Radical reform

The demonstration by teachers from primary schools, universities and state technical colleges (TEIs) yesterday was staged in order to protest inadequate funding in the education sector. The lack of funding, however, is not the only problem. Schools and universities have failed to live up to their mission. The recent publication of the annual report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and a study by the Center for the Development of Education Policy, which operates under the auspices of the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE), both confirmed the above conclusion. The international report gave Greece a very poor ranking in mathematics, the natural sciences and reading comprehension. The reasons behind the Greeks’ poor performance can be traced in the evaluators’ answers. They said the system of national examinations does a poor job of evaluating student performance because it encourages parrot-like memorization. Furthermore, they said that the senior high schools fail to equip students with the knowledge they need to meet university demands. Remarkably, nearly all government attempts at education reform in the past decades have focused on transforming the system of national examinations – without yielding any remarkable results. Most problems seem to lie with the syllabus itself. The education system is out of sync with contemporary needs and demands. It has no meaningful structure, does not make use of technology and lacks a credible mechanism for the evaluation of teachers and students alike. In the light of the above failings, the outcome could not have been satisfactory. This is worrying, of course, as the quality of a country’s education system, to a large degree, determines not only its level of cultural development but its economic performance as well. Investment in human resources is considered to be the most important and productive form of investment. «Knowledge society» may be the buzzword of the day but our country continues to suffer from blatant and unacceptable deficiencies in that respect. The education system is in need of radical reform, combined with more funds and better use. The conditions for change are ripe. The public is mostly free of prejudice and ready to accept daring changes in the structure and the operation of schools and universities. The government must take brave and determined steps in that direction. Without doubt, such reform will not come without reaction from small and large vested interests which are happy with the current state of affairs. But with the right moves, these obstacles can also be overcome.