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2nd European Meeting on Education: Contribution of CP of Greece

Dear comrades,

Welcome to our second meeting, which we believe will be of particular interest, as it is being held at a time when efforts are being stepped up to adjust education to the Lisbon strategy.

In the year that has passed since our previous meeting, neither the EU nor the governments of its member-states have wasted any time.

In September 2006, continuing its measures to promote lifelong learning, the EU laid down a framework of basic capabilities that all pupils must acquire as “preparation for adult life”, i.e. employability training as disciplined and flexible workers in the future that capitalists have in store for most young people. In this text, general education in our era is more or less defined as a collation of elementary knowledge, practical skills and precepts for “good behaviour” on the following eight points: communication in one’s native language, communication in foreign languages, practical mathematics, some elements from the natural sciences and technology, computer use, entrepreneurship – i.e. the legalisation of exploitative relations using the theory of the capable and “successful” – learning methodology, in other words, familiarisation with the idea of spending one’s life drifting between re-training and unemployment, and finally, the education of the “active” citizen, who will not only accept but actively support the system that exploits him.

In Greece, as in most other EU countries, the implementation of this directive is already underway. The new curricula and textbooks for compulsory education that were designed by PASOK and put in place by the ND government conceal the toughest offensive in recent years aiming to disorganise and control pupils’ thought. Language teaching is limited to a superficial communications function. CVs, instructions for the use of household appliances, recipes, SMS and advertising slogans have displaced higher forms of discourse such as literature, poetry and anything in general that might conduce to deeper thoughts and feelings among pupils. The teaching of mathematics, instead of helping the pupil to form a scientific view of reality and its laws, cultivates confusion and uncertainty through the chaotic arrangement of the subject matter, the downplaying of rules, and the insistence on rough calculations. The postmodern teaching of history, in the name of eliminating the conflicts between peoples, in order to subjugate them to almighty capital, is trying to erase from our people’s memory any useful fact about our history, such as the national liberation struggle of 1821. The unscientific and theological interpretations of social and natural phenomena are gaining ever more ground in the material taught in the schools, while fundamental scientific theories, such as that of Darwin and the atomic theory in chemistry, are relegated to the sidelines. The US Pentagon, the CIA, financial dealings and commercial transactions, euros and dollars, fast food, shopping centres and department stores are all part of the wonderful world of the new school textbooks and curricula, which will supposedly link school with life. The fragmentation of pupils’ thought, ostensibly to combat this very phenomenon, culminates in the so-called “cross-thematic integration” approach to knowledge and the limited teaching of distinct subjects. According to “cross-thematic integration”, instead of pupils being taught language, physics, mathematics, etc. in a systematic and integrated way, they will be given some idea about all of these, and will take them up later again on some occasion through the processing of a theme that will supposedly be examined “globally” from the viewpoint of various subjects.

Cross-thematic integration activities, to which the EU contributes generously through various training programmes (training of the consumer, environmental education, hygiene training, traffic behaviour, etc.), provide the most favourable field for ideological manipulation. For this reason, they represent an educational paradise for the sponsoring companies of all types that are infiltrating the schools everywhere to broadcast, freely and shamelessly, their reactionary messages about competitiveness, entrepreneurship, class collaboration, individual responsibility and racism.

And when general knowledge is so badly treated, you can understand how much worse things are in vocational training, which is by nature more closely linked to capitalist production and businesses. In this sector very serious changes are taking place that will have a decisive influence on the structures and content of education as a whole. These changes unfortunately are passing unnoticed, because they concern mainly children of the poorer working-class strata; children who are crushed by the pressure of survival will have no time or energy to embark upon their education.

The problem in vocational education is not only its unequal place in the dual network of senior secondary education as regards general knowledge. Nor the fact that the only outlet for the graduates of this premature and downgraded education is some brief, temporary and rudimentary training at institutions that are outside the educational system, most of which are privately owned. These days, even this type of flagrantly downgraded training is regarded as a major concession, as the EU policy on lifelong learning now insists that this so-called “informal” education – i.e. experience that one can gain on occasion and involuntarily through the activities of daily life and especially through employment – be recognised as equivalent to the organised “formal education” provided by the appropriate educational institutions. In short, the much-touted learning society is taking us back to apprenticeship. Indeed it was for this reason that the EU decided to create a European Qualifications Framework with eight reference levels, in which one may be ranked after certification of his or her qualifications, irrespective of the way in which they were acquired (at schools, training schools, seminars and conferences, empirically in the workplace, etc.). It is in fact typical that the relevant decision declares the urgent necessity to change the automatic classification of persons holding bachelor’s, master's and doctoral degrees in the three highest levels respectively (6, 7 and 8) of the Qualifications Framework, with the obvious intention of assigning this classification after certification examinations, in which persons may take part who have no degree, but some relevant employment experience! In other words, business experience can even award a university degree. This is the opinion of those who inspired these plans as regards knowledge and the academic organisation of studies! The connection between the various levels of education and the different forms of learning will take place – it would appear – through the credits system. The purpose of these changes is not only to disparage systematic education and the certificates it awards, but above all to subjugate education as a whole, from nursery school to the doctoral level, to the direct control of capital. Employers’ representatives will create occupations, determine skills, impose the short-term qualifications they require according to their random needs, and finally they will assess and certify these qualifications independently of the certificates awarded by the official educational system. In other words, they will decide directly not only what and how we will study, but also who has the right to work. In Greece, the first applications of this plan have already started being implemented at the vocational education and training level. According to the decisions made at Bergen, it won’t be long before a similar system is applied to higher education as well, so that the two realms of vocational education-training and higher education will eventually be linked and constitute a single system of lifelong learning that is absolutely controlled by the monopolies.

