20th Century British Colonialism in Cyprus through Education

Icim Ozenli OZMATYATLI* and Ali Efdal OZKIL
Near East University, Department of History Teaching, North Cyprus, Mersin 10 Turkey


Problem Statement: The island of Cyprus, due to its strategic location, was under the influence of many conquerors throughout the centuries. Cultural traces of these captors have survived to the present day. This long, turbulent history has had a profound effect on the Cypriot educational system, with the most recent influence being the impact of the British Administration during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Purpose of Study: This article attempts to reveal the influence and consequences of British Colonial policies on education, focussing on curriculum and its aims in the 20th century. The emphasis is more on the opinion of the recipients of education concerning their experience with the education system and their perception of its success or failure rather than on the aims and goals as set by the administrators and educators.

Methods: This study encompasses a qualitative research approach to gain in-depth data based on interviews of Turkish-Cypriots and Greek- Cypriots of different backgrounds who were students during the colonial times. The data regarding issues of primary and secondary school curriculum and its aims, nationalism and religion at schools, identity, and ties between the two communities and their “motherlands” was recorded analysed thematically, and presented in detail.

Findings and Results: By implementing sometimes extreme measures, the British followed the tactic of “Divide and Rule” which led the two communities to ethic division. The authors discern the trends of the British Colonial policies towards the establishment of a more British society, which was accomplished by influencing the educational and sociopolitical aspects of life on the island.

Conclusions: The British educational policies helped both Turkish and Greek Cypriots to create ethno-nationalism, which inspired the subsequent resistance of both communities. Although it is apparent that Cypriots placed a high value on education, this development was confined only within the context of being Greek or Turkish. Indeed, it would appear that within a curricula context, for the most part, this served as a forum in which all parties sought to construct national identities. The cost remains to be seen.

Keywords: British colonialism in Cyprus, educational administration, curriculum, identity.