catholic secondary schools catered for 602 students respectively in 2018.
State-funded (government-aided), non-state schools
In certain cases, private schools receive subsidies from the government, while the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports and Youth (MoECSY) specifically subsidizes the operation of private schools that cater to religious and ethnic minority groups (Turkish Cypriots, Armenian Orthodox, Maronite Catholics, and Latins – Roman Catholics) that are recognized in the Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus 1960. In the case of foreign language schools, funding is provided by overseas governments or organizations.
Contracted, non-state schools
No information was found.
2.3 Other types of schools
The MoECSY (through the Cyprus Educational Mission) also funds and supervises over 70 Greek community schools in the United Kingdom which cater to the Greek and Greek Cypriot diaspora communities living the region in an effort to maintain ethnic, cultural, religious, and linguistic identity. Most of these schools operate after school hours or during the weekends offering Greek as a second language, with a small number of institutions operating as full-day Greek schools. The MoECSY provides these schools with teachers (posted to the United Kingdom by the Educational Service Commission) and relevant textbooks.
Homeschooling is legal in Cyprus for students at pre-primary, primary and secondary level with special educational needs, a form of disability, or serious health problems. A parent or guardian can apply for their child to be home-schooled by getting an approval from the MoECSY, while only teachers approved from the Ministry can teach these students based on the national curriculum.
Distance learning was implemented for students in all schools (state and private) during the school closures that resulted from the COVID-19 emergency in March 2020, which included an online synchronous education program, new website with educational material posted, and state and private television broadcasting. In 2020, distance education was officially defined and included in the 2020 amendment of the Private Schools Law 2019. Private schools are now allowed to provide hybrid models of teaching and learning and “distance education” which is understood as synchronous and asynchronous learning through digital platforms and hybrid learning models which combine both face-to-face and distance learning methods. The amendment further stipulates that all schools must develop internal rules for online learning, teaching staff, as well as regulations on collecting, storing, and protecting student and staff data.
Market contracted (Voucher schools)
No information was found.
In 2012, the Minister of Education compiled a list of illegal private schools, containing information on the action that has been taken in each individual case (including schools that were closed down due to illegal operation). Government officers arranged on-site visits to “in order to ascertain their illegality and to proceed with the necessary recommendations to those not complying with the law”, with 3 schools closed down and another 4 under investigation.
Besides illegal private schools at primary or secondary level, the government also monitors illegal private tutorial centres. There are also 6 universities in Famagusta, Kerynia, Lefka, Kioneli, and Morfou that operate outside the legal and institutional framework of the Republic of Cyprus.
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport and Youth publishes a list of private schools that are authorized to operate at pre-primary, primary and secondary education levels.
In its official statistics in 2019, the government classifies private (informal) gym schools that conduct gym sessions or classes in various categories, including those that are (1) “licensed”, (2) those who have not yet applied for renewal of their license, (3) those approved for licensing in the past, which applied for renewal or reissue of their license in 2019 and a compliance letter was sent to them, (4) those approved for licensing in the past, which terminated their operations, (5) those which applied and then received a compliance letter, (6) those which are no longer operational, and (7) those “which are operational and have not applied for licensing to the Cyprus Sports Organization” (so unregistered). Unregistered gym schools accounted for 24% of all private gym schools, with fully licensed private gym schools (which had renewed their license) accounting for 14%. If any school is found to not be fulfilling its obligations, the Cyprus Sports Organization may take legal action.
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports and Youth (MoECSY) is responsible for the governance and regulation of both state and non-state education from pre-primary (kindergarten) to tertiary education level (through the Department of Primary Education, Department of Secondary General Education, and Department of Higher Education) and also for Private Institutes. In the Department of Primary Education and Department of Secondary Education, there are also specific departments that are responsible for the registration and operation of non-state (private) education, namely the Department of Private Primary Education and the Department of Private Secondary Education, while the Private Education Advisory Committee (also under the MoECSY) advises the Minister on the administration and supervision of private schools. The Private English Schools Association represents private English schools (with voluntary membership). At the higher education level, the Evaluation Committee for Private Universities (ECPU) is specifically responsible for the administration of private universities. Day care centers (nurseries), which cater to children under the age of 3, are supervised and regulated by the Ministry of Labor, Welfare and Social Insurance (Social Welfare Services).