At the same time, at the higher education level, and in view of the meeting of Ministers of Education in London on 16-18 May, governments are stepping up their actions to promote the Bologna process. To this end, the Commission has issued an announcement entitled “Modernisation agenda for universities” in which it calls upon the member states to declare the reactionary restructuring of universities as a national priority, and by the end of 2007 to have implemented its recommendations completely as regards their business-oriented and competitive operation. According to the Agenda, a good university will be one in which all the genius and creativity of the academic faculty will not be spent on knowledge, but on chasing up financing and on the commercial exploitation of research results, always for the companies’ good and for the competitiveness of the European economy. This is the goal of the 7th framework on research, which was also passed by the EU this year.

The agreed EU deadlines and the governments’ anxiety to meet them explain the reason why our government hastened two weeks ago to pass the new framework law on the operation of institutions of higher learning, the law that constitutes the heart of the restructuring of higher education, despite vehement opposition by students and university faculty, who, since May of last year, have been unceasingly, massively and decisively demonstrating to demand its withdrawal. Both this law and the amendment of Article 16 of the Greek Constitution, which prohibits the foundation of private universities, have one and the same purpose: to make public higher education institutions function as private ones with managers, business plans, fees, standardised fast teaching, high-handedness and above all, with companies intervening directly and dictating the content of studies and research.

Very few people in Greece would have had any idea about all these outrages, if the entire country had not been swept by extended, militant and multiform struggles coordinated or alternating at all levels and by all those involved in education (students, pupils, educators, university faculty, and parents). These mobilisations started right after our first meeting in May of 2006, as a direct confirmation of our common assessment that struggles and resistance would grow stronger – they continue to this day – against government high-handedness, against the effort to discredit these struggles, and against police violence. Today, despite the fact that the law on the universities was passed, the struggles continue and everything indicates that they will continue until this law is abolished. Already, the Senate of the largest technical university in the country, the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), decided not to implement the law despite the penalties, such as economic exclusion, threatened against any institution that fails to comply. Among the qualitative and hopeful elements of these struggles, together with their mass militancy, pulse, intensity and correct orientation, we must add the fact that for the first time in the post-junta period, organisations of working people took part in the education struggles by calling strikes over education. This new quality element was mainly the product of the views and efforts of PAME to give the struggles against this unpopular and anti-educational policy the features of a working-class-wide struggle. And this is just the beginning, since, as a party, we aspire to place the issue of education firmly at the centre of our political action, as one of the pre-eminent issues that demonstrate the necessity and timeliness of socialism.

Moreover, it is obvious that this resistance can be effective only when it is combined with a counter-attack, with pushing forward the positions and demands that will shake the social base of this education. We must mobilise the masses of youth and the people in the fight for new conditions in education, but also for new conditions in the society; this is our obligation. We are in favour of innovation and against renewals! And if we look more deeply at the substance of the confrontation taking place today, we will see that it lies in the purpose of education. The bourgeois class wants education to prepare people who will adjust to given social forms obediently and passively. We want education that will create people capable of changing the world, and of making it better. On this basis we believe that a contemporary programme of struggle for the people must include the following basic focal points:
  • Abolition of private education at all levels, as a basic prerequisite for a unified, public and free education that will carry out its educational task for all, with special concern for the children of poor working class strata, migrants and minorities.
  • Establishment of two-year compulsory pre-school education in the state network of children’s centres.
  • Creation of united twelve-year compulsory schooling, in order to extend basic education without the out-dated separation into elementary, junior and senior secondary school and without the class and anti-pedagogical distinction in secondary school between general and vocational, to avoid the premature occupational choice being made before the modern educational task of the school has been completed and the young person has come of age. A school that will not produce parts for the machinery of competitiveness, but will educate an integrated human personality with judgement, feelings, awareness of his or her rights in the society and the will to demand them.
  • Building a system of public vocational schools that will be attended by young people after the age of 18, after they have completed their general education. These schools will provide substantial specialisation for the all-round practice of a trade and their graduates will need no other certification that disputes or disparages their certificate and studies.
  • Creation of a truly united university education, with institutions that are equal, that will fight for progress and not for supremacy. University education that will preserve the unity of the academic field and will ensure academic specialisation for all young people, without the anti-academic separation of undergraduate studies into cycles, for unified undergraduate studies, and unified post-graduate studies that will lead to a doctoral degree.
  • Increase of state expenditure to cover all needs for public education and to stop the drain on working people’s households.

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