There was nothing in the latest report from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) regarding Greek education that came as a surprise, that we didn’t know from personal experience or has been widely debated for years on end. Yet there was one finding that was admittedly very impressive: 99 percent of high school seniors attend evening classes at private cramming schools or have private tutorials, or both.
In other respects, the specter of evaluations for teachers and for schools, which the ruling leftist SYRIZA party stubbornly rejects, has returned to the fore. The report also highlighted the absence of initiatives to link the country’s public universities to the job market, while also stressing the fact that Greek education continues to focus more on teaching a curriculum than in developing skills.
What stands out most about the report, however, is that we are talking about the same old problems yet again, and they only seem to be getting worse, drawing attention to the lack of continuity in public administration and contempt of education ministers for the work done by their predecessors. Every new minister who steps into the post seems to come with his or her own fixed ideas regarding the needs of the Greek education system, and is unwilling to consider anything else. Regardless of whether reforms and interventions are genuinely intended to initiate change or simply to make a positive public relations impression, the system will swallow them and spit them out. But in most cases, ministers simply go through the motions as they actually spend their time servicing unionist demands and torpedoing any essential reform effort.
Here’s a question: How are children educated in this country, not just in terms of knowledge but also in the values and mentality that education cultivates?
Here’s a case in point: A group of young men hanging out and drinking coffee on a remote Aegean island are suddenly seized by the idea of taking a speedboat out to a bunch of islets to take selfies as they plant Greek flags on them. What’s to stop them? Instinct, common sense, knowledge, an ability to interpret the circumstances, an understanding of reality (and which one?), society, politics?
And here’s an answer: This case is no exception. Generations of Greeks have been more influenced by developments over a glass of cold frappe than at their desk. Should we ban frappe then? Of course not. But we should at least ponder the fact that allowing people not to think of the consequences makes them lazy and lackadaisical, that conversation without a meaningful debate cultivates populism of all kinds, that abandoning public education to its fate paves the way for aggressive ignorance.