Professor Anastasios Tamis: ‘Abolish university entrance exams in Australia’

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By Anastasios M. Tamis*

I have always been in favour of abolishing university entrance examinations. This institutional examination process in the form of HSC, VCE or whatever it is called, offers only pain, injustice, confusion, psychological terror, mental upheaval and most importantly tarnishes and condemns the diligence, learning ethos and training acquired by the student (the child) during the last three grades of his/her school (Years 10-12).

How is it possible that a continuous struggle of three years, a course of intensive learning of three full years, can be replaced with a two or three-hour exam? How can the toil, the intensity of learning, the long and wide study of three years be balanced with a two-hour examination, during which the child may had arrived with a temporary but overwhelming illness, high fever, mental upset, panic symptom?

My opinion since 1980, when I was still writing in the newspaper Nea Patrida of the Group of the late Theodoros Skalkos, was and remains unchanged. Children should be admitted exclusively with their academic High School Certificate, which will show all their three annual performances in the main five or six subjects of the science discipline they would like to follow. Is it possible to replace three years of performance and hard work and learning with a two-hour exam?

My view is that university entrance exams are a trumped-up mechanism for socialising learning and performance. In Greece it is something more. To strengthen and operate the tutoring schools and schools of para-education that have been operating for decades and suck the blood of the Greek family, with the result that many parents do not give birth to children because they can’t educate them.

In general, however, both in Greece and Australia, university entrance exams are a completely unfair system, I would say criminal from the point of view of the fairness of a child’s evaluation. Thousands of children who, with good and excellent performance in the last three years of their Gymnasium, did not perform as expected and as a result they fled abroad or were condemned and lived in failed professions, without deserving it. And all of them, or at least the vast majority of those who failed the university entrance exams, when they arrived in Europe or America, excelled in university and academic studies, because they entered on the basis of their Baccalaureate/High School Certificate. They excelled because they were excellent students in the last three grades of Gymnasium; they excelled because they had an ethos of learning and continuous and persistent effort for improvement, for the best. Many of those who had “failed” in Greece or in Australia in the entrance exams became great scientists, academics and distinguished men of letters.

“School is not just about information and knowledge. School is also education. It is a way of life, behavior, education, character. And this second part has been lost [from Greece],” emphasises in a statement recently published by most eminent today Professor of Linguistics in Greece, former Rector of the University of Athens and heart friend and collaborator, Professor George Babiniotis.

The course and process of learning over the course of three years is the most honest, fair, legitimate, unaffected, appropriate, and impartial way of measuring the worthiness of the child. For three whole years, the course of his/her learning will be measured by the teachers, evaluated globally, assessed in depth. And the child will mature learning unaffected, psychologically calm, without time extremes and silos of psychotic anguish.

So why do lawmakers and government officials insist on university entrance exams?

The main reason is that children who go to independent and well-organised and expensive schools will have better learning opportunities and thus have the advantage over children in state schools. So herein lies the problem; Then why not improve state schools too? Why doesn’t the government cultivate terms and conditions for better teachers and better students to come to state schools? Why do we prefer to transfer the problem to the child, and expose him to complete destruction with a two-hour examination? How do we as families and public servants endure this process at the expense of children?

I quote below an excerpt from the statement of the hierophant of Greek education, Professor Babiniotis, who proclaims throughout Greece the great truth, but it is also true for Australia, that university entrance examinations are no longer a fair and just evaluation system. The wise linguist explains:

“Since 2009, when we held the national dialogue on Education, I have been saying that this system with the Panhellenic schools does not drag on anymore. It’s unfair, it’s inhumane, it’s cruel, it’s unreliable. You can’t judge a child in a 3-hour exam where something can happen. However, the potential that a child has in the three years of his performance and his performance in high school, we should be looking at. This is how the whole of Europe works. This is how large universities abroad operate. In other words, they ask you for your diploma and your grade in the last grades of Lyceum, in the three grades of Lyceum. So there have a picture of you and the schools that have a very limited number and cannot open it and do an additional examination on some subjects, if necessary. In most faculties you don’t have to do that, and the way you get into university is your identity, as shown by the academic, so to speak, baccalaureate.

“It is a fact that a high school has become obsolete where all subjects, you know high school no longer count, that is, no one counts them, he looks when he will be away, how he will read something more to take exams. So those of us who have an understanding of what is happening in education, we are living this thing and it is the worst thing that has happened to us. Now one will say yes, but there will be pressure on teachers to give grades etc. There is a safety valve called the issue bank. There, then, subjects from the subject bank are given from time to time in the school with correction by the teachers, which objectively you now have a grading. That is, if the teacher has put 19 and in the examination with the subjects from the subject bank he goes to 14 from there and then there will be an intermediate grade and vice versa. So, we are talking about a parallel upgrade of the issue bank, which must be something substantial for there to be justice. And I think that the Lyceum will be set up again in this way educationally. So, in order for there to be a resurrection of the Lyceum, decisions must be made that may have a reaction from some people who profit from the current system, but the government, the Ministry of Education must dare this solution, which will be for the good of the students themselves and will slowly lead to the abolition of entrance exams.

“We need to overcome rigidities and distortions that have created some interests, some people who have settled in this way or are making money. These, if you have the courage to overcome them, you can provide solutions. Otherwise you stay in the status quo and go through what you are going through, that is, you have three years lost from education. And we all keep saying that it is a matter of education or a matter of education the other. Whose education? An education that actually stops in high school? An education that has ceased to have character and education? Because when you talk about forms of behavior, values, rules, principles, they consider you right-wing, conservative, junta and I don’t know what else. In other words, when will the teacher be freed to do both his education and his lesson and to have a comfort and respect from people but also a good remuneration? In other words, to be able to stand in society without having to have two or three occupations?”

*Professor Anastasios M. Tamis taught at Universities in Australia and abroad, was the creator and founding director of the Dardalis Archives of the Hellenic Diaspora and is currently the President of the Australian Institute of Macedonian Studies (AIMS).

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