NEWS

Flexibility and lifelong learning are essential

What will be the future developments in work and education? The rapid development of new technologies is bringing about a revolution in the workplace, creating a need to adapt. It also imposes a different approach to education, which has to be oriented toward lifelong education. In the workplace, adapting is called «flexibility,» the reorganization of the workplace, labor relations and skills. In education, there is a tendency toward specialization in the fields offered by universities, a trend that does not seem to be abating. There will be more divisions within departments, and study will be oriented toward specialist fields. However, university students should be acquiring general knowledge, a critical mass of knowledge that will allow them, throughout their working life, to enter a process of permanent education. Someone who is always learning is not afraid of new developments. Someone who does not have this critical mass of knowledge will not be able to keep up with developments. Does the education system provide this critical mass of knowledge? This particular system itself does not require it. In certain cases it happens, in others not. The universities function with a great degree of independence (provided by the bill on higher education). They have considerable autonomy in drawing up the syllabus (and that is only right, if there is to be innovation). Every department has its own philosophy, according to who is teaching. it is very important for there to be a common approach to things. Doesn’t this exist? I don’t see it anywhere. There is a certain amount of coordination within bodies such as the rectors’ council which meets regularly, but there is no procedure in which the teacher, the sector or the department orients itself toward offering general knowledge. On the other hand, it is hard to say that this is the kind of thing that can be imposed from above, for everyone to realize that general knowledge needs to be offered. What I am saying is self-evident, but not everyone is in agreement. There are university faculty members who say that in order to deal with the present situation in the labor market we have to specialize in order to give young people the necessary skills and not theory. However, the labor market is a dynamic space that operates over time, which in my opinion makes a good command of general knowledge very important. This is acquired over a certain time period, and not in three years. Going out into the labor market after a short period of specialization means that the threat of unemployment will always be present. Last year the Labor Ministry did some very interesting research into 6,000 companies and the results (which in my opinion were not exploited to the full) showed that these companies were not asking for specific specializations but for a specialization with specific skills. For example, the candidate should have a good command of Greek in order to be able to write good reports, should be computer literate and speak a foreign language. If the company does not find a person with these skills, it prefers to leave the position vacant. There are also skills that are now demanded in sectors where they were not previously thought necessary, such as in manual jobs. Because new technology has replaced many manual jobs, a young technician working in a factory often needs to be able to read a manual, to interpret a design or carry out a production procedure. There are changes that bring about social changes (the traditional worker no longer does «dirty work» and has to function in a group), with a variety of repercussions. For if we want to see a person be successful in the labor market – not just because for the next, say, five years there is a need for a certain skill – but throughout his or her working life, that person has to have general knowledge and undergo lifelong education. Is ongoing education a given in Greece? No, it isn’t. We have a problem, and one that is recognized as such. A problem with two aspects. First of all, we are unable to organize a specific strategy for ongoing education, because of a lack of coordination between vocational training and basic education. The other aspect relates to a specific problem. A large percentage of people, both in work and seeking work (aged 50 to 60), are not in a position to take advantage of ongoing education because they dropped out of school during the the 1950s and 1960s, critical years for Greece. In their case, «passive» measures (subsidies) are more effective than the «active» measures through education.