One of the main reasons for failing public education is excessive power wielded by the teaching unions. This union power has created a public school system that primarily exists to serve the interests of teachers rather than the children. For decades, graduates were indiscriminately hired, without an interview and sent into a classroom without even basic teacher training. They were never evaluated, because the unions did not permit it, but they were all eligible for promotion, so countless unnecessary ‘promotion’ positions were created – some primary schools have two head teachers!
This scandalous situation ensured declining standards and created an industry of afternoon private lessons for children that wanted to have a chance of getting into university. Private lessons were offered by public school teachers, who had a real financial incentive not to do their job properly in the morning so they could generate business in the afternoons. The Papadopoulos government tried to tackle this illegal practice but failed, because everyone turned against it.
These criminally anti-educational practices went on for decades without anyone complaining or protesting that public education was badly letting down the children, something that was reflected in exam results. The Confederation of Parents’ Associations, which now acts as a body of educational experts making a big fuss about the twice-yearly exams and demanding the education ministry scrap the practice, never uttered a word about all those years when children were being let down by the system. They still are, but it is not the twice-yearly exams that are the problem, as the misguided parents have decided.
In fact, parents are engaging in the union militancy that is the root cause of the relentless downward path of public education. On Saturday, members of the confederation met Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou and ministry officials. The meeting was held “to submit queries, objections and our disagreement, for the data presented to us as well as our opposition to the conclusions of the minister as regards procedures and results,” the confederation said. It also accused the ministry of not following procedures for verbal exams! Is the parents’ confederation some kind of educational super-authority to which the education ministry must answer?
This is mindless unionisation of the parents, who are incapable of understanding the harm that union behaviour has caused education and are behaving just like the teachers, who also oppose the twice-yearly exams, because it means extra work for them. What is worse, secondary school students have organised themselves into a union, known as Psem, and are boycotting classes to push their demand for the scrapping of the twice-yearly exams. Of course kids do not want to sit exams twice a year but why are their parents making such a fuss? On Thursday they will hold a news conference to announce what dynamic measures they will take “to safeguard the public school and our children.”
In the end, public schools have been turned into breeding grounds for militant unionism, which is the only lesson teachers teach effectively. Students might not learn how to read, but they will know how to organise a strike, and their parents will help them.