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Contribution of KKE at the education meeting

Contribution of KKE
By Aleka Papariga,
General Secretary of the CC

I would like to welcome you to our meeting, which we regard as exceptionally important because of the topic being discussed, and also because we hope that the product of our discussion will be an effort to achieve common action and coordination on the political and social level in the European education movement, which must take on a distinct substance; it should be expressed in the coordination of action by workers' and popular movements, by the movement of educators from all levels, and by the youth movement and radical intelligentsia.

We believe that the conclusions from our meeting will be useful to communist parties on other continents. Without reactionary reforms in the education system, EU and international imperialism cannot aspire to bring the cost of the labour force to the lowest possible level or hope that it will be able to prevent radicalism and the impulse to create a break with the system.

The changes in education are dictated by the more general difficulties faced by the capitalist system in reproducing social capital with the same comparative ease it has had in the past. For the EU as well, these changes reflect the needs of intra-imperialist competition with the USA and other strong imperialist countries, as laid down by the Lisbon EU Summit in 2000.

The mobilisations of young and working people in France, in other countries and in Greece express the demand that systematic and multiple struggles be mounted that will demonstrate the integral link between the problems of education and those of labour, living standards, and social and democratic rights. The formation of a broader front of struggle depends to a large degree on the stance taken by communist parties and the labour movement on the education issue, as well as on the more general problems that concern them.

In 1995, the report of the Round Table of European Industrialists cynically ordered national governments to treat education as a life-long process that will last from the cradle to the grave. In other words, even kindergarten must be converted into a place where working people are prepared for integration into flexible, temporary forms of employment with starvation wages and pensions.

They put forward the deceptive slogan that a direct link between education and the labour market solves the problem of unemployment and for this reason the centre of gravity in education must be shifted to training.

In Greece, reactionary reforms started being put in place by the social democratic government of PASOK in 1997 and have continued under the liberal ND government, constituting yet another strong proof of the convergence and identity of these parties as regards the goal of serving the capitalist system. These reforms are governed by the following basic features as goals:

1. Expanding privatisation

a) The statutory participation of employers' organisations in the central and local bodies that plan educational policy is constantly increasing. For example, we have the participation of the Federation of Greek Industries (SEB) and other employers' associations in the National Educational Council, in the National Council to Link Vocational Education and Training with Employment, in the Life-long Learning Committee; employers' representatives take part in drawing up the curriculum at Technological Education Institutes (TEI), and at the so-called Life-long Learning Institutes at universities and technical colleges, and there is more to come.

b) "Sponsorship" by businesses is being put forward as a decisive factor in improving the "quality" of an educational system that is under-financed by the state budget. The various EU programmes that have recently been incorporated officially into the compulsory education curriculum constitute a first class investment opportunity for the various aspiring businessmen-"educators". Through these programmes, food industries and fast food chains provide courses in health education; multinationals and automobile industries teach traffic behaviour; condom manufacturers teach young people sexual education, while the Federation of Greek Industries initiates pupils into the entrepreneurial spirit and competitiveness, i.e. into submission.

c) Through give-away contracts, a number of services necessary for the operation of the schools are being outsourced to the private sector (maintenance, cleaning, guards, etc) as well as the right to the long-term exploitation of the school premises, on condition that the construction of school buildings be co-financed. It is clear that very soon the educational function will exist side by side with open to the public, profit-making activities of all types such as garages, Internet cafes, slimming centres, etc.

d) In university education, using co-financing as a driving force, these institutions are being pushed into various entrepreneurial activities in order to survive. The EU itself, by means of the Treaty of Maastricht and the framework programmes that followed it, urges universities to conduct research "on commission", laying down cooperation with business as a necessary prerequisite for community funding of a research project. The main effect of this directive is to allow private businessmen and imperialist organisations (NATO, EU, etc.) to control and determine research priorities, orientation and even scientific results.