While education governance is mainly centralized, there are a few elements of decentralization. Local School Boards supervise schools within their jurisdiction, while District Education Offices are responsible for the administration of state and private schools from pre-primary to upper secondary level within each of the 6 administrative districts.
Vision: According to the Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus 1960 (last amended in 2020), “every person has the right to receive, and every person or institution has the right to give, instruction or education subject to such formalities, conditions or restrictions as are in accordance with the relevant communal law and are necessary only in the interests of the security of the Republic or the constitutional order or the public safety or the public order or the public health or the public morals or the standard and quality of education or for the protection of the rights and liberties of others including the right of the parents to secure for their children such education as is in conformity with their religious convictions” (Article 20). The new law on private schools, the Private Schools Law 2019, seeks to put private schools “in order” according to the government, with increased transparency and regulation. In the Cyprus National Lifelong Learning Strategy 2020, there is no mention of non-state actors.
3.1 Regulations by distinct levels of education
In Cyprus, early childhood care and education (ECCE) is categorised into day nurseries (παιδο/βρεφοκομικοί σταθμοί), catering to children under the age of 3, supervised by the Ministry of Labour, Welfare and Social Insurance (Social Welfare Services) and kindergartens (νηπιαγωγεία), catering to ages 3 – 6, operating under the MoECSY. At the kindergarten level, institutions are divided into state (52%), community (15%) and private (33%) centres, while day nurseries are almost exclusively owned and operated by private actors or communities (which account for 97.7% of total enrolments). Community schools are established and function as private pre-primary schools but are not profit-making. They are established to support working parents, where local needs are not met by the public pre-primary schools. Community day nurseries or kindergartens are established and operated by local authorities, parents’ associations, welfare community councils, charitable organizations, or municipalities on a non-profit-making basis usually in areas where state services are insufficient to meet the community needs. A large number of community pre-primary classes is housed with public pre-primary schools and cater mainly to children aged 3-4/12 years old. Community pre-primary schools follow the directives issued by the relevant authorities as regards the operation of the schools and the employment of pre-primary school teachers. A list of all the community pre-primary schools is available in electronic form on the Ministry's website. Private day nurseries or kindergartens on the other hand are established and run by private individuals on a profit-making basis. Pre-primary education is free and compulsory at the ages of 5 – 6, while kindergartens that cater to the ages 3 – 5 charge fees.
Due to ECCE services being supervised by two different ministries according to age, day nurseries and kindergartens are governed by different regulations. The day nurseries are regulated by the Children’s Law 1956 (amended in 2014) and the Children-Day Nurseries- Regulations of 2011, while private and community kindergartens are regulated by the Private Schools Law 2019 similar to primary and secondary schools.
Registration and approval: According to the Children’s Law 1956 (amended in 2014), to establish community or private day nursery in Cyprus, an application must be submitted based on a prescribed form to the Director of Social Welfare Services, along with the required registration fee and details on staff and infrastructure. Applicants can be natural or legal persons and must meet the minimum requirements set out in the Children-Day Nurseries- Regulations of 2011 to be considered for registration (which include child-staff ratios, infrastructure approvals, and space standards), with specific requirements for services catering to children under the age of 2. Private and community kindergartens are regulated by the Private Schools Law 2019 similar to primary and secondary schools. For more information on kindergartens, See Multi-level regulations.
Licence: If the Director is satisfied that the minimum requirements are met, the applicant is issued a certificate of registration (with conditions). For more information on kindergartens, see Multi-level regulations.
Profit-making: Community day nurseries or kindergartens must be established on a non-profit basis, while private day nurseries or kindergartens may be established as profit-making businesses with the approval of the relevant Ministry. For more information on kindergartens, see Multi-level regulations.
