A complete overhaul of the educational system is underway, Education Minister Athena Michaelidou said on Monday.
She is set to hold a series of meetings with educational associations and parents throughout the summer to reach agreement on educational needs and hammer out long-needed improvements to assessment techniques, teaching methods and the curriculum itself.
The previous system, of twice-yearly exams, quickly proved unsuccessful and a redirection towards more child-centered education has taken place, the minister said, denying claims that the changes had to do with giving in to pressure from unions.
Comprehensive, long overdue changes are in order, the minister said, in terms of assessment of both students and staff, as well as teaching methods and curriculum.
“The restructure [of the twice-yearly examinations] has been an opportunity to do away with relying entirely for [pedagogical] outcomes and evaluation on one single final measure,” which is an outdated way of doing things, the minister said.
The over-weighting of one final exam, had “brought the educational system to its knees” and had “killed creativity and flexible thinking” for staff and students alike, the minister added.
In line with the shift in educational philosophy, the most serious problem – that students were not taught or assessed on their capacity to analyze information – can now be tackled, Michaelidou said.
“The reason we don’t do well in international comparisons is that our students are not at all prepared for international exams, which assess flexible or critical thinking abilities,” the minister said, “because our system rested 90 per cent on memorisation of factual content.”
This is a huge transition for the country’s educational system, Michaelidou explained, and requires a thorough re-evaluation of the current curriculum to determine what constitutes key knowledge and what skills must be taught, so students can reach the levels of their international peers.
As for the matter of pervasive after-school tutoring, to fill in learning gaps and keep up, which has reached absurd proportions according to dissatisfied parent groups, the minister said that the solution is to cover this need for free through an ‘all-day’ school programme.
The minister also raised the issue of rigidity in the current curriculum, where little room for creativity or adaptation is afforded to educators.
“We have been shown to be the second most centralised educational system in Europe with all materials handed down to the teachers from the ministry. A small rural school is expected to teach the subject in an identical manner to a big city school,” which is not an inspirational approach for educators, nor students, the minister added.
The system’s revamp will involve intensive continuing professional education of teachers, who for years were caught up in ‘teaching-to-the-test’, the minister said.
An educational system is dynamic by its nature and researched adaptations must be introduced, without however sacrificing its stability or using students as guinea pigs. The changes will doubtless require time but will inject much-needed vision into a stultified system, the minister concluded.