On this basis, any social mission or credibility on the part of the universities, as well as the content and nature of knowledge, are all being threatened more seriously than in the past. Things will get worse as soon as the new legislative framework is drafted and goes into force which, especially after the Bergen Meeting, the government is promoting at a rapid pace with the collaboration of PASOK, and which goes as far as to abolish the provision in the Greek Constitution which stipulates that the country's higher education shall be exclusively public in nature and provided free of charge. The legislative framework will oblige the universities to operate as capitalist enterprises and will transform them into open fields for action by private interests.

e)The real profit-making paradise for businesses and employers in education, however, is the field of vocational training and re-training and life-long learning, which in the next few years is expected to mushroom. The representatives of employers determine and evaluate the content of learning, build new "occupations" and "specialisations" and the short-lived qualifications required for them. But because this post-educational process of reproducing a labour force that will be "flexible" and quickly providing profits, and has enormous significance for capital, this is precisely why the entire system of organised education, from nursery school to university is being reorganised to serve it. The so-called "life-long learning" is the Trojan horse that will allow training and business "pedagogy" to defeat systematic education. The report by the Commission's Advisory Committee on Industrial Research and Development typically points out that basic education consists of the initial backbone of a process of continuous learning, the greater part of which will unfold during one's working life. In other words, the organised education system must be reformed, grossly downgraded and transformed into a stage of preparation for the "learning" that will follow for the rest of the person's life, under the direct supervision of employers.

In this direction, there are plans to merge the Ministry of Education with the Ministry of Labour. At the same time, machinery controlled by employers' associations is being devised that will certify the vocational qualifications of the working people, irrespective of any degrees or diplomas they may possess. In this way, the degrees and diplomas awarded by the official educational system are invalidated and, together with the content of studies, subjected to the supervision and control of employers. This certification will in fact be a life-long process to be imposed on the working person, on his own responsibility and at his own expense, to gather certificates of employment preparedness from life-long learning and training agencies of all types, otherwise his right to work will be withdrawn.

2. Reinforcing class barriers. Education for the chosen few

Imperialist organisations such as OECD and the EU have for a long time now established the direction: the few will study; the many will be trained. National governments in turn implement this line with exemplary consistency, taking care to conceal it and to deceive the people. The denser the barriers to education for the working people of the lower-income strata become, the louder the cheers heard for the "information society" and the multitude of "opportunities for all". Indeed cheap, fast "bargain studies" have multiplied these days, so that the last municipality declares itself ready to establish a university! However, the fundamental right to a broad, general education, the prerequisite and foundation for any subsequent educational or professional choice, instead of being expanded, is being increasingly limited for the majority of young people.

Thus, since 1995 a plan has been promoted in Greece to impose on a large scale the scorned and downgraded technical and vocational stream of secondary education, which constitutes the antechamber to training. But the selection of pupils who will follow this inferior path will start from elementary school, since the earlier the school segregates its pupils, the more this segregation is reinforced by the pupil's educational and financial environment and ultimately by his class origin. Thus, the main concern of governments is for class differentiation to be made in compulsory education, and continue from there. Already the elementary school curriculum has been partitioned into two zones, in one of which there are courses common to all, while the other, which is called flexible, is determined "locally" at each school, preparing the ground for differentiation in the school curriculum. Some schools will go more deeply into mathematics and the language, while others will be concerned with singing, drawing and pottery. Then the class segregation measures will be strengthened and deepened by means of "decentralisation", which means transferring the responsibility for financing, curriculum and teaching staff to the municipalities and to the individual school. In other words, we are heading towards the abolition of uniform operating conditions for every school, in order to create schools of different speeds, corresponding to the financing possibilities and educational level of the "local" society. The "best" schools in regions inhabited by the plutocracy will select the "best" students, while students with moderate records will be crowded into a larger number of humble schools in working class neighbourhoods and the rural countryside.

It is obvious that the specifications of flexible compulsory schooling will deviously legitimise in the minds of the pupils their mass integration into the second-class technical and vocational stream of secondary education the preliminary phase of life-long learning as "voluntary" and "natural" on the basis of their "aptitudes".