Taxes and subsidies: Community day nurseries and kindergartens are partially subsidized by the government, with parents’ associations contributing through the payment of fees. Community kindergartens receive an annual government grant of 6,834 EUR (8,205 USD) – 11,960 EUR (14,360 USD). Since the introduction of free and compulsory pre-primary education for the ages 5 – 6, private kindergartens also receive some financial support from the MoECSY. For more information on kindergartens, see Multi-level regulations.
Quality of teaching and learning
Curriculum and education standards: The curriculum followed by all kindergartens must be approved by the Council of Ministers (following suggestions from the MoECSY), with state and community kindergartens required to follow the same curriculum. Similar to primary and secondary schools, private kindergartens can be categorized into services following the same type of curriculum (to state and community centres), a similar type (with at least 2/3 of their curriculum being similar to the national curriculum), and different type (that follow an entirely different curriculum with the approval of the MoECSY). For more information on kindergartens, see Multi-level regulations.
Teaching profession: According to the Children-Day Nurseries- Regulations of 2011, every caregiver in day nurseries must possess the minimum qualifications listed in the regulations. Community kindergarten teachers are appointed by a Special Committee of Appointment which is comprised of the President of the Local School Board, the director of the kindergarten and the headteacher of the nearest primary school. For more information on kindergartens, see Multi-level regulations.
Fee-setting: In both community and private day nurseries and kindergartens, parents or guardians are required to pay fees to access the services which are defined by each centre (with community centres prohibited from making profit and charging lower fees). However, the government fully subsidizes the fees and registration expenses for Turkish-Cypriot students attending private kindergartens in the government-controlled areas of Cyprus, as well as Latin and Maronite students attending private kindergarten during the compulsory education age (5 – 6). For more information on kindergartens, see Multi-level regulations.
Admission selection and processes: The only regulation found regarding admissions processes in day nurseries is regarding the maximum number of children that may be admitted in a centre based on the teachers or caregivers employed, listed in the Children-Day Nurseries- Regulations of 2011. For more information on kindergartens, see Multi-level regulations.
Policies for vulnerable groups: According to the Children-Day Nurseries- Regulations of 2011, all children in day nurseries are provided with free meals and milk or juice, while the fees for Turkish-Cypriot, Latin and Maronite students attending private kindergartens are fully subsidized by the state. For more information on kindergartens, see Multi-level regulations.
Quality assurance, monitoring and accountability
Reporting requirements: According to the Children-Day Nurseries- Regulations of 2011, all day nurseries are required to keep detailed records of admissions, parent/guardian contact details, staff qualifications, child birth dates, and anything else that may be required by the Director of Social Welfare Services (to be made available upon inspection). For more information on kindergartens, see Multi-level regulations.
Inspection: The Director of Social Welfare Services is responsible for the quality assurance of day nurseries, while kindergartens are subject to inspections by the Department of Primary Education of the MoECSY. According to the Children’s Law 1956 (amended in 2014), the Director of Social Welfare Services may authorize an officer to enter and inspect the premises of any day nursery at “all reasonable times” to evaluate the premises, welfare arrangements, and records kept. For more information on kindergartens, see Multi-level regulations.
Child assessment: In day nurseries, children are assessed based on a report of the progress of each child (observed and recorded every 3 months by the caregiver staff), which includes support in the case of the identification of special educational needs. Children in kindergartens are evaluated based on three types of assessment (diagnostic, continuous or formative, and final or summative) which includes close observation of the child’s behaviour and teacher records on each child’s development, maturity, and progress. For more information on kindergartens, see Multi-level regulations.
Sanctions: The Children’s Law 1956 (amended in 2014) includes sanctions in the case that a day nursery contravenes or fails to comply with the provisions of the Law. Specifically, the Director of Social Welfare Services may cancel the registration of a center as a final step if the owner has failed to address any official concerns raised regarding registration requirements not being met, premises deemed unsuitable, or any other non-compliance with its registration is identified. There is no mention of center closures in the case of non-compliance. For more information on kindergartens, see Multi-level regulations.
