Fewer schoolchildren

Greece’s student population in elementary and secondary schools decreased last year, data released yesterday by the National Statistics Service (NSS) show. This occurred despite the increased presence by children of immigrants at school. The decline reflects Greece’s adverse demographics, with a declining birthrate leading to an aging population, and the overall population level sustained by the influx of immigrants. In elementary education (both kindergarten and primary school), the number of pupils in the 2002-2003 school year was 788,652, a decline of just 0.3 percent from 2001-2002. Were it not for the children of immigrants, the decline would have been greater. On the other hand, the number of teachers in elementary education increased 5.7 percent, meaning smaller classes. The ratio of pupils per teacher in the school year 2002-2003 was 13.2 in primary schools and 12.3 in kindergartens, down from 14.1 and 13, respectively, in 2001-2002. In secondary education, the number of students attending junior high schools declined 3.2 percent, to 333,865. The number of students at state junior high schools declined 3.5 percent, while the number attending private schools rose 3.1 percent. According to Education Ministry sources, this is a problem confined mostly to Athens, and related to the increasing number of immigrant children. Sometimes parents act with a fear bordering on xenophobia but also because they are concerned that academic standards are being lowered to let the children of immigrants keep up and assimilate. The same phenomenon appears in non-vocational senior high schools, where the number of students in public schools declined 1.2 percent last school year and that of students in private schools rose 3.3 percent. According to Education Ministry data, children of immigrants accounted for 9 percent of the total figure of schoolchildren. In Attica, where more than a third of all pupils live, they accounted for 11.92 percent. In the Athens municipality, children of immigrants accounted for 25.93 percent of the student population, up from 22.85 percent in 2001-2002 and 18.57 percent in 1999-2000. They made up 26.96 percent of kindergarten, 30.87 percent of primary school, 28.27 percent of junior high school, 21.90 percent of vocational high school and 11.18 percent of general senior high students.