Those who, despite all this, manage to overcome the class barriers in elementary and secondary school, and arrive at higher education, will find themselves facing more barriers that are stronger than in the past. What were until recently unified undergraduate studies, have been divided by the Bologna decisions into two cycles, the second of which is called "post-graduate". For a person to acquire the knowledge and employment rights corresponding to those of older graduates from the unified undergraduate cycle, they will have to study at least in the so-called "post-graduate" cycle (Master's level) which owing to fees, examinations and other tests, will become inaccessible to most graduates. At the same time, with the forthcoming abolition of the constitutional provision for free public higher education, it is certain that fees will be charged for undergraduate studies as well, while it is expected that free textbooks will soon be abolished. Already the phenomenon has been intensified, attendance at "popular" institutions of higher education such as most of the Technological Educational Institutes (TEI) and a large number of regional university departments that have a low admission level, and at which the children of the working class and other popular strata study are at a very low level. They have become something like post-secondary programmes of a seminar or training nature.

With the measures for privatisation and for the competitive operation of institutions of higher learning, this classification will be tightened up even between schools, departments, faculty and students at the same institution. In other words, most of the graduates of higher education will not avoid the "fate" of the semi-skilled person who can expect to continue training on a life-long basis as an "employable".

3. The unprecedented downgrading of general education

The tragic downgrading of most schools and educational institutions is in perfect harmony with the decadent viewpoint that prevails these days about what knowledge young people require and how they should obtain it. Monopoly executives have estimated that, owing to the concentration of production and the mass importation of new technologies into its processes, a large percentage of young people are useless for their system. And most of those who are in fact employed will be doing routine tasks that can be standardised and taught easily, cheaply and quickly. Consequently, an effort is being made on all fronts to put an end to the multitudes of "over-qualified" university graduates, who are expensive and demanding and who think. For the large category of people who vacillate between unemployment and "employable" training, a low-level mass education is sufficient, adapted to the cheapest possible forms of teaching.

Writing, reading, arithmetic, communication in a foreign language, and use of computer technologies must be the subject matter of basic education in our times according to the "White Paper on education and training", the gospel of EU educational policy. The minimum knowledge that the ruling class guarantees to provide to all consists of fragmentary knowledge and skills at the elementary school level. In the 21st century and despite the grand words about the dizzying rate at which knowledge is growing, basic education is being restricted to the level of elementary school in the early 20th century! There is, however, one difference that does not alter this basic conclusion in the least. A large part of the educational function from now on will be devoted to the "four pillars" of life-long learning, otherwise known as the "social" skills, which according to the UNESCO report on education in the 21st century, are the following:

1. "Learning to know", that is, I practise how to be trained for the rest of my life, instead of gaining knowledge.

2. "Learning to do": to handle without panic the nightmare of the flexible life that awaits me.

3. "Learning to live together": to respect and submit to authority of all kinds, employers and government.

4. "Learning to be": I am exclusively responsible for solving my own problems, such as unemployment, illness, poverty, etc. without demanding social rights and other `anachronistic stereotypes'.

The modern bourgeois school is oriented on the one hand to transmitting knowledge of a utilitarian nature, and on the other to strengthening viewpoints, customs and behaviour models that will increase the individual's endurance and tolerance of the unbelievably exploitive and repressive living conditions that await young people.

The new curricula and books for compulsory education, in the name of unifying knowledge (holistic approach) and in contrast to separate classes, through unnatural and mechanistic information links, constitute the ultimate fragmentation, formalism, dogmatism and ideological unilateralism. For example, on the pretext of the real need for more attractive and interesting teaching, the literary texts to be used in teaching language subjects have been replaced by texts of letters, CVs, invitations to parties and even recipes, to cultivate the "skills" demanded by the market. To the narrative and arbitrary teaching of history, which leaves historical evolution suspended like an inexplicable, metaphysical phenomenon, has been added the diffusion of fragmentary events in local history through the feats of local heroes, the chronicles of local monuments, etc. Charts, arrows, summaries, codifications, timelines and boxes are mobilised to orient pupils to technocratic, mechanistic learning and to chasing grades, thus marginalizing and abolishing thought, preventing the deepening of knowledge and its critical assimilation. This commercialisation of knowledge and the vulgarisation it entails enjoy a lot of glory in our days as they recently made their appearance in the phenomena of schoolgirls who, in order to collect money for their class excursion, organised a fashion show for underwear; while some schools instead of educational visits to museums, theatres and other cultural sites, organise visits to morning television shows or large shopping centres!