Registration and approval: See Multi-level regulations.
Licence: See Multi-level regulations.
Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH): All private schools must submit an official certificate of health inspection upon registration, with government health authorities verifying the school’s compliance with minimum health and safety standards. Schools must have adequate and clean water (meeting water and sanitation standards specific to private schools) and provide single-sex toilet facilities (for students, staff, and people with disabilities).
Profit-making: See Multi-level regulations.
Taxes and subsidies: See Multi-level regulations.
Quality of teaching and learning
Curriculum and education standards: See Multi-level regulations.
Textbooks and learning materials: All private schools (irrespective of their type) must provide the basic learning materials and equipment that are listed in the national education guide, while textbooks are provided free of charge by the MoECSY (similar to state schools).
Teaching profession: See Multi-level regulations.
Corporal punishment: Corporal punishment is prohibited in all schools (state and private) in Cyprus.
Other safety measures and COVID-19: Following the outbreak of COVID-19, all schools (state and private) at primary level were required to follow the Health Protocol for Primary Schools which details the necessary safety and hygiene measures that must be taken for the protection of student and staff.
Fee-setting: See Multi-level regulations.
Admission selection and processes: See Multi-level regulations.
Policies for vulnerable groups: See Multi-level regulations.
Quality assurance, monitoring and accountability
School board: All private schools must establish a Teaching Staff Association and a Student Disciplinary Board (with the same composition and responsibilities required of state school boards as set in the School Boards Law 2005). The Student Disciplinary Board must be comprised of the school principal, 2 teaching staff, and the president of the Student Council. The owner of the school shall not have any involvement in these boards unless he/she is the school principal.
Reporting requirements: See Multi-level regulations.
School inspection: See Multi-level regulations.
Student assessment: See Multi-level regulations.
Diplomas and degrees: Any certificates and diplomas issued by private schools that have been registered with the MoECSY are considered equivalent to those of state institutions, while graduates of private schools of the same or similar type to state schools are considered to have the same knowledge of the Greek language as students in state schools. Students from private schools of the same or similar type are all entitled to transfer to state schools (and vice versa), while any student transfers from private schools of a different type to state schools (and vice versa) must be made through entrance examinations.
Sanctions: See Multi-level regulations.
Tertiary education is provided in both state and private (non-state) institutions, at the university and non-university level. At the university level, there are 3 state universities and 5 private universities, while the non-university level has 5 state tertiary education institutions (TEIs) and 45 private TEIs which offer both academic and vocational programs. Private institutions (which mostly offer programs in English) cover 68% of total enrolments, while the majority of undergraduate students (at university level) are enrolled in state universities.
Private TEIs are regulated by the Tertiary Education Institutions Laws of 1996 to 1999 (as amended in 2019), while private universities are regulated by the Private Universities (Establishment, Operation and Control) Law of 2005 (as amended in 2011). Both laws have specific regulations for the establishment and operation of private institutions (with state universities established based on separate laws and state TEIs established according to separate provisions).
Registration and approval: All private TEIs are required to be registered with the MoECSY by submitting an application to the Minister based on a prescribed form and accompanied by the required registration fee and documents that describe the proposed establishment and operation of the institution (including programs of study, language of instruction, teacher-student ratio, tuition fees, and infrastructure). According to the Tertiary Education Institutions Laws of 1996 to 1999 (as amended in 2019), applicants can be a natural or legal person and must prove to have sufficient financial resources to operate the proposed institution. No institution may be established by a person that is not a citizen of the Republic of Cyprus (or European member state), has been convicted of any serious offence, or is a member of the public service or a foreign government or organization. All applications are forwarded to the Advisory Committee for Tertiary Education for evaluation and recommendation of registration.
In the case of private universities, applicants must be a legal person that is registered with the government and are required to apply to the Minister along with detailed information on their proposed infrastructure plan, financial resources, management structure, staff qualifications, fees, and objectives, as stated in the Private Universities (Establishment, Operation and Control) Law of 2005 (as amended in 2011). The Evaluation Committee for Private Universities (ECPU) is specifically responsible for the examination of applications submitted for the establishment and operation of private universities. The proposed board of management of each university must not be comprised of any member that has been convicted of a serious offence or any teacher that is a member of the public service.
