Selecting teachers

Controversy surrounds the results of the latest competition for public school teachers that was conducted by the Supreme Council for Personnel Selection (ASEP). Two out of three candidates scored below the pass. In some specialties, the failure rate was devastating: 76 percent of literature and 84 percent of physics teachers failed the tests. Figures are inexorable and underscore a serious problem. Less obvious are the reasons and the source of responsibility for this failure. An easy, reflex reaction would be to question university graduates’ standards and the quality of university education, and ask: «Are these the future teachers of our children?» Fortunately, but also in a sense unfortunately, things are more complex than that. To put it bluntly, there is a serious problem with the ASEP examinations. We are not referring to the institution itself – an institution that was introduced by former Education Minister Gerasimos Arsenis as a necessary and, to some degree, meritocratic solution to the congestion caused by the seniority lists. The problem, rather, lies with the criteria. It makes no sense to ask university graduates to memorize a huge amount of information which they were taught five, 10 or 25 years ago. Even worse, for some specializations, such as physics and literature, the ASEP competitions examine only 25 percent of the university syllabus. The remaining 75 percent deals partly with the syllabus of other specializations (such as chemistry or biology for physics teachers), as well as pedagogy, which they were never taught during their years at university. Of course, the counterargument is that candidates ought to know this information since they will be called upon to teach it or implement it as secondary school teachers. This brings us to another big problem, namely the degree to which university education meets labor market requirements. Those aiming to engage in scientific research or technological application should not be taught the same things as those aiming to become teachers. The ASEP examinations, like every other selection procedure, simply registered the existing problems. The State must examine these problems, make a careful diagnosis and push through the requisite reforms.