Reform of schools to pivot around greater autonomy with assessment

Reform of schools to pivot around greater autonomy with assessment

In an interview with the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) ahead of the public presentation of the draft education ministry bill for the improvement of schools, Education Minister Niki Kerameus outlined the four main directions of the bill. She noted that the central pillar of the bill, which she is to present with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Monday, will pivot around the parallel processes of greater autonomy, combined with assessment and accountability.

According to Kerameus, giving greater autonomy to schools will be a major thrust of the bill:

"A freer school, which chooses the books from which teachers will teach, creates educational clubs and has a say in educational programmes, operating with transparency, is a better school that gives freedoms and unlocks the creative powers of students and teachers," she explained.

This will dovetail with the improvement of teaching staff through a mechanism linked to additional training and feedback, as well as greater accountability, transparency and evaluation to improved the educational result as a whole.

A third factor will be the involvement of administrative staff in the implementation of educational policy in schools and in providing mental and emotional support to pupils and teachers, as well as the additional training and evaluation of teachers, she said.

The fourth aspect of the new bill is a modernisation of ecclesiastical education at secondary, post-secondary and higher educational levels, to improve the quality of the clergy and rationalise the top ecclesiastical academies.

Key reforms, according to the education minister will be giving schools the freedom to choose their own textbooks, rather than teaching the set state textbook, in a bid to pass from rote learning to critical thinking and analysis. They will also have a degree of autonomy with respect to the four-month evaluation tests, a reinforcement of coordinating structures within schools (school coordinators, mentors, deputy heads etc), approval of educational programmes and collaborations by schools in a process of decentralisation, introduction of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in Greece for children in the final year of primary school and 15-year-olds in the final year of gymnasium, assessment and additional training for teachers and assessment for school administration staff.

Kerameus highlighted the importance of assessment, noting that no educational system can improve without it, in order to identify strengths and weaknesses and improve teachers through retraining where necessary. She also noted that greater autonomy required a system of checks and balances and a mechanism for accountability.

Apart from Greece, she added, the only European countries where such assessments are not routine are Turkey, Ireland, Malta and Iceland.

The results of the assessments will have an impact on whether a teacher will be entrusted with positions of responsibility or have to undergo additional training, while their main goal is to provide feedback.

The changes will also put schools in charge of making more decisions, with Greece currently ranking lowest in the EU for the decisions and responsibilities resting with schools, as over 80 pct of all decision-making on educational issues is made at a central level (versus an average of just 35 pct for the countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development).

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