Licence: The MoECSY issues institutions a certificate of registration to applicants if satisfied that the minimum requirements for registration have been met (which in the case of private TEIs, follows a recommendation by the Advisory Committee). The registration of private universities is kept in the Universities Registry by the MoECSY. Universities are initially granted an initial licence, after which they are monitored closely and can apply for a full operational licence once the initial licence has expired (and they meet the required standards).
Profit-making: Private universities can be established as for-profit or not-for-profit entities, but all profits from each institution must be used to further the aims of the establishment (Private Universities (Establishment, Operation and Control) Law, 2005).
Taxes and subsidies: Private universities which are established on a non-profit-making basis do not pay any income tax.
Quality of teaching and learning
Curriculum and education standards: The curriculum, programs of study, and language of instruction followed in each private higher education institution must be approved by the MoECSY upon registration, with all courses required to meet the minimum education standards according to the type of institution. Institutions must additionally apply for course accreditation to the Council for Educational Evaluation and Accreditation (SEKAP). Programs of study offered by private universities are specifically accredited by the Evaluation Committee for Private Universities within the framework of the Private Universities (Establishment, Operation and Control) Law of 2005.
Teaching profession: According to the Tertiary Education Institutions Laws of 1996 to 1999 (as amended in 2019), at least 70% of academic staff in private TEIs must have a qualification higher than the level they teach (with the other 30% having an equivalent or professional qualification). At the postgraduate level, academic staff must additionally have a scientific publication, while university teachers are required to have a PhD as a minimum qualification (with specific qualifications described in the charter of the university). As stated in the Private Universities (Establishment, Operation and Control) Law of 2005 (as amended in 2011), all qualifications must correspond to international standards and anything applicable to the state University of Cyprus. Finally, staff salaries in private universities are prescribed in the charter of the institution, while private TEIs may determine their own salaries.
Fee-setting: The tuition fees of each private TEI and university are required to be approved by the MoECSY upon registration, while each institution must additionally submit their total fees (and any changes) to be approved by the Minister on an annual basis. Increases in fees can only be made every 2 years and will only be approved if there is justifiable cause for the proposed increase. International students receive tuition-free subsidies to attend private universities based on their academic performance, while undergraduate EU and Cypriot students may be eligible to receive financial support from the government to study at private higher education institutions if their family’s gross annual income does not exceed 12,000 EUR (14,408 USD).
Admission selection and processes: The admission criteria for each private university must be detailed in its charter and made available on its website, with the government only regulating the broad academic qualifications which must be obtained for a student to be admitted. Universities are otherwise free to set their own admissions criteria.
Quality assurance, monitoring and accountability
Board: All private TEIs are required to establish a council with representatives of teaching staff and students, while private universities must establish a governing board. The composition of governing boards is detailed in each institution’s charter, with required representations of teaching staff and students. Universities may additionally establish course and program councils.
Reporting requirements: All higher education institutions (state and private) are required to submit annual reports of their activities to the MoECSY. Private TEIs are additionally required to keep records of students, registration, and staff and publish a prospectus with information on scholarships, tuition fees, and student rights and responsibilities each academic year. Private universities must similarly make their fees and any additional charges public through their prospectus each year, as well as keep records on student admissions. Moreover, 6 months before the first 4 years of their operation, private universities are required to submit a report to the MoECSY on their progress towards their aims and compliance with legal provisions of their charter.
Inspection: Private TEIs are subject to inspection at least twice a year by a government officer authorized by the MoECSY, who may enter and inspect an institution at any reasonable time (during hours of operation) to determine whether the provisions of the Tertiary Education Institutions Laws of 1996 to 1999 (as amended in 2019) are being complied with (including staff qualifications, curriculum followed, and premises), after which a report if submitted to the Minister. The Council for Educational Evaluation and Accreditation (SEKAP) is responsible for evaluating the programs of study of each institution. While state universities are not subject to inspections, private universities are inspected and evaluated every 5 years by the Cyprus Agency of Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Higher Education (DI.P.A.E), which also evaluates private TEIs.
