Experimental schools not bold enough

Experimental schools are far from fulfilling their goals in Greece. Hundreds of students fight to secure a place at one of these schools each year. There are 37 experimental secondary schools in the country (most in Athens and Piraeus) and some other pilot schools that operate under the auspices of universities (Athens, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Patras, Macedonia and Crete). Article 31 of Law 1566/85 stipulates that the objective of experimental schools is «the practical pedagogical training of teaching staff and experimental implementation of teaching programs and methods, as well as experimental use of textbooks, audiovisual material and other technological means for educational purposes.» Only teachers who have completed postgraduate studies and have five years’ teaching experience are recruited for pilot schools. Theodoros Otzakoglou, a member of secondary school teachers’ union ELME’s Prototypon governing board, told Kathimerini that «hardly any new program or book has been first tested in pilot schools so as to provide feedback and decide whether it should be applied in all schools.» Existing testing structures are inadequate and only partial training for teachers exists. There is little collaboration between pilot schoolteachers and universities on syllabus planning and teachers use what they prefer or judge to be appropriate. Most of the tuition is set up to suit students of literature departments and not for other disciplines. In addition, experimentation cannot take place in these schools as they are forced to follow the official state curriculum and school timetables. Pilot schools should have some margin of freedom to try out innovative curriculum and operate on a different rationale. These schools have thus become schools that do not live up to their title: They simply have select teaching staff. Parents though are very keen to send their children to experimental schools and will fight for a place. This presents a drawback, as the maximum number of children in each class increases as a result of parental pressure. At the beginning of the school year, the maximum number was set at 30 pupils to a class but, according to the next circular from the ministry, this number could increase slightly.