OPINION

Quality education

It is common knowledge that the quality of a country’s educational system to a large degree determines not only the level of its cultural development but also of its economic performance. Human capital is now considered the most important and productive investment. Although «information society» appears to be on everyone’s lips these days, our country is still dogged by blatant and unacceptable shortcomings in this crucial area. True, during the general election campaign, both of Greece’s major political parties came up with detailed education policy proposals. It is crucial that their education programs converged on so many points, some of which had been controversial until recently. PASOK has finally recognized the need for a systematic and credible evaluation of every unit on all levels of the educational pyramid. Following socialist opposition leader George Papandreou’s public statement in favor of the establishment of private universities in Greece, conditions are ripe for a consensual approach on education. It is very important that a consensus exist, as the issue is a highly sensitive one, leaving no room for tough-guy posturing. Any step must be made after sincere and constructive dialogue, so as to avoid any potentially dangerous rift. On the other hand, the need for consultation must not become a pretext for tardiness or inaction – especially when the educational system is in such a sorry state, as it is today. (A few bright exceptions do not change the rule.) Education reform is more necessary than ever. Conditions are ripe. The public has been shaken of its prejudice and is ready to accept daring changes in the way schools and universities operate. The government appears to be moving in the right direction. No doubt, its effort will be met with hitches and obstacles but with the right handling, any resistance can be thwarted. The small and medium-sized interests that stand in the way of reform do not possess enough moral and political weight to block the requisite changes. Problems persist on all education levels, being more acute at tertiary education and particularly at the more popular schools. The establishment of private universities could be a significant step toward solving the problem, as it will invite comparison with state universities and increase competitiveness among institutions. There have to be guarantees, of course, that these will be non-profit institutions and that they will comply with strict quality controls. For their part, state universities and technical colleges must be subject to strict evaluation so as to upgrade the quality of their education.