Assessment: According to the Private Universities (Establishment, Operation and Control) Law of 2005 (as amended in 2011), the processes for student assessment followed in each private university must be detailed in the institution’s charter.
Diplomas and degrees: While the type of certificate, diploma or degree to be offered in each institution must be approved upon registration, the registration of higher education institutions does not imply the recognition of their degrees. All institutions must apply for accreditation with the Council for Educational Evaluation and Accreditation and have their degrees recognized by the Cyprus Council for the Recognition of Higher Education Qualifications (KY.S.A.T.S.), which was established in accordance with the Lisbon Recognition Convention (1997) to recognize both state and private higher education qualifications. According to the Recognition of Higher and Tertiary Education Qualifications and Provision of Relevant Information Laws of 1996, once private universities or institutions gain degree recognition from the Cyprus Council for the Recognition of Higher Education Qualifications, their degrees are considered equivalent to similar state institutions.
Sanctions: If any of the provisions of the Tertiary Education Institutions Laws or Private Universities (Establishment, Operation and Control) Law are found to systematically not be complied with, or the operations of an institution are considered detrimental to public health, safety or ethics, the MoECSY may apply sanctions ranging from a fine of 50,000 EUR (60,201 USD) to the cancellation of the institution’s registration certificate.
3.2 Multi-level regulations
This section covers regulations from pre-primary (kindergarten) to upper secondary level, which are included in the Private Schools Law 2019.
Registration and approval: The Private Schools Law 2019 regulates private kindergartens, community kindergartens, and private schools at primary and secondary level, which are all covered under similar provisions. According to the Private Schools Law 2019, private and community kindergartens and private schools are required to be registered with the MoECSY. Applicants can be a natural or legal person and must submit an application to the MoECSY a year prior to the establishment of the school based on a prescribed form, accompanied by the registration fee, and containing the required information (including information on building infrastructure, premises, and program). No private school may be established by a person that is not a citizen of Cyprus or an EU member state (or, in the case of a body corporate, the majority of share capital does not belong to such citizens), a civil servant, a teacher of a state school, or a person convicted of a criminal offence. Non-Cypriot citizens can only apply for the establishment of a private school if a special permit has been obtained by the MoECSY. Αll applicants must submit a document containing the Internal Operating Regulations of the school to be approved by the Minister, while all private schools are required to meet the minimum infrastructure standards (specific for private) which regulate school buildings and classroom size.
Licence: Upon recommendation from the Private Education Advisory Committee (which evaluates applications), and if satisfied that the applicant has met the minimum requirements of registration, the MoECSY issues the provider a certificate of establishment within 10 months of the initial application. This certificate remains valid for 1 year, after which the owner must obtain a certificate of operation from the MoECSY.
Profit-making: Private kindergartens or schools can be established by a limited liability company and may operate as profit-making institutions (Private Schools Law, 2019).
Taxes and subsidies: The MoECSY subsidizes private schools and kindergartens that cater to religious and ethnic minority groups that are recognized in the Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus 1960 (Turkish Cypriots, Armenian Orthodox, Latin – Roman Catholics and Maronite Catholics), the students of which receive government subsidies to attend these schools (paid directly to the school, with the amount varying depending on each institution) in an effort to preserve their cultural identity. Moreover, Maronite Catholic and Armenian Orthodox schools are exempt from tax and provided with the services of state school teachers and (for all private schools), textbooks published by the Organization of Textbooks in Greece are offered free of charge (as they are provided to state schools). Overseas government or organizations provide financial support to foreign language schools, while all private schools are free to receive grants and gifts from private (non-government) sources.
