OPINION

Rising threshold

The requirements for acceptance at universities (AEI) and tertiary technical colleges (TEI) rose spectacularly this year. The entrance threshold went up for 237 AEIs, while it only dropped for 26 universities. The situation at TEIs was pretty similar. One hundred and forty departments had a higher entry threshold this year and the bar only fell for 32 of them. Two in three candidates who took the exams (that is, 80,000 out of 125,000) managed to get into some AEI or TEI department, while the percentage of new secondary school graduates who took the exams this year was even higher, as eight in 10 were accepted at an AEI or TEI. The only category of candidates with a sorry performance (just 18.5 percent) was that of technical high school (TEE) graduates, as of the 28,000 graduates from the second stream, only 5,000 managed to get into a TEI. Sure, 12 of the 263 AEI schools – especially those requiring special subjects – took in candidates who failed to score a passing mark, but their number was marginal. In any case, the figure is dwarfed by the stunning increase in the minimum scores which reached up to 2,353 points at schools not requiring a special subject or 4,623 points at schools where being examined on a special subject was a precondition for entry. Even at TEIs (note that one-third of TEI departments accept some candidates who score below the passing mark), the entry threshold rose precipitously – by about 900 points for the most popular departments. Leaving figures aside, the jump in the entry threshold reveals a clear shift in candidate preference toward AEI and TEI departments that promise quicker access to the labor market. All of a sudden, there is a surge in demand for primary and preliminary school teachers, as daycare schools have absorbed the bulk of primary school teachers. It is no coincidence then that the highest increase in requirements for AEIs without a special subject occurred in the Pedagogic School of Thessaloniki (by 2,353 points). The plunge in the minimum requirement for literature, media, and tourist schools, to some degree, reflects candidate concerns over high unemployment in these sectors. It would be hyperbole to claim that a rising threshold mirrors an improvement in quality. The low difficulty levels in the national examinations certainly contributed to this trend. But, it would also be unfair not to acknowledge the effort of the children and their conscious shift toward professions where Greek society is lacking.