NEWS

Thousands of people face future without a decent education

The rise in Greece’s education levels between 1971-2001 and the inequalities that still existed in 2001 among the 13 regions was the subject of an article of mine in Kathimerini (in early November). In that piece, the average education level was calculated by adding up the percentages of those who had finished junior high school (gymnasio) and those who had not. But there is a further dimension to the question of those who did not finish junior high school. Article 16, Paragraph 3 of the Constitution of 1975 laid down that compulsory education should be nine years in length. This constitutional provision, to apply to all Greek children, was enshrined in Law 309/1976. This article examines the non-completion of compulsory education by people aged 15 and over, based on the census data of 1971, 1981, 1991 and 2001. The census data is examined by sex and age group, and the 13 regions of the country are compared. I. Non-completion of compulsory education from 1971-2001 among the total population. Table 1 shows that among those aged over 15 in the years 1971, 1981, 1991 and 2001 it is clear there was a steep drop after 1971 in the percentage of those who did not finish junior high (with the greatest decrease seen in the 1990s). This was due, on the one hand, to an ever-growing proportion of people completing their nine years of compulsory education, and on the other, to the deaths of older people, who were far more likely not to have finished junior high. There was a much sharper drop for males, which meant that the gap between males and females widened in favor of the former. This gap closed by just one percentage point in the 1980s and 1990s. A larger proportion of elderly people did not finish junior high school. Greater longevity among women thus reined in the rate of decrease in the percentage of females who did not finish high school. II. Non-completion of compulsory education in 2001 by over-15s in the entire country, according to sex and age group. The census data, divided by sex and age group in Table 2, shows that the higher the age group, the larger the number of those who did not complete junior high. The exception is men aged 85 and over, among whom the percentage of those who did not complete junior high is slightly less than for those aged 80-84. A higher percentage of 15 to 19-year-olds who did not finish junior high, as opposed to that of 20-24, might be due to the fact that a number of children, especially 15 to 16-year-olds, fail to go on to senior high for various reasons. The figures reflect the fact that more and more young people are graduating from junior high. The progress made among the first four age groups (15-19, 20-24, 25-29 and 30-34) is greater among women than men. As a result, the percentage of those who did not finish junior high is lower for females than males. But among older people, the reverse is true, reflecting the huge advances made in education by women born after 1967. Nevertheless, it is worrying that a significant proportion of young people – in the age groups 15-34 – do not complete compulsory education, despite the constitutional stipulation. This is more true of males than females. III. Non-completion of compulsory education for the total population of the 13 regions in 2001. When the 2001 data is broken down according to region (Table 3), it is clear that the proportion of those who did not finish junior high varies widely from region to region. Differences are greater for men than for women. – Attica and Central Macedonia have the lowest figures for those who have not finished junior high, both male and female, due to the presence of higher education institutes and concentrations of administrative personnel that have finished higher education or senior high school. Crete comes in third place for women and the Southern Aegean for men. – The region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace has the largest proportion of males and females who have not finished junior high, followed by Epirus and the Northern Aegean in second and third place respectively for women, and the Ionian Islands and Epirus for men. – Crete, Central Macedonia and the Ionian Islands have the smallest percentage of difference between men and women; the Northern Aegean, Eastern Macedonia and Thrace and Central Greece have the largest. If one excepts Attica, Central Macedonia, Crete and the Southern Aegean, the proportion of those who have not completed compulsory education in the other regions verges on, or even exceeds, 50 percent. (1) Manolis Drettakis is a former deputy speaker of Parliament, minister and professor at the Athens University of Economics and Business.