Quality of teaching and learning
Curriculum and education standards: Private schools and kindergartens may choose to follow the national curriculum or a different curriculum (depending on the type of school), but all schools (including private schools of a different type) are required to teach the Greek language and the history of Cyprus as compulsory subjects. The general philosophy and values of the school must be outlined in their Internal Operating Regulations (which is submitted for approval to the MoECSY). Any religious instruction provided should not be compulsory to students of a different faith, with Greek Orthodox students only allowed to opt out at secondary level (or if over the age of 16).
Teaching profession: All teachers that are employed in private schools or kindergartens of the same or similar type to state schools must possess the same qualifications required by teachers of state schools (Private Schools Law, 2019). Teachers that are employed in private schools of a different type are required to have their qualifications approved by the MoECSY by gaining a certificate of equivalence from the Cyprus Council of Recognition of Higher Education Qualifications (KY.S.A.T.S.) in relation to the subject of specialization. All private schools must provide continuous teacher training opportunities for their staff (or arrange for them to attend such programs), while all teachers must provide a clean criminal record as per the Police Law and an original certificate which confirms their name is not included in the register that is maintained pursuant to the Prevention and Combat of Sexual Abuse, Sexual Exploitation of Children and Child Pornography Law. Private school teachers are not included in the Public Educational Service Laws 1969 (as amended in 2021) which applies to state school teachers. State school teachers are civil servants appointed by the Public Service Commission and the Educational Service Commission, with their salaries negotiated at the central level (following negotiations with teachers’ unions). Private school teachers on the other hand set their own selection criteria and are subject to private labor law.
Fee-setting: All private schools and kindergartens must have their fees approved by the MoECSY upon registration and on an annual basis, which must be additionally agreed upon by the school and the parents/guardians upon the registration of each student. In the event that a school plans to increase their tuition fees, an approval must be gained from the MoECSY through an application which includes documentation and data that justify the proposed increase. The owner of each private school is required to issue invoices and receipts in relation to the collection of tuition fees, while the MoECSY publishes a list of the tuition fees charged in each school on its website each year.
Admission selection and processes: The admission process of each private school and kindergarten is based on criteria determined by the owners of each school, with some private schools setting entrance examinations.
Policies for vulnerable groups: The MoECSY fully subsidizes the fees of Turkish Cypriot, Latin, and Maronite pupils who attend pre-primary and primary schools in the government-controlled areas of Cyprus, while Cypriot students attending private schools additionally receive some form of subsidy by the state. Finally, all private schools are required to ensure that the necessary equipment is provided for students with special education needs, which is assessed by the District Committees of Special Needs and Education of the Ministry.
Quality assurance, monitoring and accountability
Reporting requirements: The owner of each private school and kindergarten is required to maintain an official registry which contains information on student records, certificates of study, school protocol, and attendance. Moreover, all schools must publish a study guide each year that details information on the curriculum, type and level of school, terms of enrolment, scholarships, tuition fees, and building dimensions (which must all be approved by the MoECSY).
Inspection: Private schools and kindergartens are subject to annual inspections by officials of the MoECSY, which may enter and inspect a school at any reasonable time to determine whether the provisions of the Private Schools Law 2019 are being complied with. The Private Education Advisory Committee is also responsible for monitoring the quality of private schools, which may inform the MoECSY of any misconduct which could lead to an investigation and evaluation of the school.
Assessment: Private schools of the same type as state schools participate in national examinations (including the Pancyprian examinations at the end of upper secondary level) with the same standards as state schools, with no requirement for schools of a similar or different type to participate.
Sanctions: The MoECSY, following recommendations from Private Education Advisory Committee, applies sanctions to private schools and kindergartens that systematically do not comply with the provisions and regulations set out in the Private Schools Law 2019 that include fines, cancellation of the institution’s registration, and/or closure of the school. Private schools may also apply to the MoECSY for voluntary closure.
