We have been treated in recent days to yet another episode of the ongoing drama between the education unions and the ministry, where the issue at the heart of the dispute over the live-streaming of classes is the evaluation of teachers.
The ministry argues that a recent decision to transmit classes live over the internet is both legal and essential so that pupils who are unable to attend school because of the coronavirus don’t miss out. It also adds that the measure will be allowed only in emergency situations like the current pandemic.
On the other side, the unions and a large portion of educators argue that allowing a live video feed from classrooms is illegal because it violates the privacy rights of both students and teachers, while also being an inappropriate education tool. They also believe that the Education Ministry is preparing the ground in the event that it will have to take such exceptional measures in the next academic year if the virus flares up again.
Many say that the teachers’ reactions are sparked by concerns that they will come under unwanted scrutiny and that this may affect their performance evaluations. And the reason behind this is that the entire notion of performance evaluations is controversial in Greece, where the state structure relies on clientelism and on a mentality of mediocrity.
Regardless of the reasons, fear and intense lack of trust that continue to mar the relationship between educators and their ministry, there is also a blatant lack of dialogue on a more acceptable solution. The only dialogue is between the opposition and the unions, basically a one-sided conversation that is not aimed at finding a solution to the problem, but at finding problems with every proposed solution.
In the meantime, Greece’s pupils have missed nearly seven weeks of classes, but only from school because all their other private lessons have been carried out as usual, but remotely. Yet teachers were also opposed to the opening of schools, as well as to the extension of the academic year. In short, they helped create a situation where the government had to step in and take new measures, feeding the vicious cycle that intensifies the public’s skepticism and the one-sided conversations between the different institutional groups.
A tug-of-war never leads to a solution that addresses both sides of a dispute. Instead, it polarizes them, makes them want to shout louder and allows grandstanding.