Friday, March 02, 2007

I predict a riot

Yesterday trundling back from my class on the bus a lady was moving down the aisles asking for bus tickets. In Athens, it's acceptable to buy your ticket off another passenger. They'll actually give it to you. Astonishment! Two years in London really killed my belief in other people.
Anyway, the hot topic of the day is Greece's failure to decide on reforming their university system. You know what I'm talking about if you live in Greece. If you don't you obviously don't watch enough shouting matches on morning TV. The government wants to privatise some unis to create healthy competition and raise the standard of the education provided, along with reasonable measures like putting a time limit on how long you can take to finish your degree. What, it's open ended? Yes children, it is.

The Greeks love nothing better than a good protest, so they've been up in arms for what seems like FOREVER over the reforms. Every day the TV shows long-haired students burning things, throwing petrol bombs and shutting down their campuses. Smart, guys, real smart. I too was a long-haired student once, but I have no sympathy for their cause. The highest ranking of a Greek university according to the Times Higher Education Supplement is number 459. The university of Athens comes in at number 508. Kids, you really have nothing to be proud of. When your universities are doing so badly in international league tables, it would be wiser to contemplate measures that might improve them, not throw a hissy fit that you won't be allowed to take 10 years to finish your degree.

Generally, I don't agree with privatisation, but in this case I sincerely do. Why should smart Greek kids who want to learn and have a degree that would actually be worth something have to miss out because they can't afford to go overseas to get an education? The Ancient Greeks are still regarded as some of the most intelligent people in the history of humanity, because they valued knowledge and tried to make it available easily. Why should modern Greeks be disadvantaged by not having good quality universities in their own country? Why should they have to pay and go abroad, thus contributing to the country's brain drain? Someone should ask these rioters: wouldn't it be nice to get a good quality, useful education and still have dinner at Mama's? That's the one that'll clinch it!!

Alas, what do I know, right? I'm just a stinky foreigner after all.


toomanytribbles said...

you're not a stinky foreigner. i am, for all practical purposes, a foreigner myself but i've lived here much longer than you and i had the pleasure or misfortune of studying in greece.

you are not aware of all the issues involved -- they are certainly not limited to whether one can be a student for a decade.

the greek constitution guarantees free public education. privatization of univs. will require a change in the constitution on this matter.

if universities are privatized, the remaining public universities will almost automatically become underfunded as governments will attempt to set aside lower amounts for education, causing even lower standards. the outcome will be that only people with money will be able to get a decent degree.

add to this the worry that private institutions' curriculum eventually offers subject matter for study in line with the interests of private companies and not the interests of a society as a whole, and you get friction between groups with conflicting interests.

many poor students have to work full-time jobs while studying, which results in longer stays at universities -- thus you get 'eternal students' in the system.

these issues are not new. they existed twenty-some years ago when i was a student. the powers-that-be have been chipping away at education for all this time and students and faculty have, for the most part, been against the measures all the while.

i remember back then fighting for higher funds for public education and measures to raise standards. this never happened and things are steadily getting worse.

i don't pretend to have the answers to this problem, but i think that, whatever happens, greek society should ensure that students of any income level should receive the education they deserve and are able to achieve, irrespective of their economic bracket.

i worry that this is not likely to happen with the measures proposed at this time.

by the way, in response to one of your previous posts, i read your blog.. it's on my google reader. i'm always interested in how foreign people cope with the ludicrous conditions they face in this country.

. said...

Hmmm, you got me there. I think I've been watching too much morning TV, my own reactions are getting quite knee-jerk now. I just think that it's a realy shame that the students keep disrupting the classes for those who do want to learn. Today's Athens News has a good comment piece on this on page 19.

Jeff said...

alright, i'll admit that i ended up here randomly: the beauty of the google search, putting everything we say at the disposal of others.
as an american who recently graduated from one of those non-profit, private institutions that do not exist here, i greatly enjoyed your candor on the subject. what i want to hear more of why fighting the "idea" always takes precendent over fighting the "implementation"....yes, privatization is not a panacea, it does require some actual effort to get it is, however, the correct solution....and it is rare to get someone to comment on those minor picayune details that would make privatization work, ya know, like increased financial aid to the poor (if the greeks are afraid of schools becoming underfunded, bring up with your rep in parliament, it's what you're paying them for!) it's rather comical to watch the far left and far right get played by the center, resulting in, big surprise in Greece, nothing happening!
ha, sorry for taking your time since we don't know each other...hope that you're enjoying your time as much as i am! thank you.

George said...

I loved your comment about how 'two years in England killed your belief in the human race'.. or something along those lines.. I couldn't agree more! A bus ticket in Greece comes as a blessing because everyone recognizes that the system is rotten. In England, everyone likes to think that the system is great so all the grannies go bitter upon the lad in the bus instead of ever contemplating to go and taking it up with the real enemy that has made their bus-ticket cost 16 pounds fifty, - monopolies and corruption in the name of Europe.

Anyhow, some things remain pure. As the summer's coming up, might as well be smily :)
Thanks for allowing an opinion!
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