NEWS

Five thorny issues in education are seeking solutions from new gov’t

“We will implement New Democracy’s policy on education to the letter,» vowed Deputy Education Minister Marietta Giannakou in an interview with Kathimerini. But clearly emphasis will be laid on those issues that urgently require solution, that will result in the improvement of the Greek educational system and bring it closer to European standards. High on the agenda at the new Ministry of Education are increased funding, evaluation, redressing inequalities in compulsory education, overhauling curricula and teacher training. Deputy Minister Giorgos Kalos (who is in charge of primary and secondary education) told Kathimerini the ministry’s aim is to have this year’s university entrance examinations conducted without problems. As of next year, preparations will start for changes to the system for entering tertiary education. Already, exams in the second class of senior high, which counted toward university entrance, have been abolished. (Subjects will be examined by the school.) From 2006, the number of subjects that will be studied in the third, final class of senior high will be cut from nine to six, after consultations with teachers over which subjects to ax. Preparations for the next school year (hirings and transfers) will start immediately, while the huge question of unpaid wages for substitute teachers will be solved immediately, the deputy minister promised. But funding for books, that permanent headache of educational planning, also promises to queer up the schedule. At the same time, Kalos said, primary and secondary school curricula would be revised and improved. New technologies will be introduced in order to smooth out inequalities between schools, especially with respect to Internet use and the new technologies as a tool for learning and broadening schoolchildren’s horizons. In tertiary education, the aim is to create an integrated higher education system in Europe by 2010, which requires the convergence of Greek universities with their European counterparts. Deputy Education Minister Spyros Taliadouros (in charge of tertiary education) says three factors will play a major role in the realization of this goal: sufficient funds, the level of administrative structures and ensuring course quality via a system of evaluation that would help Greek degrees achieve better recognition in Europe. Taliadouros said the immediate priority is to push through a strategic plan with a four-year program for each university. To implement it, universities’ cooperation will be sought, while each university will make its own, programmatic agreement with the Education Ministry. Another priority is to provide more student accommodation for students in regional universities. As for technical colleges (TEI), priorities are strengthening infrastructure and boosting staff numbers, the deputy minister said. Today, in some TEI, 80 percent of lecturers are hired on an ad hoc basis. There is not enough money to pay them. In the current academic year, the TEI desperately begged for funds, since they had a shortfall of around 30 million euros due to pay increases for the extra staff. Higher academic qualifications will be required of TEI lecturers, while an evaluation system will be introduced whose ultimate objective is to enable TEI to set up their own postgraduate courses.