Education, Justice and Health ministries draft laws to usher in reforms throughout the year

This year promises to usher in major changes to the country’s education system, leading to hopes for improvements as well as giving rise to reservations following the events of 2006, when decisions were made only to be backtracked upon. As the parliamentary debate is scheduled to begin on January 10 with the review of Article 16 of the Constitution and plans for private universities, 2007 is expected to be a year in which major decisions will be made. If these are to be felt in the tertiary sector, the Education Ministry will need to display greater decisiveness than it has in the past, as well as greater flexibility on the part of its leadership in the face of strong opposition, not only over private universities but the way the 22 state-run tertiary institutions operate. According to sources, a bill on postgraduate studies is in its final draft, and 56 new schoolbooks for primary and junior high school are expected to introduce a new philosophy of teaching. As for the evaluation of universities, a law passed in the summer of 2005 has been slow to be enacted, with most action seen in the staffing of the relevant authority. Already, demonstrations are being planned to oppose the review of Article 16, along with a barrage of strikes by staff federations at all levels from primary to tertiary education. