Socrates Would Definitely Be Turning In His Grave

I previously posted about education in Greece here, but some recent reading has made me want to post again. The reference to Socrates is because 2.500 years ago he was teaching people by asking them questions and encouraging them to think and find the answers for themselves. Something which, ironically, is the opposite of what is happening in Greece today. I say ironically, because we are so proud (rightly so) of him and the other great Greek thinkers of the time and yet are doing completely the opposite. As I said, Socrates would be turning in his grave or, as we say in Greek, 'his bones would be creaking'.

The great Greeks from ancient times really were great minds and thought 'out of the box'. Their legacy can still be seen in so many areas in our life today - medicine, physics, mathematics, education etc. And yet that 'thinking' is the very last thing that children are encouraged to do nowadays.

I was reading an article in a British newspaper which was putting forward the claim that children in English schools are not being taught to think. Now this may or may not be true (I'm sure it probably is), I am not familiar with the English school system, but I thought to myself - if this writer saw the educational system in Greece, what would he say!

Learning as a child to question and to think will help us when we are older to have a society where common sense and intelligence prevail. At the moment, children just learn things parrot-fashion and with a view to just doing what it takes to pass exams. This cultivates a society of people who have learnt either how to just work in the system or how to beat or cheat the system.

The second piece of reading I was doing was from the latest report from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development) on Doing Better For Children, including the data Comparative Child Well-Being across the OECD. This shows Greek 15-year-olds third from bottom (above Mexico and Turkey) in literacy and mathematics. They are also third from bottom in the percentage of 15-year-olds who have at least 4 of the basic educational tools (a desk to study, a quiet place to work, a computer for schoolwork, educational software, an internet connection, a calculator, a dictionary, and school textbooks). Greece is bottom in the state financial support of families with one person working and two school-age children.

The education - or rather 'non-education' - system needs a bomb under it. In order to qualify for university or college, nearly all schoolchildren have to go to evening classes or frontistiria. Not only is this wrong because they should be taught what is needed in the school, but also because it means children have hardly any free time and have ridiculous pressure to do homework. It also means that most families in Greece have to spend large amounts of money (which they don't have) every month for something which should be needless.

I cannot believe that people are not out on the streets every day demanding the abolishment of these frontistiria! In a time of such financial difficulty, to have to spend so much money every month for something that shouldn't exist is not only ridiculous but obscene! But people don't do anything - they just accept that it is necessary.

Schools are told by the state what books they should use - nothing is done to develop the creation of a variety of materials for the schools to choose from for themselves. Exams encourage pupils to just learn specific sections by heart and then regurgitate them. You may as well just answer like this - Q1. - Answer: page 34, para 5; Q2 - Answer: page 46, para 2 etc. You can get full marks (20 out of 20 in Greece) for composition/essay and history. How can this be? Is you essay so good it cannot possibly be improved on?

Facts, now more than ever with the internet, can easily be found - it's learning to use them that is not so easy. This is what needs to be encouraged - thinking. This is what made great thinkers in the past great. They took themselves beyond the barriers, they thought 'out of the box' as I said above. If we are so proud of the ancient Greek thinkers, then the best way to express this is by trying to do the same and encouraging young people to do the same.

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  1. Rhett Says:

    Education is important. I have seen when a country trying to become better but having a hard time because generations of people that have great potential get slowed down by their lack of knowledge. For example a basketball hoop fixed to the top of the board. Little things like that seem humorous until you get into the larger more important things. Get those kids the knowledge they need!
    thanks for the post.
    Rhett out

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