Education at a price

Parents in Greece spend almost 200 euros a month to get their children a state education even though it is meant to be free and the government spends some 6 billion euros a year on the sector, according to statistics made public yesterday. The added cost for parents is because many choose to send their children to private tutoring classes to supplement their state education. Almost 8 percent of schoolchildren in Greece study at private schools, according to figures released by the National Statistics Service (NSS). Private nursery schools are in the highest demand, as 15 percent of children are sent to one by their parents. However, the suggestion that the average Greek family spends 193 euros per month to send its children to state schools is seen as a surprisingly high figure considering this amount does not include extra expenses such as books and writing materials. The NSS surveyed 6,555 families with more than 17,300 members during its study and assessed the financial pressures on parents according to their incomes. It found that poor parents could barely cover the costs of their child’s state education, as they have only 39 percent of the spending power of families that are more well-off. Private tutoring is a large drain on the financial resources of poor families, according to the NSS. As a proportion of their incomes, poor parents spend 72 percent more on private tuition for their children than richer families. Greek households spend 2.4 percent of their budget on private lessons for children, three times as much as Italian households and more than in any other European Union country. The figures will be of concern to the government as well as parents, since state education accounts for 6 billion euros each year, the second-highest outlay from the public budget. This represents 4.2 percent of gross domestic product and means that Greece spends 1 percent less on state education than the EU average. Greece also lags behind most European countries when it comes to the ability for teenagers to continue their studies at university. Only 1.8 percent of students are able to go on to tertiary education, compared to an EU average of 11 percent.