September 26th, 2013
Like most of you, I’ve been watching the events in Greece unfolding from the sidelines. We have all been following the economic breakdown of the country and threats by the EU to rescind Greece’s EU member status. As Greece’s economy continues to spin out of control, giving rise to right wing fascist movements proudly expressing their xenophobia by blaming the country’s economic collapse on immigrants, another target and casualty has been the country’s public education. Political unrest and economic instability in Greece has led the government to impose draconian measures that have severely impacted the country’s public education system. The drastic steps taken by the government has led to ongoing strikes by Greek teachers since September 16th protesting attacks on public education.
The situation in Greece is dire. Teachers and education staff as well as students in Greece are facing a situation that has dramatically impacted the quality of education in the country.
According to International Education, the following are some of the highlights of the situation:
• There are 16,000 fewer teachers in secondary education, a 20 per cent reduction since June 2013
• Over 100 Vocational Education Schools are closing down http://www.ei-ie.org/en/news/news_details/2624
• 2,500 Vocational Education Teachers are being suspended, just one step before dismissal
• In 2009, there was 33 per cent reduction of spending on education which is expected to reach 472 per cent in 2016
• There is a compulsory transfer of 5,000 teachers to primary education and administration posts
• The government has passed a new law on education without a dialogue establishing a harsh, examination-centered system in all forms/grades of upper secondary education forcing students to seek private tuition outside school and leading to school dropouts.
Strong words from ETUCE:
The European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) has been observing the developments in Greece and has issued some harsh words to the government. On 19-20 September, 2013, the Director of the EI region, the ETUCE, Martin Rømer, went to Athens to support Greek colleagues. The ETUCE issued a statement on September 18th that the “Greek education system (is) on the brink of collapse”. The ETUCE declared that by 2016, Greece will cut its education spending by 47% and called on the government of Greece to be more inclusive in its dialogue with social partners in the education section and abandon its authoritarian approach by encouraging an open forum for discussion.
There has also been a surge in privatization of vocational education in Greece which is another subject protested by the ETUCE. The absence of free, high qualify public education with equal access is seen by the ETUCE as an obstacle to bettering the lives of the people and promotion of a prosperous society. The government’s sweeping privatization plans is not only affecting the country’s education system but also its public radio and television media. According to a report by EI: “Last June, Greece woke up without public radio or television services. On 11 June, the government announced it was going to shut down the radio and TV services of the state broadcaster ERT, sacking 2,500 employees, and becoming the only member state of the European Union to abolish the public service of broadcasting.” This is similar to waking up one morning here in the U.S. and finding NPR, PRI, and PBS have been shut down.
Interesting to note is that virtually all the top-performing countries on international education measures have strong teacher unions, including Finland, Japan, Canada, and Australia. However, in Greece, the government is working toward dismantling the teachers’ unions threatening teachers and school administrators with imprisonment if they choose to exercise their right to strike. The EI is calling on its members to support and “actively show their solidarity” with the Greek educators. The world is watching.
The Frustrated Evaluator