Ministries discuss the integration of migrant pupils in Greece’s schools

The influx of migrants into Greece is reflected in the education system, where the number of foreign pupils in primary schools grows every year. But not all these pupils manage to enter secondary school, where their numbers decrease sharply. While in the 1999-2000 school year there were 58,571 foreign and repatriated Greek pupils in primary schools, in the following year that number rose to 65,946 (an increase of 11.2 percent). This image is reversed in secondary education: In 1999-2000, 27,667 foreign and repatriated Greek pupils attended secondary school, but the following year the number fell by 7.2 percent to 16,475. The integration of migrant pupils was the subject of a recent seminar jointly organized by the Education, Interior, Labor and Social Security ministries and the Dutch Embassy in Athens. There are three reasons for the decrease in the number of migrant pupils in secondary education, according to Giorgos Markou, president of the of Education Institute for Diaspora Greeks and Intracultural Education and Professor of Pedagogy at Athens University. First, he told Kathimerini, fewer migrant children of secondary school age come to Greece in comparison with children of other ages. Then, quite a lot of those children leave school because they find it difficult, and, lastly, many children leave because they have to earn a living. Anna Frankoudaki, professor of the sociology of education, says many school principals register the children of repatriated Greeks as Greek-born, even though they have serious learning difficulties, because they fear their schools will lose prestige due to the large number of migrant and repatriated Greek pupils. This is a serious matter; it distorts the facts and does not provide the ministry with a clear picture on which to base policy. Data from the secretariat of the Education Institute for Diaspora Greeks and Intracultural Education show that foreign and repatriated Greek children comprise 6 percent of the total school population. They represent 9.7 percent of the total number of primary school pupils and 3.8 percent of the total number of secondary school pupils. As then-Deputy Education Minister Filippos Petsalnikos noted at the beginning of the seminar, there are 500-Greek language classes for repatriated and migrant pupils, and 700 tuition groups to help pupils in primary and secondary education. There are also 23 multicultural schools throughout Greece. The restoration project has a budget of 1.3 billion drachmas, which will come from the Public Investment program.

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