Three more universities

The government yesterday announced a number of educational measures, including the founding of new universities, a greater number of all-day schools, further technology training for teachers and more computers in schools. «The main priority of our policies is to improve quality at all levels and all functions of the education system,» Prime Minister Costas Simitis said after a four-hour Cabinet meeting. These measures include the founding of the University of Western Macedonia, based in Kozani, and of Mainland Greece, based in Lamia, and a technical college for the Ionian Islands based in Argostoli, Cephalonia. Legislation will be presented to establish the International Greek University in Thessaloniki, which will be aimed at Greeks of the diaspora and students from Greece’s neighbors. The number of all-day schools will be increased by 300 new kindergartens and 500 new primary schools, for a total of 5,500 schools which will be able to keep 50,000 infants and 200,000 school pupils in schools after hours. «All-day schools provide full educational facilities, but, mainly, they help the working family, especially working mothers,» Simitis said. Postgraduate courses will number 325 by the end of 2004, he said. School pupils will receive more cramming lessons, relieving parents of the need to send them to private classes, he added. Education Minister Petros Efthymiou, providing more details, said English would be introduced as a subject in the third grade, one year earlier than now. Also, arts schools would be created for the first time, two in Attica and one in Iraklion, offering classes in theater, dance and the fine arts. He said 75,000 computers will be in schools by the end of the year. Some 76,000 teachers have already received training in new technologies and 35,000 more will be trained. Another 15,000 will be taught to use new technologies in their subjects. Also, 500 school libraries will be set up by the end of the academic year, Efthymiou said. New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis dismissed the measures. «Today Mr Simitis presented a fake picture of the education system,» he said. «But he hides the fact that public spending on education in Greece comes to 3.5 percent of GDP, when the EU average is 5.5 percent.» He added, «He hands out universities here and there in a pre-election period, without feasibility studies, without programs, infrastructure and funds.»