NEWS

Tuition centers to start opening in private schools

Radical developments are expected in the private school sector and tuition colleges following a surprise ruling by the Council of State in favor of an Education Ministry proposal to allow tuition colleges to operate within private schools. The move creates a precedent, since these schools will become huge concerns as they will be able to offer pupils a complete package of educational services by providing additional coaching, foreign languages, and cultural and sporting activities. It is a shot in the arm for private schools, boosted by the deregulation of fees in cramming colleges. While in recent years registrations have dropped at private primary schools (due to the introduction of afternoon hours at state primary schools) and junior high schools, senior high schools (where university entry is the issue and pupils study harder at tuition colleges) have seen a steady increase in new pupils (a 3.3 percent increase in the 2002-2003 academic year over the previous year, and a 5.6 percent increase in 2003-2004). There could be greater pressure on private school pupils to attend the tuition courses. Then there is the question of whether private schools will be able to register children from other schools on their tuition courses. Then there is the possible effect on existing tuition centers and on teachers of private lessons. The goal is for private schools to open tuition centers for their own pupils, according to the president of the private schools’ association, Athanassios Zachopoulos. This is also the aim of I. Panayiotopoulos, who had taken recourse to the Council of State that led to the ruling on the issue. However, some education officials believe that private schools’ tuition centers will eventually be aimed at outside pupils. The president of the Federation of Private School Teachers of Greece, Michalis Kouroutos, told Kathimerini that private schools were becoming more business-oriented, particularly with the deregulation of fees in both private schools and tuition centers. The federation is expected to examine the issue of deregulated prices at a meeting this week, after failing to reach a decision in mid-August during a meeting with Deputy Development Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou. The issue is whether the State should intervene and set fees at private schools, which are, after all, businesses. Eleftherios Geitonas, a teacher and an experienced school owner, told Kathimerini that any rises in fees «cannot be excessive, beyond the means of Greek families or the general economic situation.» The same view is expressed by the president of the Coaching College Teachers’ Federation, Georgios Hadzitegas, who said there cannot be excessive fee increases since attendance at these colleges has become mandatory for the vast majority of school pupils, particularly in senior high. According to existing estimates, increases are likely to be around 10 percent. Of course, Kouroutos believes that with the deregulation of fees, schools’ social mission is lost, as parents’ criterion in choosing a school for their child should not be financial but the quality of its education. The federation is also expected to claim that the deregulation is not legal, as the European Court of Human Rights had rejected (on September 21, 1999) the proposal «to avoid the creation of a class-centered education system.» Meanwhile, Kouroutos said Greek families are likely to be hit hard by the deregulation of fees in foreign language institutes as the 545,000 students affected are divided among only four or five large institutes and their subsidiaries.