Reprehensible conservatism in education

on . Posted in English texts

Whenever we received our report card from school back in my day, the last thing we cared about was the conduct grade of “excellence” we all received. We never knew anyone who received a grade of “decent.” We could not understand why there were only two grades, but what we didn’t know because it was so rare was that there was also a third one: “reprehensible.”

What was the point of including an assessment of students’ behavior on school certificates? It certainly did not serve any educational purpose. If a student was so naughty as to receive a grade of “good,” then he or she probably had too little interest in the school or school certificates. If the student evolved into a mature adult, then too bad for him or her. That school document would forever remain misleading.

This anachronism was abolished by the SYRIZA-Independent Greeks (ANEL) administration in 2017. School teachers continued to assess student conduct, but the information was restricted for in-school use and was not shared on graduation documents. The rules said that a student’s conduct could be described as “exceptional,” “good” or “reprehensible.”

A student’s conduct was described as “exceptional” when it was in perfect accord with the rules of school life. “Good” was the rating awarded when a pupil’s conduct deviated from the regulations. Finally, a pupil’s conduct was rated “reprehensible” when deviation from the rules was at an “unacceptable” level yet school authorities nevertheless deemed that “correction is possible within the school environment.” (Article 3 of Ministerial Decision 10645/22-1-2018)

The hard-ball bill on secondary education that was submitted by conservative Education Minister Niki Kerameus foresees that “the conduct of secondary school students is recorded in their diplomas, including in their graduation certificates, their proofs of graduation and other education certificates and documents.”

What for? Is it to punish those naughty students after they have left school? Or is it so certain teachers can take revenge on that badly behaved boy that gave them a hard time in the classroom? Does the labor market hold some form of punishment for any students who finished high school with “decent” or “good” conduct?

Evaluating personal conduct is a necessary tool to ensure that a school operates smoothly and efficiently. But keeping a record of it after one’s school years hardly serves any meaningful purpose.

That’s conservatism for you. And here’s a government claiming to be slashing the red tape but, at the same time, making sure to add yet another field to be filled in on official forms – in fact, a completely pointless one.

Published in eKathimerini.com 28.5.2020