A better class of high schools

High school students could soon have to take English classes until they are 18 as well as receiving lessons in how to be culturally and socially aware, according to education reforms being drawn up by the government. Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou presented a series of proposals to teachers during a conference in Athens yesterday. PASOK made clear last year its intentions to improve the way high schools are run and to ensure that graduates leave with better skills. Spending cuts mean that no concrete plans have been unveiled yet. Diamantopoulou’s outline was the first clear indication of what changes the government plans to make. In terms of studies, the minister said that, under the scheme, teenagers would spend more time on Greek and foreign languages. They would be obliged to study English until they leave high school but would have the option of taking classes in another language as well. Diamantopoulou also proposed that senior high school students take fewer obligatory courses in their final two years and be given more choice over which subjects to study. «Of course, their choices will have to be connected to their entry into tertiary education,» she said. The minister stressed that teaching methods would also have to change. «We are in need of teaching methods that will teach pupils how to learn, how to handle the information they receive and how to conduct research,» she said, without giving many details. The teaching of sciences will involve obligatory lab work and there will be an effort to use new technology in classrooms. The minister was also keen to emphasize that students would also be involved in cultural, environmental and social activities. «Pupils have to learn to recognize and manage their feelings,» said Diamantopoulou. «They have to take the initiative, learn to communicate with others, respect what is different and learn to live with it. They should know how to participate in civil society and to learn how to improve themselves.»