Why Greece’s schools are a shambles and its universities are chaotic
Greece has made scant progress on the systemic issues of social provision
A cyclist jumps with his bicycle in front of the University of Athens. Greece ranks 118th in the world league for university efficiency. Photograph: Yorgos Karahalis/Reuters
I am sometimes asked whether the criticisms of the Greek system that I occasionally voice in this column are criticisms also of the Greek people. The answer is most emphatically “no”. It’s said that people get the government they deserve, but in modern-day Greece that is not the case.
The crisis of Greece is due to it having always been messed around politically by the major powers, and being subject now to the international expectations and persuasions in the EU and the financial marketplace. It is not due to the people, any more than the Irish banking crisis is the fault of ordinary Irish people.
While Greece may solve its economic problems, it has made scant progress on the systemic issues of social provision, in particular health and education.
The schools are a shambles and the universities are chaotic. The somewhat primitive education system may have been adequate when Greece was backward and marginal, and had only a minor role in international affairs. Today, with the expansion in curriculums, diversification and specialisation in university faculties, and the pressures of the market place, this isn’t good enough.
System as obstacle
School-leavers deserve a university system which is transparent and offers both hope and opportunities. Most young Greeks, like their Irish counterparts, are not content with the old ways: they want to acquire skills and reach new horizons. The education system stands in their way.
Even when they graduate, however brilliant they may be, employment commensurate with qualifications is almost inconceivable. The best prospect is emigration, usually to Britain (40 per cent of emigrants), Germany (16 per cent), Italy (16 per cent) and north America (5 per cent).
Emigration by graduates is lower than in Ireland or the Baltic states, but only 16 per cent of graduates working abroad would contemplate returning to Greece. About 46 per cent of PhD-holders earned more than €60,000 abroad, more than twice their equivalent in Greece. The main subjects for emigrating graduates are economics and business studies, law, computer science, physics and chemistry.
Of the “free” secondary school system, one newspaper, Kathimerini, said: “It’s not free and it’s not education.” The annual budget for education, pre-austerity cuts, was €6 billion or slightly more than 4 per cent of gross domestic product. This is insufficient to enable schools to meet modern standards. The worst affront is the fact that teachers direct pupils to the crammers where they work out of hours, the frontisterio “tutorial college”.