High grades main concern of pupils and parents alike

Chasing after top marks is the only real concern for Greek schoolchildren – from primary school through senior high. High marks have become an end in and of themselves, detracting from the real purpose of the educational process, that is, to actually learn something, according to a survey by the National Center for Social Research (EKKE) which found that nine in 10 junior high school students say they want to get high marks; the percentage is even higher for senior high school. Among primary school pupils, 97 percent are convinced that their parents «want them to have good marks,» 41 percent of junior high school pupils say their parents check their homework and 34.4 percent of senior high pupils say their parents put pressure on them to get high grades. Six in 10 teachers say the current system «cultivates an obsession with high grades.» This results in good students getting top marks, but these are not always reflected in the university entrance exam results. The EKKE survey, titled «Greek Schools at the Dawn of the 21st Century,» found that the hunt for good marks begins in junior high, partly as the result of teachers’ generosity with top marks in primary schools, where 75 percent of pupils are given nine or 10 out of 10 and naturally expect to continue to get similar grades in junior high. Of course in primary school teachers want to encourage the children, but in junior high the percentage of students with top marks drops to 10.1 percent and 21.8 percent are given good marks. In senior high, these percentages are higher, as efforts to succeed are intensified and two-thirds of all students receive good marks. Both teachers and pupils believe the current system does not reflect students’ true abilities. Most 11- and 12-year-olds predicted that of the 75 percent currently receiving top marks, only 41.9 percent would be able to maintain those grades in higher classes. Nearly two-thirds of teachers felt the grading system was faulty. One in two believes that the system does not boost students’ self-esteem. Over half of all teachers say the grading system «cultivates an obsession with good grades,» and many blame parents for putting pressure on their children. They also believe that the system increases competition among students, creating anxiety and fears. Over three-quarters of teachers surveyed believe that the main reason children fail is that they have a hard time understanding the material, do not try hard enough or do not focus on their lessons. Three-quarters believe children aren’t interested in their work and do not concentrate in class. Almost as many believe that children who fail do not have the ability to succeed. Over half believe that socioeconomic background is a decisive factor. Again, nearly half believe children fail because their parents don’t give them practical or moral support.