In the land of teacher-free lessons

Greek parents are estimated to spend over 390 billion drachmas on private institutes annually, a problem which was aggravated by the recent educational reform and the intensely exam-focused nature of the state high school (lykeio). «Students at today’s lykeia are only anxious about entering university,» said the president of the teacher’s union (OLME), Nikos Tsoulias. Coupled with the shortage of books – including examination texts – and facilities, state education is being downgraded in the eyes of Greek families. Typically, while Deputy Education Minister Nikolaos Gesoulis declared that his first duty was to make up the shortfall, high school students on Syros were boycotting lessons because of a shortage of teachers. Last in Europe What the Education Ministry actually achieves falls far short of what it promises to do. Greek education is sorely deficient as far as new technology is concerned, with Greek schoolchildren lagging behind the rest of the European Union in terms of familiarization with computers at school. Twenty-two percent of Greek primary school pupils, 56 percent of secondary school students, but 88 percent of technical-vocational high schools have Internet access, while the EU average is 71, 91 and 92 percent respectively. The ratio of pupils to computers also presents a dismal picture, with one computer to 183 primary school pupils, 43 secondary school pupils and 11 technical-vocational high school students. The respective figures for the EU are 37, 15 and 8. The problems of TEEs begin with the lack of clear goals and the means to achieve them. Originally presented as the road toward the development of vocational education, they were soon attracting large numbers of mediocre students who could not handle the demanding exam schedule of the general senior high school to the extent that, in the year 2000-2001, TEE students outnumbered the ones in regular high school. «There are some 500 subjects, with the result that there are no books, teachers or laboratories. TEEs have been upgraded only on paper,» he added.