|Hard day at school love?|
It’s about 11 o’clock on a cold night in a dense residential area. I’m heading for my car, key at the ready nervously looking over my shoulder. Suddenly I spot a group of teenagers coming my way, I fumble with my key but it won’t find the hole. The teenagers are getting closer and I can see their hoods raised against the cold winter breeze. I try to calm my nerves and focus on getting onto the safety of my car. They are carrying backpacks, some dragging inches from the floor some bobbing around on their backs, tools, but for what heinous work. I get the key in the lock and turn. The buttons pop but its too late, they’re upon me. I look for spotty glue sniffer mouths, no. I look for the paint stained hands of graffiti vandals, no but they are ink stained. The car is unlocked. I could leap in but that would now mean swinging the open door into their path, this could rouse them, anger them. I feel like I’m in a tube station at midnight but I’m not and there really is no need to be afraid. This is Greece and these kids are going home after classes, English, physics, ancient Greek. Why so late? Well here in Greece children’s schooling is not finished with the last bell, if anything that’s where it starts for many.
|Does your child really need this?|
The majority of teens in Greece attend Frontisterio, private supplementary cramming schools. The purpose of these is to help students get higher scores in the national Panhellenic exams which decide university entrance. The word Frontisterio comes from the Greek frontizo (to care for) and were originally for the weaker students who needed a little extra help and had no-one at home.
Somewhere along the line they became an essential part of the preparation process and so began the black economy in education that has been costing families dearly ever since. Some sources suggest that total private spending on frontisteria exceeds public expenditure for secondary education.
Parents will cite inadequate teaching standards as the drive to private supplementation, including private tutelage. Indeed, in purely financial terms OECD figures indicate that Greece has among the lowest expenditure per student in the EU. I would suggest, though, that the practice has become more cultural. If lack of confidence in the public school system drives students to supplement with private tutelage and frontisteria, then there should be a marked reduction in the numbers among private school students, however the opposite is true.
|What happens when teachers moonlight|
The ubiquity of this practice can clearly be seen to have an adverse effect on teaching standards across the board. Teachers in Greece have some of the shortest working weeks in EU and often supplement their income by working in frontisteria or giving private lessons, ironically often to afford frontisteria for their own children. This division of loyalties often comes at the cost of their public school obligations and as the majority have tenure there is very little chance that this could have an adverse effect on their prospects and career. So over-stretched or unfocussed teaching staff cannot adequately execute their responsibilities to their students. Also, anecdotal but far too often reported from both sides of the desk to be ignored, the evidence that teachers defer to frontisteria, covering some subject matter in a cursory manner confident that the frontisteria will cover it in depth. This priority also stands for the students who, when pressed for time, will study for frontisteria rather than complete their school studies. Finally, it is only logical that when students are working two jobs, as it were, they won’t do either as well as they could. Material is learned ‘by heart’ long enough to score well in a test then forgotten, leaving no time for analysis and comprehension. In fact, studies prove that all of this schooling does little to improve the quality of students finally entering university. State university studies show that nearly half are ‘inactive’ this is to say that they have failed to complete the course within the allotted time, quite understandable if you consider the hours of schooling and home study that got them there. By the time they reach their goal, they are either burnt out or too unaccustomed to self time management, institutionalised.
And here lies my final point. With youngsters forgoing some of the most important personal developmental years of their lives, and the trend is moving down the age groups. The often unburden-able strain on family finances in a ‘free education’ country. What is the final cost of education and what exactly are our young being educated for.
Of course, simply excising this endemic area of education is no simple task. Which parent is going to opt out of a system that may offer their child a headstart in this highly competitive employment climate. What would the job market do with all the unemployed teachers and what would the government do without the tax revenue from these institutions? The situation has metastasised too far for a simple fix, but for the sake of the children one must be found.
Although this article was never meant to be an academic paper the information and observations are sound. The following are some of my sources:
http://www.re-public.gr/en/?p=1180 Gioulina Kokkalia and Aristotelis Skamagkis – Secondary education for all: The case of specific learning difficulties (dyslexia)
http://www.oecd.org/document/52/0,3746,en_2649_39263238_45897844_1_1_1_1,00.html OECD education at a glance 2010