NEWS

Long, dull school hours destroy creativity

With the long hours they spend on schoolwork and private tuition, Greek pupils work harder than freelance professionals, according to a survey by Ioannina University. Starting in primary school, pupils do schoolwork up till 10 and 11 at night, Alexandra Roussou, a child psychologist who specializes in learning difficulties, told Kathimerini. Yet Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) statistics show that the outcome of all this effort is far from satisfactory for Greece in terms of performance, lifelong education and the lack of connection between the educational system and the labor market. Many pupils are not doing well at school, not because they have inherent difficulties, but because they are bored, angry and lacking interest. «They feel terribly bored in mind and body,» said Roussou, «because they work inhumane hours even on weekends and during summer, and they can’t stand it. They give up. They feel that they don’t have the chance to do the things they want to do. And the tragic thing is that the ones who give up are not only those who are not doing well at school. There are bright children who want to develop in every aspect of life and they react more than the others when they can’t do that.» Education is such a complex issue, says Roussou, and it’s hard to find solutions, but it is time for the education system to dare to change. Parents should be allies of their children, Roussou says, and not change roles «because no parent is successful at being a teacher.» As for the schools, they must take pupils’ skills into account, and both schools and parents must respect children’s abilities and freedom. Why do parents hover over their children’s schoolwork? I tell parents not to fuss over their children and they tell me: «The school expects something from us. It gives us guidelines on how to help them with their homework; and if we don’t do it, they scold us.» It is a resounding failure of the education system to get the parents involved, who can only have a role for certain children who have learning difficulties. They can help them get organized, to arrange the environment so that they can work and keep a discreet eye on them. Otherwise, parents take over and forget that it is the child who is going to school. «We’re in class so-and-so,» they say. «We got such and such a grade.» I want to tell them that their behavior belittles their children. «Why are you so sure that you have children so much worse than you who can’t manage?» Concealed hostility It is a form of concealed hostility on the part of parents – especially when they come home tired from work – toward their children. The parents take over, but it is the child that has to do the homework. And any educational incentive is killed. But how many parents can help senior high school pupils with their homework? By making parents responsible for education, the school traps them into dealing with tuition colleges. Since the child’s future depends so much on grades, parents feel they must make sure of them at any cost, even that of their child’s mental health. Children have to do their schoolwork, foreign languages and other activities so that they don’t fall behind their classmates, but this has very serious side effects. It does not allow children to experience the childhood and adolescence on which they are to base their adult life. And in the process, children lose their creativity. Do obligation and school kill that off? School and the part of home life that is connected with it completely kills off that creativity. Parents pick up the textbook and say: «Recite your lesson. You forgot that and…» Humans need to be socialized, and that’s why they have such a long maturation period. Children have to test their bodies, their new abilities, to explore new ways of thinking as it changes from being specific to abstract. And they need a creative way of cultivating that abstract thought so that it can mature and they can make use of it. With a few shining exceptions, school and the «department» of it that is the family do not help. On the contrary, they hinder socialization. They do not allow adolescents of 15, 16 and 17 years old to nurture all the other abilities they possess. They force them into a plaster cast and when the children come out of it they have atrophied. I think that the rebellion of adolescents and the crisis of adolescence springs from the suffocation that children feel in that plaster cast. If grades have proved to be the wrong incentive. What is the right one? If there is no creativity and enthusiasm to do anything, there is no incentive. Motivation only exists when children actively participate. But that doesn’t happen. They have a certain number of things they must do each day or face serious consequences. The educational system tells children, «You’re far too young to have motivation so you must leave it to us, but at 15 you’re old enough to make decisions about your life and future.» There is this huge chasm between education and real life and work everywhere in the world. But other college students of 20 and over at can at least change direction. Our children are trapped. Isn’t it precisely this contradiction on which the unofficial education system is based and to which state senior high schools have handed over the reins? And private ones. In our day, if you went to a tuition college it wasn’t by choice; it was shaming, the proof that you were a bad pupil or stupid. But children’s abilities can’t have changed in 30 years. Nowadays, 90 percent of children who attend tuition centers don’t do so because they themselves need help but because the system is problematic. Only 10 percent of pupils have problems. Do those children require special treatment? The key is cooperation with the schools, which we hope will develop special programs next year for those children. Many schools have special classes for a few hours outside school time. There are many reasons why children fail at school. There are pupils who have gaps in their knowledge because of changes and family problems that have caused them confusion. Others have innate learning difficulties such as dyslexia. Hyperactive disorder affects 6-8 percent of pupils. Two out of three such children will go on to be hyperactive adults, with serious effects on their education, career and social relations. So what is the role of the parents and the school? School must reclaim its basic role, because it is not just a place of learning but an exceptional laboratory for human relations. Parents, for their part, must become their children’s advocates. They must not become accomplices in crime, harsh though that may sound. This crime has a golden wrapper – that it is good for the children’s happiness. Besides, when a parent tries to act as a teacher, they turn their children into orphans at the hands of a bad teacher. I don’t know any parent who is a successful teacher. Childhood is fleeting and it is a shame if we miss out on it. Teachers and families often forget that the process of maturing goes through stages and that if children skip them the consequences are very serious.