Education reform

The education reform promoted by Education Minister Gerasimos Arsenis was greeted with intense reactions and overblown hope – hope that the reform would succeed in disengaging senior-high schools from the national examinations for university entry and thus turn the school into a distinct educational institution. The implementation of the reform, however, was soon to invite successive efforts to water it down, which not only affected erroneous and extravagant aspects of the system but also the core of the cluster of measures on which the whole reform was grounded. Recent data concerning the performance of pupils who managed to move up to a higher class unfortunately confirm the failure of the reform and the need to take a fresh look at several dilemmas regarding secondary education. These dilemmas concern whether the school certificate could become more valuable without introducing stricter criteria for moving up classes. They also concern whether acquiring a school certificate or entering university constitute a right, an entitlement which should be open to everyone, or whether the threshold should be high enough to preserve the worth of the university degrees. There is no easy answer to these questions. Whether senior-high school should be relatively easy so as to allow less able students to graduate, or whether it should be a demanding educational institution, is a genuine dilemma. So is the matter of the appropriate level of difficulty for university entry. The problem is that, as far as Greek education is concerned, we still have to decide what our position is on these issues. We say we want an autonomous senior-high school, disconnected from examinations for university entry – but in fact we have turned it into a failed quasi-cramming school which is flawed on both counts, as a greater number of pupils fail to graduate than in the past, while pupils are allowed to move up with lower grades than the case was before the reform. This dismal picture ought to prompt us to re-examine the current system – not only its institutional structure but also other vital aspects such as the teaching system and teachers’ evaluation. The reform failed or was dismantled from above. It’s time we accepted this and start from scratch. Similarly, it’s time we realized that modernization does not stop at public works; above all, it is brought about through investments in the human factor – a sector where Greece ranks at the bottom of OECD countries.