In the higher grades in junior and particularly senior high school, the time for occupations of this kind is limited, and their place is taken with absolute strictness and regularity by the school's selective function in sorting out tomorrow's "specialists" in terms of higher education. A hodgepodge of disconnected, conflicting, boring and often useless theoretical knowledge in the form of a summary of university texts stifles any sense of general education and buries in memorisation any critical ability and creative disposition on the part of young people.

In vocational training, the adaptation of education to employment "flexibility" takes the form of de-specialisation, by transmitting shallow knowledge without any theoretical foundation in many sectors and vocational fields, which will supposedly ensure vocational mobility by continuous training. Thus the graduates of the unequal technical and vocational stream of secondary education have acquired neither general education, vocational specialisation, or access to a job. Their only hope for finding a job is to acquire some makeshift "training" at Vocational Training Institutes (IEK), most of which are private and do not belong to the educational system. That is, public technical and vocational training works to reinforce private post-secondary training.

The same goal of de-specialisation in the name of flexibility is served by the restructuring of higher education. The splitting of studies into two cycles shifts the academic specialisation to the second (master's) or third (doctoral) cycle, while the first cycle which in Greece is about to be reduced to three years of undergraduate studies, with the corresponding downgrading of the curriculum aims at the mass production of academically unskilled and cheap all-purpose auxiliary employees. Within this context, the decisive feature of higher education, i.e. the cultivation of an academic field, is literally being penalised. Alongside the multitude of modern "inter-disciplinary" specialisations devoid of academic content must now be added the individualised random studies that lead to a degree awarded after the candidate has gathered the number of credits required for each cycle of studies (e.g. for a three-year bachelor's degree, 180 credits are required). This is a system that will be generalised for graduates of every educational level, and will be used throughout their working life in order to certify any form of education and learning, wherever it was acquired (schools, institutions of higher learning, vocational training institutes, seminars, professional experience, distance learning, etc.) abolishing all other degrees, their relationship to the occupation and ultimately the fundamental social right to work.

The reply of KKE

Facing this overall offensive by capital, the reply of the labour and communist movement cannot be confined to defensive battles merely to retain gains won in the 20th century. It is necessary to put forward a concept of education that is radically different from the bourgeois one, to demand a proposal for education that is compatible with the contemporary needs of the people and the potential of the times.

To address the sweeping offensive on the part of capital, significant struggles have been waged in Greece in the past decade, despite the opposition or the deceptive manoeuvres of the other political and trade union forces, which either genuinely express the dominant policy (ND and PASOK) or support it indirectly, like the party of Synaspismos, which has finally adopted or not resisted certain basic choices that define the nature of the reactionary changes. These struggles have had mass participation, duration, correct orientation and, in addition to students and pupils, included basic participants in the educational field, such as some parents and educators, and has achieved some minor gains. However, these struggles did not correspond to the intensity of the offensive and, above all, they did obtain continuity, thus demonstrating, in addition to the potential, the difficulties and new demands from the action of communists.

One of the most basic conclusions of the experience gained from these struggles is the need to back a class labour movement capable of giving thrust and prospects to the popular mobilisation through the coordinated, common struggle of the working class, educators and young people. The effectiveness of the struggle and its prospects will be judged mainly by its contribution in the creation of a broad socio-political anti-imperialist anti-monopoly democratic front of the people that will more clearly show the way out at the level of political power.

Given the priority attached by our party to work among young people, seeing in them the possibility of a better world, we attach particular weight to educators, who have the opportunity to exert a significant influence on young minds. For this reason we are concentrating our efforts on increasing the numbers of educated and militant teachers who resist the intense efforts being made these days by the ruling class to win them over and assimilate them, and are capable of and prepared for a tough confrontation with the prevailing ideology and policies, as well as with every phenomenon of compromise and assimilation. We are fighting to create and promote educators who, with their attitude and their example, will inspire a love for true learning and a creative life in young people, so that they will be able to resist ideological manipulation and fight beside the popular movement.

