“Metaphysical” persistence of degradation of Natural Sciences in the Greek educational system


by Vasiliki Michopoulou

The Greek Ministry of Education announced on August 28,  2017 the main points of the draft law that will soon be discussed on the changes in the Lyceum and on prerequisites for entrance to Higher education. In the draft law, one can easily recognize the “metaphysical” obsession of the Ministry to downgrade Natural Sciences as a whole, and in particular Biology and Chemistry, against any scientific and pedagogical argumentation, against any international practice. At the same time, Biology is a prerequisite lesson for entrance to the health and life science schools at Greek universities.

The Ministry overthrows the autonomy of two extremely important sciences by demanding to be taught as a single course, which is something that has never happened in almost any other educational system in the world!

It’s more than obvious that Biology and Chemistry are two distinct sciences, having a different subject, using a different methodological approach, and their teaching, according to international research, is very different. These actions are against international guidelines for upgrading the teaching of natural sciences.

The PanHellenic Union of Bioscientists in a statement claimed that: “The proposed unification of the two sciences has the effect of weakening Science education as a whole, instead of strengthening Biology and Chemistry. They are cognitively being shrunk, returning to conditions prevailing in the Greek educational system in the very distant past when the candidates were entering to university without the prerequisite knowledge. This has an impact on the level of Higher Education.”

In  a century that has been internationally characterized as the “era of biology” with the technological breakthroughs in the areas of Life Sciences constantly changing our everyday life, the degradation of Biology in the Greek educational system is a very dangerous tactic.

John P.A. Ioannidis, the famous Greek professor of medicine, health research and policy, biomedical data science, and statistics at Stanford, told me in a communication that: “It is not clear that the hours of teaching Biology and Chemistry courses will be reduced with this merger. However, the merger opens this possibility even if not explicitly stated. Clearly, science education needs to be strengthened, not weakened, especially in an era when anti-science voices become strong unfortunately. Instead of depriving Biology and Chemistry of their separate entity status, it might have been preferable to add a new course on Interdisciplinary Science, covering the interface and complementarity between different natural science disciplines. In the current environment of limited resources and understaffed schools, the current move will probably just mean less science taught in schools.”

It should be noticed also that the theory of evolution is usually not taught in high school, while in recent years astronomy has also been removed as a lesson from the educational system so that children will not learn that there are billions of planets in the universe.

We remain alert and we are following the debate.

Vasiliki Michopoulou, Biologist-PhD candidate, Free lance science writer, Press and Communication Officer for the Panhellenic Pharmaceutical Society, Board of the International Science Writers Association (ISWA).

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