Common sense of reintroducing Greek university cut-off marks

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The coalition government appears to be considering introducing the cut off mark of 10 out of 20 from high school students to enter tertiary institutes of higher education. It would be a good start to restructuring the local education system that has been plagued by flawed policy which has lost many of its values.

I have written before about my background as a holder of a degree in teaching in a former editorial when I asked the government spokesman to study harder. When I went to the US to continue my studies I was given the nickname “the teacher” even though I never found the patience to teach and turned to communications in my professional life. However, I continue to respect the people who are real teachers at all levels of education. As few as they may be they do make a difference.

For a good teacher to produce a good student they must have the proper conditions. Unfortunately schools in Greece became an experimental laboratory for policies that failed and produced the sole result of the loss of values and the abandonment of striving for distinction.

At a time when Greek society was hitting a peak of unbridled consumerism, the quality of knowledge provided by the educational system was has hitting rock bottom. It got to the stage where students were gaining places in tertiary institutions with marks as low as 2 or 3 out of 20.

So readers can understand the significance of what this means I can provide a suitable real life example. In my company we like to give young people opportunities so we have graduates come to work with us from the Kastoria Technical Institute from their department of public relations for their practical training. In most cases we could not communicate with them let alone try to induct them into the organization. The few exceptions were the ones who entered the Technical Institute with respectable end of high school marks, but those who had single digit scores out of 20 were representative of the general problem. This is a tough truth.

Children and teenagers have to learn how to become better not how to find an open door and become comfortable. This lesson has been lost by the Greek education system which has to be restructured from the start.

The cut off base of 10 out of 20 for prospective candidates to enter tertiary education has been a bone of serious contention. The cut off mark was legislatively introduced by the government of Kostas Karamanlis and then it was abolished by the government of George Papandreou. I hear today’s coalition government is mulling it over again. I think that is good that it is being debated again because its shows common sense is returning to the Ministry of Education.

In reality the issue was never decided on educational terms. It became the subject of politicking and parochial interests of communities that lived off the local student populations at Technical Institutes across the country. With a cut off score of 10 there will be fewer tertiary students so there has been big pressure on the political system to abolish it.

Will reintroducing the 10 cut off mark be sufficient to turn around the situation in education? Clearly not, but changes have to start somewhere to show the new policy direction. We have to aim for schools with order and quality and for modern universities that are connected to the labor market.

However, instead of focusing on achieving these things the debate is being side tracked with talk of how such a cut of mark will benefit private institutes and colleges. It is not unusual for a “bogey man” to be created to hide the deep problems of the education system.

The problem isn’t if there will be universities, but if there will be good private universities. It would be fantastic if Harvard or MIT came to Athens because they would create healthy competition so public universities become better.

But in the Greece of mediocrity competition is a dirty word and should not be dare spoken by well-meaning teachers.

PS. One person in the George Papandreou government named Giannis Panaretos was a fanatic of abolishing the cut off mark of 10 and used his personal blog to argue it had no reason to exist. His position dragged along the whole of the Pasok socialist government. There is serious power in blogging.

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