High time for reform

During the 1950s,’60s and ’70s, examinations for entry into tertiary education were the ultimate test for final-year school pupils and went a long way toward determining their future careers. It involved a tough selection process which often proved unjust, since it was the pupil’s only chance at each subject. Now we have lurched to the other extreme. The opening of many new departments at universities and technical colleges has provided almost as many places for first-year students as there are high school graduates. That would be a positive thing if the acquisition of a high school diploma were a true indication of a high standard of education, as was the goal of the reforms under former education minister Gerasimos Arsenis. Given the repeated concessions made over the past few years, however, this is not the case. Pupils are being accepted into departments that are not in great demand, and which accept candidates with below-pass marks. This partly diminishes the qualification they will eventually acquire. Yesterday’s decision by the Education Ministry seeks to solve this problem. The prerequisite for entry to tertiary education will now be the pass mark (10 out of 20). In other words, as of the next academic year, faculties in low demand will not fill all their available places. According to current figures, about one in five new students enters tertiary education with a mark that is below pass. Thus the planned change is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, but it will be effective only if it is the first link in a chain leading to a qualitative improvement in the country’s universities and technical colleges. This newspaper has often drawn attention to the need for speedier reforms. Otherwise the practice of taking the easy way out, and further deterioration, will continue. This applies above all to the so-called «mass» faculties, some of which have become little more than factories producing degrees with little value. The national education debate now under way is finally realizing that changes are necessary. But the government has little time left and needs to do much more in evaluating schools at every level. The self-evident must become an issue for debate.

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