Supposed dialogue

The news that a candidate had won a place at a university faculty with an average exam score of just 1.53 out of 20 was a shock, but it is nothing more than an extreme example of the way universities select students. If this were the only problem, it would have already been solved by a previous Education Ministry decision to restrict tertiary education access as of next year to those candidates who achieve a minimum grade of 10. Unfortunately, it is common knowledge that our country’s education system is generally in trouble. The only consolation is that after a long period of laissez-faire attitudes and declining standards, conditions are now ripe for a leap forward. Importantly, the two main political parties have recognized the need for a credible evaluation of every institution at every level of the education pyramid, from primary to postgraduate. A national dialogue on education is supposedly under way, but the process has already broken down. None of the opposition parties are taking part, nor representatives of the union movement. Whatever the case, it is the ministry’s job to make the necessary changes. There is no doubt this is an extremely sensitive sector where there is no room for authoritarianism or shows of strength. Every step taken should be taken with care and transparency, to avoid unnecessary conflict. Yet this should not be an excuse for delays, still less for inaction. This is more necessary than ever today, when everyone agrees the situation is extremely troubling. In all likelihood, there will be opposition from the network of small and medium-sized interests that are comfortable with things as they are. They could find support within the ranks of the parliamentary opposition. It is a pity the reforms are not to be the result of true national dialogue or to be implemented through a consensus. Since that does not seem to be possible, it is the government’s responsibility to break down entrenched practices and, carefully and decisively, provide a new impetus to an education system that is generally seen to have lost much of its credibility. We hope the education minister has worked out a plan for the reforms and that she has the political will to carry it through. The way things are now, any more digging in of heels will be tantamount to prevarication.

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