By George Psyllides - Cyprus, Greece

The Supreme Court has ruled that the procedure of appointing state teachers is unconstitutional as male candidates are treated unfairly.

The decision came after an appeal by a physical education teacher who claimed male candidates were at a disadvantage under the current first-come first-served system since they had to do two years of army service.

This gives women, who do not have to do the army, a two-year head start, the teacher said.

Under the current system, teachers are appointed according to their ranking on the waiting list and not their qualifications.

Thus, female candidates who graduated high-school on the same year as their male counterparts, complete their tertiary education and put their names on the list sooner because of the two-year handicap.

Male candidates receive one merit point – which counts towards promotions — for their army service “but this is not enough to eliminate the inequality created upon registering on the list,” the Supreme Court said.

“This obvious inequality inevitably affects, in a negative way, not only the time of appointment of male candidates but also all the benefits that follow a teacher during their career,” the Court said.

Seniority is another factor taken into consideration for promotion.

Education Minister Andreas Demetriou said a proposal is already in the pipeline to change the system.

The ministry’s intention was announced late last year with one of the basic changes being the introduction of a written examination to assess the ability of a potential teacher.

The new system will also take into consideration the qualifications of a candidate and any previous experience.

It could take some time before the new system gets into full swing – if approved – as the old list cannot be scrapped overnight.

“As regards the old list, we will look into the issue with the attorney-general because … it will remain in effect for some years,” Demetriou said.

Under the current system, anyone with a university degree in any subject can add their names to a list of potential teachers, even if they have not undergone teacher training.

This is only done once their name reaches the top of the list.

People may wait years for their turn reach the top of the list, depending on their area of expertise.

Last year, the House Education Committee heard that the average age for a teacher to be appointed in the public sector today is between 40 and 50 years old.