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Education in Greece Today: Contributions to the Perennial Debate Introduction George Psacharopoulos Except for foreign affairs, education is probably the most debated subject in Greece today. It has been so throughout a good part of this century. Why? What are the real issues behind the heated debates? Is there any hope for a solution? The essays that follow, along with this introduction, attempt to contribute to a better understanding of die issues involved. The historical context Education has a long tradition in Greece. Socrates was teaching when the peoples of Western Europe were still illiterate. Although the fourth century b.c. is too remote for us to claim any direct link between it and the Greeks' present thirst for education, certainly the Turkish occupation is not too far back. Happenings during those four hundred years must have stirred die Greeks' appetite for education; it is clear in any case that the κϕυφό σχολείο helped to preserve the Greek language and national identity. For Greeks today, as in the past, education is seen as a way to upward social mobility, transforming the offspring of farmers into teachers or civil servants. This thirst of the Greek people for education—the desire of all parents, especially those in the countryside, to see their sons and daughters obtain a higher level of education than themselves—has been extensively documented in die past and continues unabated today (Nassiakou 1981). It is only the level that may have shifted. Whereas die dream in die early part of this century was to obtain a secondary school certificate, now it is to be admitted to the university. Following the literature, we will call Ulis thirst the social demand for education—i.e., the demand by society at large for more and better education (Psacharopoulos and Soumelis 1979; Psacharopoulos 1980). Journal of Modem Greek Studies, Volume 13, 1995. 169 170 George Psacharopoulos Early debates and successful reforms The most bitterly fought debate on education related to the language taught in schools: the archaic and stiff katharévousa versus the everyday dhimotiki Eventually the debate ended witii the triumph of what is spoken naturally by die population (Papanoutsos 1978). In this century, excellent progress was made in providing compulsory education to all children between the ages of 6 and 12. In 1976 the compulsory limit was extended to age 15, providing nine years of education (Psacharopoulos 1978; 1982). Contemporary debates and elusive reforms Today, two issues dominate the educational debate in Greece. One is how education should be financed; the odier is what type of schools at the secondary and tertiary levels, and what type of curriculum, will best promote the country's economic development. These issues are certainly not new, but they have been debated widi increased intensity in the last decade or so. The two are closely related, for the financing of education lies at the heart of the problems faced today by schools at all levels, and by students and their families. This explains the emphasis on such issues in the essays that follow. The financing issue. Today, Greek education is financed mainly by the state. Although private elementary and secondary schools exist, by constitutional provision the financing of tertiary education remains the sole responsibility of the state. In the old days, when few students stayed in school beyond die compulsory number of years and very few attended university, such a noble financing policy was feasible. Today, however, the tremendous growth in the social demand for university education has made the public financing of education, and of universities in particular, an arithmetical impossibility. The state has many causes to finance besides education, and there is a limit to the amount of additional public resources that can be acquired dirough taxation. Lack of public resources to finance education has led to povertylevel salaries for school teachers and university professors alike. Universities are starved for resources to conduct research, develop postgraduate programs, and even to cover current expenses. The financial impasse has led to entry quotas for universities. Out of the 140,000 candidates who take die entrance examinations, only about 20,000 enter the full university cycle every year (Papas and Psacharopoulos 1987). Such entry competition has led to a...


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