Foreign pupils help change views

As parents of schoolchildren appear to be becoming more accepting of foreign pupils carrying the flag in student parades, data released yesterday showed that foreigners are making up a larger part of the country’s education system. According to data provided by the Hellenic Migration Policy Institute (IMEPO) there are 108,000 children who are foreign nationals studying at primary and secondary schools across the country in the 2005-06 school year. The figure represents about 6.8 percent of the total student population at these two levels. A decade earlier, there were just 8,455 foreign children registered at Greek schools. Two-thirds of foreign students are from Albania, IMEPO said, while schoolchildren from Bulgaria and Romania make up 10.5 and 4 percent, respectively. Educators say that the increase in numbers has helped make Greeks more accepting of foreigners in the school system and of foreign schoolchildren reaching the top of their class. With parades scheduled to take place today to mark Independence Day, the controversial issue of whether the top student – who usually carries the flag – can be a foreigner is almost certain to resurface. However, the voices of racist protests appear to have lowered in recent years as attitudes show signs of shifting. On the other hand, the country’s education system has been far slower to adapt. Teachers, however, said that primary schools with a large number of foreign students sometimes adapt the teaching curriculum accordingly. Unlike in other multicultural countries, however, the Greek education system does not take into account the student’s own culture. Under no circumstances would the curriculum be changed to introduce the culture or history relating to a foreign child in a Greek school, a source said. Education sources also describe a law that calls for multicultural education as unclear, allowing the different education bodies to implement the law as they see fit.