Greece’s education system fares poorly in OECD survey

A survey released on Tuesday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on schooling worldwide gave an overall poor rating to Greece, justifying in part the lasting concerns of some in the country while evoking a negative reaction from educators. The survey, conducted in the framework of the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), was carried out during the period 1999-2000 and involved 265,000 high school students in 32 countries. Based on the findings that recorded the performance of Greek students, Greece ranks 28th in mathematics aptitude, and 25th in language and natural sciences. The survey was conducted with the assistance of the Center of Educational Research (KEE). According to Professor Michalis Kassotakis of Athens University, who was president of KEE during that period, the survey’s sample in Greece was 4,000 high school students (general and technological fields) at the age of 15, who participated in proficiency tests in the subject areas of language, mathematics and natural sciences. The mediocre ratings that Greece received in the three subjects reflects the lack of critical thinking in the learning process of the Greek education system, which has impelled students to adopt the ill-advised method of memorizing. The view is also shared, indirectly, by the Education Ministry, which made an attempt to transfer responsibility to earlier ministries. One indication of the ministry’s dissatisfaction with the current level of performance of the education system is an announcement it released presenting the programs of the Teacher’s Training Institute and of KEE, which are being implemented since October of 2000 to cover the need to strengthen the teaching of language courses, mathematics and natural sciences. The character of high school is changing, more like lyceum with more tests. In recent years students have started preparing from high school for the university entry exams. This has a negative impact on the quality of education, noted Christos Katsikas, researcher and educator, in an effort to interpret the survey in an interview with Kathimerini. Several others, however, rebuffed the findings and criticized the OECD survey, which they note was using criteria formulated in Anglo-Saxon educational systems. The ranking of our country is not satisfactory. This finding can be seen as an indication of the poor performance of the Greek educational system in compulsory education. It must be noted, however, that other factors are also responsible. Of primary significance is the lack of familiarity of Greek students with the method and testing procedure that was used (in the OECD tests), Kassotakis declared. This could be one interpretation in explaining the notable achievements of Greek students in international competitions and the Olympiads of Mathematics and Computer Science. The findings of the survey reveal the disparities between the various educational systems, Spyros Bakoyiannis, president of the Greek Association of Computer Science, told Kathimerini.