OPINION

Poor marks for education planners

A society’s concern for schoolchildren reflects its degree of concern for its own future. That should be enough to put education issues high on a government’s agenda. Unfortunately, that is not the case here. According to an extensive study recently conducted by the University of Ioannina, Greek pupils spend more time on their schoolwork than most adults do in the most demanding jobs. The survey confirmed what we already suspected from our own personal experiences. If we take into account the hours the average student spends at school, at the private cramming centers and at home doing their homework, there is hardly any free time left for non-school activities. Even sleeping hours are kept to a basic minimum. The combination of mental and physical stress is taking its toll on students who want to develop themselves into balanced and creative people. Even if we put these negative consequences aside, the tight daily schedule for pupils prevents them from maximizing their academic performance. In other words, results do not reflect the time spent studying. The causes are deep-rooted. The main problem is the poor structure of primary and secondary education and, above all, the wrong-headed process for university entry. Public schools ought to provide, at least, some basic education so students won’t need to supplement their studies at the cramming centers. That should also apply to the teaching of English as the main foreign language. Private courses are understandable for those who wish to learn extra foreign languages or to cultivate some special talent. Students could then better concentrate on their homework and, at the same time, enjoy more free time – a necessary commodity in today’s world. For that to happen, the government must refashion the structure of primary and secondary education. Less important subjects must be removed from the curriculum. New knowledge must be included. The use of modern technologies allows radical changes in teaching methods with the aim of maximizing outcome and reducing teaching hours. To be sure, such changes cannot be made overnight. It is an effort that should have started long ago. Successive education ministers have failed to drill to the heart of education reform.