3.3 Supplementary private tutoring
In Cyprus, shadow education (the Greek term being ‘parapedia – παραπαιδεια’ or ‘parallel to formal education’) has been accepted and become a “normal fact of family life” for several decades, particularly for students at the secondary level that prepare for high-stakes examinations to enter into higher tertiary education. Following Greece, Cyprus has the highest rates of private tutoring in Southern Europe, with a study finding 80% of households with children aged 6 – 18 to have spent money on private tutoring in 2009. In 2018 – 2019, private tutorial centres (frontistiria – φροντιστήρια) accounted for 89% of private education at primary and secondary level, with over 500 operating centres (compared to 69 private schools and 445 state schools). In fact, the industry has been so successful that the MoECSY has established its own institutions (managed and maintained by the state), referred to as “state institutions of further education”, which co-exist and compete with private tutorial centres by charging lower fees with the aim to provide affordable private tutoring opportunities to disadvantaged students. According to the MoECSY website, there are 40 such centres operating in Cyprus (catering to over 17,000 students) that offer courses in foreign languages, consolidation lessons to gymnasium (lower secondary) and lyceum (higher secondary) students, and preparatory classes classes for the Pancyprian examinations. Legally, there are three distinct types of shadow education institutions operating in Cyprus, the privately-owned, the state-controlled, and the illegal centres (a large number of which operate underground and unregistered from the MoECSY).
Private tutoring is under the purview of the MoECSY and regulated by the Establishment and Operation of Private Tutorial Centres Law 2018 (as amended in 2020 and 2021), with an established Advisory Committee for Private Tutorial Centres to give recommendations to the Minister on the establishment and operation of these centres. A “private tutorial centre” (ιδιωτικό φροντιστήριο) is defined as a “tutorial centre which is established and operated according to the regulations of Part III and may organize and provide tuition classes in areas that fulfil the standards set in the regulations to interested persons or groups of persons”. The Law was amended in 2020 (similar to the Private Schools Law 2019) to include provisions for “distance education” and in 2021 to increase the months required before the establishment of a centre from 36 to 48.
According to the Establishment and Operation of Private Tutorial Centres Law 2018, to establish a private tutorial centre in Cyprus, an application must be made to the MoECSY which includes details on infrastructure (which must meet minimum standards and have obtained official authorization), qualifications of the director and teaching staff, courses taught (including teaching hours and assessment), and the fees charged. Similar to private schools, applicants can be natural or legal persons and must be citizens of Cyprus (or an EU member state) and not public servants. The Advisory Committee evaluates all applications and makes recommendations to the Minister on the certificate of approval (which is issued for 3 years before the certificate of approval and operation). Providers can also be issued a certificate of provisional approval, with the applicant required to meet the prescribed standards within a period not exceeding 48 months.
Financial operation and quality
The operation of private tutorial centres is regulated in terms of courses being taught, fees levied, staff qualifications, and records. All centres must adopt the standards and outline of the national curriculum subjects of primary and secondary level, with the requirement to gain special approval from the MoECSY for teaching specific national curriculum subjects. Any fees charged must be approved upon registration and on an annual basis by the MoECSY, while all centres must keep records of their rules, staff qualifications, and students which must be submitted to the Minister each year. A private tutorial centre may be inspected by authorized officers of the MoECSY (usually from the Advisory Committee, which gives recommendations on sanctions in the case of non-compliance). The operation of a private tutorial centre may be order to cease or and/or the registration certificate may be cancelled if the service fails to meet the legal requirements.
According to the Establishment and Operation of Private Tutorial Centres Law 2018 and Public Educational Service Laws 1969 (as amended in 2021), state school teachers are prohibited from establishing a private tutorial center and teaching in such a center (for at least 12 months since they have been employed in a state school), with no regulation for private school teachers. The Public Educational Service Laws 1969 (as amended in 2021) states that state schoolteachers must not engage in any private business that interferes with the teaching obligations and are prohibited from participating in the management of any private business, which is specifically prohibited in the Establishment and Operation of Private Tutorial Centres Law 2018.The director and all teachers in private tutorial centers must be university graduates (with their qualifications recognized by the Cyprus Council of Recognition of Higher Education Qualifications) and hold equivalent qualifications to teachers in state schools.