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The educational system in Greece

I. The structure of education
In Greece, primary education (called dimotiko or elementary school) and secondary education (gymnasio and lykeio, i.e. junior and senior high school respectively) are part of an educational structure with the following main characteristics.

A) General basic education. Strictly speaking, basic education is compulsory for the entire population and provides people in their childhood and early adolescence with the knowledge required for them to function rudimentarily in the society. It lasts for nine (9) years, but a significant percentage of pupils (12%) drop out before graduating. Compulsory education starts at the age of 6 and includes six years of elementary school and the junior or lower level of secondary school, which is three years.

B) The next step in secondary education is the Greek lykeio, which corresponds to senior high or upper secondary school. It has been an elitist educational level since the beginning, as it essentially constitutes an antechamber for higher education. It is not a school for the working people, not so much in terms of the population, but rather in terms of its purposes, curriculum and methodology. We observe that the more senior high school becomes attached to the process of admission to higher education, the more its class character is reinforced, and the more the parallel education system of tutorial institutes, group and private lessons at home is consolidated. In Greece, this system of preparation for universities constitutes a basic mainstay of inequality and class discrimination. In addition, this educational step is differentiated. It started off by separating pupils into classical and practical education. Later, during the 1950s, nautical high schools and technical and vocational junior and senior high schools were added. Along the way, various types of senior high schools existed side by side such as general, technical, and comprehensive until we arrive at today's major class separation into a) integrated senior high schools (three years of study) which are addressed to students expected to continue into higher education and b) Technical Vocational Schools (TEE) that consist of a two-year and a one-year cycle, which supposedly provides two or three years of technical and vocational education in conjunction with general knowledge subjects. In essence, they are inferior schools and their graduates have acquired neither general knowledge nor any certified occupational skills. We note that technical education, which has only been implemented in Greece as an official recognised form of the educational process since 1959, was set up from the beginning as the lower end of secondary education.

The majority of elementary schools, junior and senior high schools and technical schools are state-run, but there are also the so-called quality schools (usually private), which are intended for students belonging to the financially stronger social strata that can afford such an education. In the public elementary schools, junior and senior high schools and technical schools there are no tuition fees, and the textbooks are being provided free of charge from the state with the exception of the books for the foreign languages and the practice books at the junior secondary schools.

C) A number of uncertified schools, again usually private, were established under the circumstances, promising to equip young people for success in life. They included various technical and vocational schools. The recent descendants of these schools are the Technical Vocational Schools (TEE) which, as pointed out earlier, belong to senior secondary education and are oriented towards training in vocational skills. These schools constitute an antechamber for the uncertified Vocational Training Institutes (IEK, two years of study) and the Centres for Vocational Training (KEK, training programmes a few months long). There are several public and many private IEK institutes, with very high fees. These are very downgraded institutions as they provide training according to the opportunistic needs of the market, which rapidly becomes worthless owing to advances in science and technology. These Institutes and Centres fill the gap in the public education system for substantial "post-secondary" technical and vocational education and constitute a field of runaway profiteering for private businessmen.

D) Higher education, which consists of universities (a total of 21 throughout the country), and Technical Education Institutes or TEI (16 throughout the country) that correspond to technical colleges and provide non-university education with a strongly vocational character. These colleges were recognised as part of higher education in 2001, as unequal members.

Today universities and Technical Education Institutes are all state-funded, since the article 16 of the Constitution of the country stipulates explicitly that higher education be provided free of charge exclusively by public institutions. This is a right that the current government plans to repeal in the immediate future. Tuition fees already exist at the post-graduate courses. There is a more general trend of cuts in the students welfare, which is nevertheless insufficient (eg a very limited number of students has access to students residences, free meals etc). Books are still provided free of charge by the universities in the majority of the cases, although that the tendency is towards cuts in this regard.

