Superfluous education

The local media are always keen to report on the essay topic in national university entrance examinations. First because thousands of families are in for a stress-filled climax after two years of performance-enhancing courses. And second, because the public at large has strong views on language. This year was no different, as controversy over the interpretation of such words as «expulsion,» «defect» and «obsolete» made the headlines. Thankfully, the media seemed less willing to hit out at the illiterate youth and more keen to criticize the country’s education system. We cannot afford any more delusion. Our schools are a mess. They fail to instruct and they fail to shape character. Children are not taught how to study, reflect or ask questions. In spite of ambitious curriculums, young people graduate at 18 lacking a basic knowledge of geography, history, mathematics or Ancient Greek – depending on their specialization. Pupils must choose their university subject from as early as the third year of high school. Inevitably, senior high sees them wasting all their vigor and learning capacity in an exhausting preparation for the national exam. It’s sad. When school fails to stimulate a teenager with a poem, a song, a historical event, an excerpt from Thucydides, or a puzzling equation – something outside the state-set syllabus, seemingly superfluous for one’s specific targets – then we have all failed: parents, teachers, the state, society. From all my school years I still remember some «superfluous» passages from Thucydides, Plato, Solomos, Kalvos and Papadiamantis. Physics and chemistry were never my forte. Whatever I had to learn to get into medical school, I learned in private tuition. But all the «superfluous» knowledge imparted by my marvellous literature teacher back at that humble school remains with me today as my dowry, my lucky charm.