A so-called “people-friendly” measure is often one that hurts people the most. A classic example: the very low passing grades needed to enter universities and the creation of new universities in every town and village, so to speak.
Thanks to the essential absence of a minimum required grade in the national exams, thousands of young high school graduates enter universities every year with very high expectations. No one has warned them that their studies have nothing to do with the needs of the market, or, in other words, that it will be very difficult for them to find jobs once they graduate. If politicians were companies, a Greek parent could easily sue them for misleading advertising and creating unfounded expectations.
Some well-intentioned person could ask: What does this mean? Should we shut down humanities departments because they have nothing in common with the market? Obviously not, especially in a country like Greece, where culture, history and classical studies have always been national priorities.
But we must be realistic.
The left has been telling us for years now that universities should open to all and that a child’s personality should not be oppressed by the needs of the market. Socialist leader Andreas Papandreou came to power in 1981 on the back of a campaign that included promises to students for free access to higher education. Education, unfortunately, suffered as few sectors did from the populist tsunami.
One could say this is a “win-win” situation. The ruling class sends its offspring to private schools and, often, to foreign universities. But it finds and maintains its “clientele” because the young enter a university, albeit one that must take quotation marks, without being able to face up to its demands and without gaining anything useful in real life. They graduate without qualifications and without employment prospects. But the disconnect between expectations and reality destroys both them and their families and their anger is taken advantage of by the proponents of inertia.
We need a balance and a change in culture. The greatest social good in our times, for which Greek families strive and often suffer, is employment. It is necessary to finally make it a national task to link education with the real needs of life and the market. It will not be easy because it goes against the populist grain cultivated for decades. And it will require emotional intelligence and definitely not elitist pronouncements and condescending talk.