These days, it is becoming ever clearer that the evolution of science and its mass applications, which are continually revolutionising the means of production, demand people with a comprehensive overview of the economy and the society. A person who is free from the bonds of partial training, who in addition to his profound knowledge of the techniques of production, will also have an overall financial and philosophical viewpoint of its system. This is the primary condition for securing a high level of skills such as creativity and versatility, "the absolute availability of man to the changing needs of production", as Marx wrote. Capitalists come along to replace the objective need owing to the growth of the productive forces for a broad background of general knowledge with the policy of changing partial learning. The bourgeois class, in its effort to address this contradiction, which in essence is the unbridgeable conflict between the productive forces and the narrow capitalist relations of production, has reached the point of reducing general education to levels lower than that of the last century, and of replacing it with reflex skills and a lot of learning-training with a practical orientation. In our days, however, all the material conditions exist that make the goal of a twelve-year basic (general) education a goal that was first formulated by the October revolution mature and realistic as never before. So realistic that it obliges even Greece's adversary political and trade union forces as a whole to promise, however falsely, twelve years of compulsory education, which will be anything but general and uniform, since all the unequal forms of secondary school training are included in it.

Our party has based its education policy on the view that young people will be better prepared to resolve the multiple and complex problems they will have to deal with in life solely by strengthening the basic general education. Moreover, only a constant general culture can inspire in the human being the need for constant education and cultivate in him the ability to follow scientific and technological developments, without it being necessary for him to return to the classroom every so often.

On the basis of this view, the main axis of the KKE's educational policy is the proposal to establish a unified single twelve-year basic compulsory school, which will be the continuation of two-year compulsory preschool education and the prerequisite for any vocational training.

This proposal regards as socially unjust any discrimination whatsoever and segregation of pupils before the age of 18, when the human being comes of age, i.e. before the young person has laid the foundations for his or her biological, mental and social development. There are no pupils who "can't learn". There are social and pedagogical reasons for the difficulty presented by many pupils in meeting the demands of the school, but not their innate intellectual weaknesses or defective personality. So it is not pedagogy that dictates the differentiation of the schools and the end of general education when children are 15 years old, in the middle of the transitional stage of adolescence. The role of the bourgeois school, which is to legitimise and reproduce the social inequality and class division of the society, imposes this premature segregation of pupils. Governments should abandon the hypocritical stance that this is the adjustment of education to the individual needs of every pupil, so that they can all manage in accordance with their abilities and interests. On the contrary, only through a rounded and equal development of all human abilities can special abilities and talents bloom.

Consequently, the unified single basic school presupposes provision of general education on an equal basis to all, under similar conditions, without barriers and discrimination (social, geographical, racial, religious, etc) within a type of school with a single structure, a unified programme, a unified administration and operation, a uniform level of material infrastructure and a uniformly trained teaching staff. For this reason, the fundamental condition for the unified school is that it be exclusively public in nature and free of charge, which means that the parallel circuits of public and private education must stop and any process leading to the "decentralisation" of schools and their funding by businessmen-sponsors, parents, and the "local society" must cease.

The unified school cannot have separate levels (elementary, secondary) nor can it be divided into categories and types of schools (such as the double network of senior high school and technical-vocational education at the highest secondary level), in order to freeze the educational level of broad strata of the people at the lowest possible level.

However, the twelve-year school represents not only a quantitative, but mainly a qualitative change in relation to the present bourgeois school, since it does not aim simply at the transmission of knowledge, but aspires to social training, to the all-around formation of the personality of the young person, because as our great intellectual and pedagogue, D. Glinos, said: "Education is not a matter of knowledge, but of life". This is why it sees to developing the highest quality traits in the human race, cultivating all aspects of the social personality, intelligence, emotion and will, in a balanced way. To fulfil this purpose, in addition to knowledge, it organises the emotional world of pupils and their social life, developing aesthetic and physical education and social action.

The above certainly does not entail the downgrading of knowledge or the role of the school it acquiring it. In contrast with the confusion and obscurantism cultivated by the schools today within a sea of incoherent knowledge and information, the 12-year school ensures that the truth is taught and that criteria are created for life; in other words that a scientific world view is created in pupils. This is why it focuses its work on the most constant and useful elements of knowledge over time, which are the basic laws and principles that govern physical and social reality, through the vital communication of the pupil with nature and with human civilisation. And since the primary element of social life is work, the school must incorporate the basic features of technology, not for vocational specialisation but as an integral part of general education.

