NEWS

Population’s educational needs only partly met

The relationship between the people and education can be expressed in various ways, with the distribution of educational qualifications perhaps being the best known and most established. These also serve as a means of comparison with educational systems in other countries, or with earlier systems in the same country. Over the past 50 years, Greeks’ relationship with the educational system could be characterized as slow improvement, with a growing percentage of Greeks entering educational institutions. However, certain factors also serve as a brake on the process, confining citizens to low- and middle-educational levels, and thus keeping the percentage of Greeks with higher educations still at low levels in comparison with European and international standards. To interpret this slow improvement in educational indices over the past 50 years, one should take into account factors such as: a) The Greek economy, as shaped after the end of the civil war. b) Urbanization and emigration in the first three postwar decades. c) The selective nature of schools until today. d) The materialistic and punitive orientation of schooling. e) Women’s position in society and attitudes toward them. f) The creation of a parallel system of informal education (tuition schools, private home-based lessons). g) The continuing alienation of socially vulnerable groups from educational institutions. The way in which the Greek economy functioned during the 1950s and later failed to create those pressures on the educational system, or the concomitant incentives for the population, that would have expanded the number of people in education. Neither the private nor the public sector encouraged levels of specialization or general education that would give impetus to the demand for education. Urbanization and emigration weakened educational infrastructure in rural areas, and for a long period of time, the move up into secondary school was controlled rather than encouraged. The schools’ alienation from the demands of the real world, especially in secondary education, and the virtually automatic correlation between academic qualifications and jobs in the state sector, coupled with the widely accepted view that only technical education needed to be grounded in reality (general education was absolved of that obligation), did not make for a socially functional education system. Women were excluded by their delayed entry into the educational system, as is clearly seen in the student composition of second-chance schools today. The asymmetrical relationship between supply and demand in higher education, as well as artificial restrictions upon access to tertiary education, created an additional educational market – tuition schools – substantively weakening education as a public good. Finally, efforts by the State to combat the educational marginalization of the very poor have been fruitless in post-junior high schooling, though they have had some success in primary school education. For national reasons, further improvement in the relationship of Greeks with education should be a governmental priority. In the world today, Greek interests are better served by higher education among the younger generation. (1) Athanassios Gotovos is professor of pedagogy at Ioannina University.