Greece has the worst education system in the 28-member European Union, according to a global league table compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit for the British publishing firm Pearson which shows Asian countries overtaking Scandinavian nations that have traditionally excelled in this area.
South Korea tops the league chart, which comprises 39 countries as well as the region of Hong Kong, with Finland down to fifth place after ranking top last year. Greece is in 33rd place, wedged between Chile and Turkey.
The rankings are based on the assessment of students’ performance in school examinations as well as international tests including the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) examinations devised by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The performance of Greek teenagers in the PISA tests has worsened over the past few years, with some blaming the slump on the repercussions of the country’s economic crisis and others pointing to deeply ingrained shortfalls in the country’s education system.
In a written statement issued on Thursday after the release of the report, Education Minister Constantinos Arvanitopoulos claimed that Greece’s problematic education system has gradually started to improve despite troika-imposed cutbacks that have slashed spending by 35 percent. “The report confirms the observation of the Education Ministry...that our education system, for many years now, lacks a strategy, is not pedagogical and does not contribute to development,” the statement said, adding that the latter factor was “one of the basic structural reasons for the crisis we are experiencing today.”
The Pearson report notes that the impressive performance of students in the Asian countries that top the league – South Korea is followed by Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong – is largely due to a culture of respect for teachers and schools in those countries; it expressed doubts, however, about the long-term value of rote learning that is a mainstay of the education systems in many Asian countries.