Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Skool (Σχολιό)

A bright and early morning start to the day today, as schools in Greece officially open for the first day of the year (why they couldn't start on the first day of this week beats me).

Since June 15 when the spring term ended, until September 10 when the summer holidays end and the new school year begins the next day, I've been carting my children with me to my pleasant work environment. Although there are summer activities organised for children in the area, you have to pay for them. To be honest, I used to arrange for their time to be occupied in previous summers while I was at work, but the children are now older and they have grown out of these activities. Besides, there is little money available now for such extras (and a gross reduction in terms of subsidies available to working parents to enrol their children in such activities).

They really enjoy being among older people who talk to them in an interested way. They also enjoy being able to use the computers in the office, eating tasty snacks and playing with the resident animals - they have even given the cats names! They have also discussed their mother's workplace with other children in the neighbourhood, who are keen to come along too one day. They even bought their cousin in on one occasion. And the best thing of all: they've made new friends - I am not the only one bringing in my kids to work. To add a bit of excitement to their routine, I would sometimes take them in extra early so that they could enjoy breakfast with the exchange students; at any rate, they loved having lunch with the staff.

Finally, school starts and I can get away from child-minding during the week - you don't just dump your kids at your workplace, you keep your wits about you as to what they are doing. This makes school in Greece sound more like a babysitter's joint than anything educational, doesn't it? Well, that's what it seems to have been in the later years of primary school - after they learn the three R's in the first couple of grades, it's pretty much consolidation of what they have already learnt, plus a good load of learning off by heart the mythical history of their culture, απ' έξω as we say in Greek.

Greek school teachers are limited by the state as to what they teach, and how they teach it - the syllabus is set and so are the text books, so even if they wanted to be creative (and I truly believe that they cannot be, because this has to start well before your specialist tertiary studies) in their teaching, they will still have to get through the set work. They are also hindered by one more factor: parents. Most Greek parents have the idea that their children must be raised to learn in the same way that they themselves were educated; naturally, they have not seen any other system in place, hence, their narrow mindedness is based on their limited experiences. I personally believe that school is a waste of time if all you are learning is what is written in a book. But I am up against nearly the whole country. So my opinion doesn't count.

Coupled with the usual shit we hear (not enough teachers have been assigned, textbooks are not always printed on time, etc), there is no reason to hold out hope for much change this year, in the midst of a crisis. And let's not forget that strike action is a regular part of the teaching year. (If you work out how many holidays teachers in Greece have, you will be shocked to hear that they work only 7 months of the year.) According to the New Greek Order, teaching hours for permanent teaching staff will be increased this year as a cost-cutting measure to decrease the supplementary teaching staff - and we all know that in Greece, changes that make you do more than what you are used to doing while being paid less entail the well known consequences:

Strike action by primary school teachers is scheduled to take place tomorrow. As the first say of school will simply be a show of Greek bullshitooka (welcome, hallelujah and holy water during the αγιασμό), I wonder how those teachers can seriously consider themselves as carrying out a profession and not just a job. They are in it for the ease with which permanent jobs used to be obtainable in Greece's recent past, and they got the chance to study towards this profession simply by gaining an adequate number of points, and not necessarily because they chose the profession. If they were really professional about their work, they would not hold the children and their parents at ransom while they try to sort out their quibbles as soon as school term starts. What stopped them from striking during the last 12-13 weeks while they were being paid without working? Holidays, presumably.

Even if the schools never opened at all, I don't think it would matter much to most working parents in Greece. We went through a whole summer - nearly three months - of wondering what to do with our kids, that I don't think it will be difficult to work out what to do with them for a longer period of time. For those lucky people like myself who still have a job, I'm sure I will be able to work out another solution to the same problem in the winter.

For more education and children posts, click on the relevant links.

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