And finally, pre-school education in Greece is not compulsory. Part of it is kindergarten (one year for children between 5 and 6 years old), which comes under the Ministry of Education and is still public, co-existing with a large number of private kindergartens. Nursery schools come under the municipalities and other organisations, but do not guarantee any pedagogical content in the treatment of infants and demand increasingly higher fees from the parents. At the same time, most of them have been handed over into private hands.

II. The recent restructuring of Greece's educational system

The current period is characterised by governments' efforts to subordinate the educational system more closely and profitably to the political and ideological objectives of capital. The propaganda about the need to "link education with the needs of the labour market" conceals international political schemes by imperialist organisations (EU, OECD etc.) and governments to adapt education fully to the more general restructuring that is being promoted in the economy and in labour relations, making possible ever greater guidance of the younger generation. In other words, the aim is to exploit education more effectively in order to reproduce, first of all, a large number of flexible, obedient "employable" people, suitable for even greater exploitation, and second, a smaller class of technocrats who will serve the ideological, political and financial ambitions of the ruling class with upgraded abilities and better conditions. Attempts are being made to realise this goal by: a) reinforcing the class-selective nature of education, b) promoting training for the masses at the expense of general education, and c) fostering the private, profit-making operation of schools and institutions of higher learning, which will be called upon to operate in a competitive, businesslike and increasingly self-financed manner.

Attempts to adjust our education to the new capitalist demands began in Greece during the 1992-1993 period, under the then government of Nea Dimokratia. The IEK institutes were established then and the graduate master's degree was instituted as a separate course of studies in higher education, providing an opportunity to charge fees. At the same time, interventions were initiated in the curriculum, aiming at the more marked ideological guidance of young people. (For example, all references to Marxist theory were deleted from the school programme and university studies). In the meantime, the EU directives regarding the adjustments in education demanded by capital acquired more specific content, as can be seen from texts on European educational policy (1993: Green Paper on the European Dimension of Education, 1995: White Paper on Education and Training, Teaching and Learning Towards the Learning Society, and 1999; Bologna Declaration on Higher Education).

Thus, from 1997 on, the PASOK government began to promote a more comprehensive and better elaborated plan to restructure education in Greece. The main objective of the plan was to turn more young people especially children from poorer working class strata toward short-lived "training". To this end, conditions were created in senior high schools that deterred the socially and educationally weaker students from studying there.

Specifically, the examinations for admission to higher education increased in number and were identified with the high-school leaving examinations, with the result that young people who could not continue into higher education or afford the required special tutoring, were obliged to drop out of school.

The inferior technical and vocational schools (TEE) were created for all of these "rejects" from senior high school. The now stifling link between senior high school and the system of admission to universities and technical colleges transformed the school into an institution to prepare students for examinations, eliminating its pedagogical and educational function.

At the same time, new programmes and textbooks were introduced into the senior high schools with a strongly ideological and formalist content. Also, various European programmes and activities (environment, health, consumer education, etc.) were implemented more broadly on an extra-curricular basis, on the pretext of linking the school with life and opening it out to the society.

In reality, these programmes directly and effectively strengthened the propaganda of the ruling ideology and capitalist lifestyle models (entrepreneurship, competitiveness, the European idea, etc.) and began to accustom schools and educators to "competing" among themselves. At the same time, the main purpose of the PASOK "reform" was to guide the educator by changing the way in which teachers were hired: the Precedence List based on the year of graduation and examination results has been replaced by a system of assessing teachers and schools, which has not yet gone into effect.

At the same time, higher education has been "expanded" to include new departments offering seminar courses with a training content. In 2001 the technical colleges became part of the higher education system, but without being upgraded and without meeting the prerequisites for institutions of higher learning (academic subjects and programmes, highly specialised faculty, the conduct of research).

The large-scale and protracted student demonstrations that rocked the country for two consecutive years (1998 and 1999) obliged the government to "tone down" some of the measures, e.g. by reducing the number of subjects in which senior high school students would be obliged to write nationwide examinations. Thus the number of students in the technical and vocational schools (TEE) gradually diminished. But the core of the "reform" measures did not change.

