From 1980 up until the present day, the Greek educational system has given a false sense of democratization based on a flawed system of educator and student participation. The educational outcome of this system was of little concern to anyone as the ultimate goal was to ensure that a degree led to a position in the civil service. Tertiary education in Greece has for decades served as a vehicle for creating public administrators and cultivating the public worker mentality.
Has anything really changed since the start of the crisis? Not really. However, some efforts were made to reform the sector (with the now-defunct law drafted by former Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou), though they met with strong reactions. On Thursday, the ruling SYRIZA party announced changes to the country’s education system through minister Aristides Baltas. What it basically boils down to is doing away with a string of reforms that were implemented in the past and to a great extent going back to how things were before them, and specifically back to the 1980s.
Under the new regulations, students will be able to vote for their university’s rector, police will once more be banned from entering university grounds for any reason, the evaluation system for professors will be scrapped, students will be allowed to remain enrolled for as long they like without ever having to graduate, university councils will be abolished and high school students will be able to graduate with a minimum grade of 9.5/20 rather than 10/20. And these are just a few of the changes that are being promoted, which may be in tune with the overall spirit of the government but are definitely not in synch with the times.
These changes are certainly not acceptable to those members of our society who worry, who keep abreast of developments, who ask questions, who test boundaries and have their own boundaries tested in turn, who have doubts, who embrace change and the new, who dare, who can stand up to judgment and make judgments of their own. In a public opinion poll it is likely that these people would not make up an impressive percentage. They also probably don’t support the government or the opposition, being politically without a home and ideologically disenchanted. These are people who can’t find any answers anywhere and who are desperately trying to understand what is going on. They are parents, workers and job seekers, store clerks, businesspeople, scientists, students and educators. They are a critical mass – some of which may have hoped that SYRIZA would help restart the country – who are coming to realize, with growing fear, that the grade for graduation has just dropped to 9.5, lowering the standard of our academic community, making it more powerless and insignificant. This backsliding is becoming endemic, particularly in this case because it concerns education.