Dumbing down the universities

The results of the university entrance examinations that were released this week expose the failings of Greece’s public education system. A considerable number of student candidates lack the basic knowledge to pass the minimum entry threshold, a fact which underscores on one hand the low quality of secondary education and, on the other, the anachronisms dogging pupils’ basic orientation. Virtually all pupils cram at the last minute hoping to gain entry to Greece’s university institutions, regardless whether they have the qualifications or, sometimes, even the willingness to attend the classes once they are in. The model for university education that has been advanced by the PASOK governments in past years proved to be a bubble that has burst. More than 13,000 university places (particularly in technical colleges, or TEIs) are empty. It has become clear that the aim of the Socialists when in power was not to improve the quality of educational services but to promote regional-minded policies or politically expedient objectives that did not pay heed to educational concerns. The policy of elevating TEIs up to the same level as proper universities destroyed technical and professional training in many necessary specialties. As a result, the TEIs’ fish-farming or tourism studies provide neither scientific nor professional knowledge. Two education goals were destroyed in a single measure. The government must revise its goals for post-secondary education. The policy of treating the establishment of new departments as a means of inciting growth in the regions has taken a hefty toll on the quality of our university institutions. Greece needs cultivated scientists as well as skilled technicians and professionals. Upgrading TEIs only served to dumb down universities. The sooner the government clears up the mess in the education sector, the easier it will be to turn education into a lever for national growth.