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Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Science (Επιστήμη)

In New Zealand single-sex high schools were common (and I think they still are), which is the reason why I went to a girls' high school. One of the reasons given as an advantage for girls to attend single-sex schools is that they are given a greater chance to study subjects not traditionally associated with girls without having to compete against boys in the class.
This argument has less standing in Greece in my opinion because girls are generally better students than boys in most ways, and this isn't something unique to Greece - girls are generally more systematic and organised, they also mature earlier than boys, and this all enables them to handle homework and study more maturely.
Science studies start in the first year of high school in Greece, where students study Biology and Physics, so children are given the opportunity to learn about science from an early age, and they can continue it at institutes of higher learning. In Hania, the Technical University of Crete was established approximately 30 years ago for this purpose. Universities in Greece which have the word 'technical' attached to them are actually the highest-level institutes in the country, where the basic degree is earned in a 5-year course of studies. (The basic bachelor's degree in Greece consists of a 4-year period of studies.)
In a landscape like Crete's, where nature gives rise to agriculture and tourism interests, it is sometimes necessary to provide greater impetus to children to get them to think beyond their immediate environmenτ, and to examine the possibility of unique innovative technologies in their world. The tourist sector, for example, is geared towards business, while agriculture tends to focus on the production of local food products. Apart from the school environment, there are fewer outlets for rural-based children to glimpse the world of science outside of nature, ie through machines and man-made constructions. 
The Technical University of Crete recently held an open day on the campus to this end, with free entrance. Primary school children were encouraged to come into contact with the world of science, where they could have new-age machinery and concepts explained to them by the experts (students and their professors). The event was organised in a highly professional manner, with guides posted all over the campus, and it was very well attended. Even though we got there early, queues were already forming at the reception centre. I was glad to see a number of people there from different regions of Hania, which suggests that the event was well publicised. 
Science is inspired by nature, and there were many activities depicting this, using wind, water and sun as the basis of creating energy. Chemistry experiments were shown to the student using ordinary household objects. Of the 40+ stalls, the football match played out by robots, run by the Laboratory of Programming and Intelligent Computing Systems, was probably the most popular. It was heartening to see a higher institute working effectively and productively, after many weeks of hearing on the news that certain Greek academic institutes remain closed due to striking staff.
Thanks to Rodopi Zouboulaki for the video link.

It was also a magic moment to observe professors and university students explaining to young children how science works and demystifying everyday phenomena in simple words. 

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