Education is big strain on family budget

As the government refuses to acquiesce to teachers striking over pay increases, survey results seen by Kathimerini yesterday showed that households spend 2.61 billion euros per year on private education services. Of that amount, 1.43 billion euros go to pay for classes at private tuition centers at the secondary school level as well as evening classes, according to a study by market research company ICAP. «In this figure we have not included expenses for private lessons since we cannot determine this,» said ICAP economic adviser Constantinos Aivalis, referring to lessons held at home by private tutors. Households spend another 640 million euros on private classes at the preschool or primary school level, ICAP said. Learning a foreign language or a musical instrument or signing up at a gym takes up about 303.2 million euros of family budgets. «The system creates students at different levels while others are alienated without goals and dreams for the future,» said Vana Tziantzi, president of the Parents’ Association of Greece. The survey results come at a time where primary and preschool teachers have entered strike action for a third week over demands for a 45 percent pay hike. However, data showing participation rates are conflicting. According to union groups, close to 70 percent of teachers have walked off the job while government officials place the figure at about 33 percent. According to sources, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is expected to reiterate today that the protests will not make him backtrack on his education reform plans. The prime minister has also let it be known that Minister of Education Marietta Giannakou, who is under siege over the pay dispute, has his full backing. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis lent her weight to the issue by saying that talks between the Education Ministry and union groups could resume if educators went back to work.