Preparation for a trade or profession must follow the 12-year school chronologically. To secure a substantive vocational education, we believe it is necessary to establish a system of public and private "post-secondary" vocational schools. The various training institutes and other forms of ephemeral and empirical "learning", which sow only illusions of vocational training among thousands of unemployed young people, must be abolished.

And finally, the reproduction of the professional labour force must take place through Unified Higher Education. The unified character of higher education presupposes that all institutions are equal and have a single purpose, through the development of science, to serve social development and the general well-being, not to make one class rich. Equal institutions means that three-year and two-year opportunistic studies for training and random classes have no place in higher education, nor of course can institutions of "higher" learning be established by unsuitable agencies, public or private, that are incapable of ensuring their social and academic nature. It also means that the segregation into university and non-university technological institutions must be abandoned by classifying the departments of technological institutions as "higher" or as "technical and vocational education" according to the needs of the society and scientific development. Above all, it means that the universities, instead of squabbling over which of them will have the very few "centres of excellence", should collaborate and merge all the available scientific forces in man's eternal effort to break through natural and social constraints.

This effort demands the preparation of a scientific workforce capable of undertaking and performing their role in the system of social production with freedom of judgement, autonomy and creativity, in a labour force that will have a high level of scientific specialisation. For this reason, unified undergraduate and post-graduate studies are required so that the former can provide full academic proficiency and professional capability in the corresponding fields, while the latter can go ahead to produce new knowledge and conclude with the awarding of a doctoral degree. The main goal of higher education that corresponds to the level of contemporary production is, apart from the profound knowledge of the special laws of each discipline, the cultivation of a single dialectical viewpoint of knowledge and reality, which will help future scientists to understand the position of their discipline in the more general system of human knowledge and production.

In order for higher education to carry out its social mission, it must be exclusively public in nature and free of charge. Besides, as a product of the labour of thousands of scientists and thinkers over the centuries, knowledge is a social creation. Therefore it constitutes social property and must serve the society as a whole. Nobody has the right to appropriate its results for his or her own individual benefit. Consequently it is necessary for universities to be independent from monopoly control and for all the necessary material conditions to be ensured, including state funding, so that all sectors of research and teaching are adequately covered in order to secure the conditions of freedom of thought and scientific investigation necessary for the advancement of knowledge.

As can be readily understood, a revitalising proposal for education cannot fit within the narrow confines of capitalist domination, which long ago exhausted any driving power, and we can expect only the worst of it now. It is neither the new technologies, nor the high rate of scientific and technological development that impose the misery of unemployment, flexible employment and flexible training, as the champions of this policy argue, but the unilateral character of the capitalist economy and production, which work exclusively for the interests of the few at the expense of the many. In an economy that cares about general progress and prosperity, science is not a hostile force for the working people, but an inexhaustible source of potential for the people's material and intellectual development. In short, in the Europe of unemployment, destitution, new forms of super-exploitation and repression of the working people, no objective of reorganising education can be justified unless it is accompanied by disobedience, refusal to discipline and a break with the overall policy of the EU and other imperialist centres, unless it goes hand in hand with the struggle for socialism.


In our effort to build this people's front for the reorganisation of education and of society, the experience of European communist and workers' parties may have a significant contribution. Thus, we would like to propose the following ideas for the period that will elapse until the next meeting:

To exchange e-mail addresses so that we continue to keep each other informed on current developments.

To make an effort to ensure that the most important articles or texts issued by each party be published in the party press of other European countries. In Greece, apart from the known party publications, we also issue a pedagogical magazine with a significant circulation, which has a permanent column on the international experience.

To ensure the flow of information and coordination so that solidarity is expressed more systematically at the level of parties and movements, and also to examine in which cases can there be common initiatives on a European level either by parties or movements. To examine the possibility of a joint Europe-wide campaign.

Our common action and coordination is not concerned solely with the party aspect; all together we must attach special significance to common action in movements, and to stepping up the ideological front of struggle, taking into account that education is a significant instrument of ideological domination.

To address an appeal to progressive intelligentsia and educators to resist the reactionary reforms, not to succumb or be lured by the effort to transform them into instruments and agencies of the new measures either by the terrorism of so-called assessment, or by promises of selected benefits and grants under the table.

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