Reinforcing education’s public side
All-day schools won the support of teachers as soon as Law 2525 introduced them in 1997. When the system went into operation on a pilot basis in 1999, problems arose, chiefly in connection with school infrastructure and staff. Objections centered on the fact that many schools didn’t have appropriate space to operate on an all-day basis, so the programs on offer were rudimentary and all-day schooling simply meant the teacher keeping the children in until 4 p.m. Critics said the all-day school curriculum (including English, dance and music) had not earned the confidence of parents. A recent poll conducted by the trade union-run Labor Institute in Thessaloniki showed that while 93.9 percent of parents saw all-day schools in a positive or very positive light, 93.6 percent said that their children had not given up extracurricular activities (English, dance, etc) that were covered at school. Almost no children (only 6.4 percent) had given up those activities outside school. «The Teaching Federation of Greece (DOE) supports the institution. Indeed it made a proposal about it in the early 1990s,» says DOE President Dimitris Bratis, adding: «All-day schooling reinforces the public character of education, checking inequalities and satisfying the needs of working parents.» Bratis believes there is still room for improvement, however. «The main problems have to do with infrastructure. Often there is a lack of space for children to sit or do sports. Children have to relax at all-day schools,» he says. DOE recently sent the Education Ministry its proposals for improvements. It suggests that new school buildings be constructed by the School Building Organization in line with the needs of all-day schools. Bratis also points out that pupils should be taught English in groups that are separated according to the student’s level, a system which is already being piloted in a number of schools.