Lower (Gymnasion) and higher (Lyceon) secondary school in Greece: Findings of a longitudinal study with some comparative references especially to the German system of education

Issue 1

“Lower (Gymnasion) and higher (Lyceon) secondary school in Greece: Findings of a longitudinal study with some comparative references especially to the German system of education”

Panayotis Xohellis

Page 9-38


Professor Xohelis presents in this article the main findings of a longitudinal research performed at the secondary school level in Greece over the last 20 years. The research focuses on the teaching methods in five core subjects of the curriculum namely ancient and modern Greek, history, physics and mathematics as well as on various important aspects of school life.
Some of the most important research findings summarized in the article include:
1. Demographic findings concerning teachers and pupils: The teaching force is gradually aging and feminized, while most of its members come from lower socio-economic background. On the pupils’ side there is an increase in the participation of girls in secondary schools and of young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds as well, while there is also a substantial increase in the number of repatriate and foreign students, a development that has presented school with a number of difficulties not yet fully accounted for.
2. Findings concerning the teaching process from planning the course to its evaluation: It is noticed that over the 20 year period examined emphasis has been constantly given by the school to cognitive objectives and to memorization rather than to the development of critical thinking. On the other hand, the relative emphasis of the 80s in making school courses more relative to the realities of social life has been substituted in the 90s by a rather moralistic sort of objectives, reflecting perhaps both a conservative turn in the Greek society and the pressure from the university entrance examination system. On the contrary no major change has been observed in the teaching methods which stick to the traditional schema “examination plus lecturing” a fact that is basically attributed to the teachers’ inadequate initial and in-service pedagogical training.
3. Findings concerning pupils’ school records and their transition to higher education: The first finding verifies that the socio-economically privileged pupils have more learning incentives, are supported financially and morally by their parents, get higher scores in all school subjects, show preference to general education type of school (89% of the pupils that were enrolled in technical vocational schools in 2000-2 were of lower socio-economic background) and have a better rate of success in university entrance examinations. The second finding of major significance, especially in comparative terms, is that girls’ rate of success in school as well as in the university entrance examinations is much higher than that of boys, a state of affairs attributed to the greater diligence girls normally demonstrate. The third very important finding asserts that the upper secondary school has been increasingly loosing its pedagogical character under the pressure of external examinations while at the same time it cannot also provide proper tutorial to the pupil/ university candidate who is thus obliged to turn to private cramming courses a fact that in turn further enhances social inequality in school.
4. Findings concerning school life and the pupils free time: School life – in the sense of pupils’ participating in non-cognitive, leisure or cultural activities within the walls of the school – is almost non existent in the Greek school. This is attributed to the school timetable with its successive teaching periods and short breaks as well to a longstanding tradition which considers the school a place for work. The situation has not improved over the years despite the fact that some attempts have been made to relax the cognitive character of the school, mainly through the introduction in the curriculum of various cultural activities.On the other hand relationships among students both inside and outside the school have been steadily improving, while student-teacher relationships are also found to be satisfactory, despite the fact that student behavioural problems have been deteriorating. Parent-teacher relationships remain good, although rather formal and limited. A significant change is observed as far as the students’ free time is concerned. In addition to athletics and play pupils spend increasingly more time watching TV, listening to music and going to the cinema. Leisure activities are highly dependent on the pupils’ socio-economic background (working class pupils occasionally work part-time), on gender (increasingly leisure activities of both sexes converge) and on the school level (Gymnasion allows for more free time). Finally, building on the research findings, the article provides some suggestions as to the measures that should be taken from state officials and teachers.