NEWS

Private schools are feeling the crunch

Private schools are doing badly this year, with an even greater drain on registration than last year in primary, junior and senior high schools. The reasons are: the economic crisis that has led the average Greek household to tighten its belt; the increasing number of state primary schools that offer afternoon programs; the planned reduction from nine to six in the number of subjects required in third-year senior high for university entrance examinations; combined with the abolition of state examinations in the second year of senior high. Another reason is the declining school population in general, due to the low birthrate. In Athens and Piraeus, six high schools have closed due to a lack of pupils and another three in the provinces. Three more primary schools have closed for the same reason. Many schools that are still open have reduced the number of classes. The crisis has affected not only private schools for the middle-income sectors of society, but also those in the higher brackets. According to sources, at one well-known school in Athens, primary school registration is down by 25 percent this year. «This is the worst crisis in private education in the last 20 years,» according to Michalis Kouroutos, head of the Federation of Private Teachers of Greece (OIELE). Athanassios Zachopoulos, head of the Association of Greek Private School Founders, confirmed that the number of pupils at many private schools had declined, while some schools had closed, mainly because of families’ financial straits and the low birthrate. «The state schools are being filled by the children of immigrants,» he said. Changes in primary and secondary education also play a part. This year, the number of state primary schools offering afternoon programs has risen to 500 around the country, solving a major problem for many parents who otherwise would have considered private schools for their children. According to the National Statistical Service, last year there was a 1.2 percent reduction in private primary school registration over the previous year. In secondary education, it was 3.6 percent. Private senior high schools are also in trouble. Last year they increased registration by 5.6 percent, but this year there was a reduction due to the abolition of state examinations in the second year, as well as the reduction in the number of subjects required for matriculation. Judging from the 35 percent reduction in registration at state Technical Vocational Schools (TEE) this year, one can only presume that there is a corresponding reduction at private technical high schools, where last year, registration was down by 23.7 percent.