Since 2004, when the N.D. government co-signed and accepted the European specifications for education, it has stepped up the policy of restructuring. Alongside the dual, unequal system of senior and technical high schools, it has pushed for differentiation in the curriculum and for deeper class-based groupings in the schools, exploiting the preliminary work done by previous governments. More specifically, during the recent period, it has been attempting to break up any uniform programme in compulsory education (elementary and then junior high school) by introducing a zone of activities with a different content from one school to another (flexible zone) which will incorporate European programmes. In fact, in the name of "linking the school with the society and production" the direct involvement of businesses and local government is being encouraged in both the financing and more general support and realisation of activities in this zone. Thus the way is open for establishing schools that are differentiated on a class basis, where every school will create its own programme on the basis of its management ability to attract additional resources. The most important thing is that, through the new programmes and textbooks, the school's educational function is being replaced by the practise of skills useful on the "labour market" and the so-called "social skills" of submission and active support of the system.

Grouping in education on a class basis goes hand in hand with the spread of privatisation, which will be reinforced by the imminent assessment of educational institutions at every level and the other measures scheduled to promote the competitive operation of the schools, with a leading role being played by local government and private citizens. For example, among the government's immediate plans are: a) to decentralise responsibility for funding, curriculum, and teacher-hiring to local government and b) to outsource the construction, maintenance, protection, and cleaning of school buildings and other services to private citizens, on provocatively preferential terms, granting them at the same time the right to exploit all these sectors for a number of years (the Joint Venture between the State and the Private Sector, which is already planned).

This multi-dimensional class grouping aims to promote an early and large-scale shift toward training, which in recent years has been weakened by the failure of the technical and vocational high schools (TEE) and the diminishing number of their students. For this reason, in addition to the above measures, the N.D. government in a recent bill has introduced three-year Vocational Senior High Schools (EPAL) and two-year Vocational Schools (EPAS) in place of the TEE. Despite the fact that the first (EPAL) resembles an upgraded TEE, while the second (EPAS) is obviously an occupational training and apprenticeship institution, both these categories of vocational schools are on a lower level, in terms of both their curriculum and the prospect they can offer their graduates, which is training and retraining in vocational training centres and institutes.

However, hardest hit by "reform" during the past year has been higher education, the aim being complete revision of the institutional framework governing its operation. In particular, after the recent meeting of the European Ministers of Education in Bergen, there has been a barrage of crucial laws introducing: a) Lifelong Learning for graduates of higher education (Institutes for Lifelong Learning were established for graduates of universities and colleges, etc.) b) a system of accumulating credits was established in order to replace academic studies with the personal and "flexible" programmes of study sought by the market, c) assessment and classification of institutions of higher learning and d) the equivalence of a three-year bachelor's degree with the four- and five-year undergraduate programmes that still exist in Greece. At the same time, a new bill will be tabled in parliament in the months to come regarding the operation of institutions of higher learning (legal framework). All these laws, and in particular the last one, constitute general preparation for the full privatisation of higher education, which will go into effect when the last obstacle is surmounted, which is Article 16 of the Greek Constitution. The amendment of the Constitution is being justified by the alleged increased demand for higher studies that will supposedly be covered by private universities. But the real point is to facilitate and generalise the entrepreneurial, private and financial operation of public universities and colleges, so that fees can be imposed, business solutions can be sought for their survival and, above all, that they can become organically linked to the capitalist market and the direct interests of private citizens.

It would seem that educational restructuring which is proceeding simultaneously in all countries of the capitalist world is a basic condition for the reproduction of capital and of the system under the present conditions in which competition is becoming sharper in imperialist circles. This must be taken seriously into consideration in the positions and action of communist parties, so that the uniform features of education can be regained at this time, when it is necessary to regroup and fight back.

III. Some figures

Public expenditure for education correspond to approximately 7% of the State Budget (~ 3,48% of GDP) Rates of school failures are high: 12% of students do not complete the compulsory education and 27% dropout from second-grade education

Commission for Education of CC of KKE

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