Parrots belong in forests and aviaries

University entrance exams are a prime target for critics of the current education system in Greece. But these same critics, while more than happy to moan about its ills, appear unwilling to put forward comprehensive proposals for change. No one can deny that the Greek educational system, at least up to high school level, is facing serious problems. It is ailing because the system itself, imbued with a «civil service» attitude, does not give its students the knowledge and skills they really need. The system does not help kick-start their minds, help them think, cultivate a desire to read and absorb all that «useless» knowledge that cannot be specifically applied in the job market, but which broadens mental horizons, builds character and provides a well-rounded education. The compulsory education system in Greece has failed and the signs are there for all to see. For example, it is not surprising that the International Baccalaureate Diploma program is growing in popularity. This begins at age 3 and ends at 18-19. Its cornerstone is that it does not use one single source for lessons. Students are not taught by rote learning, but encouraged to form their own opinions about the knowledge they acquire, to think for themselves and act on their own initiative. The focus of the measures currently being debated in Parliament should be on the compulsory education system for another reason too. For if the situation improves at school level, then surely the debate on tertiary education will become more constructive. If elementary, middle and high schools do their jobs properly, then ensuring the integrity of university entrance exams will be the only thing we need worry about. And this is because competition for a place at one of the country’s universities is so stiff that – regardless of the system that is eventually adopted – students will continue to attend private preparatory schools and use practices (such as memorization and rote learning) in order to achieve their goal. But if they are taught how to learn in elementary school, middle school and high school, they will not have to memorize their history and mathematics lessons parrot fashion or resort to templates for essays. They will be able to score high grades solely thanks to their own mental acuity. Then, knowing their own potential, they will be in a position to pursue a place at the university of their choice. We all know that when students study hard and set goals, they can achieve them. Those who apportion blame to the system by targeting university entrance exams simply do not want to acknowledge their own share of responsibility.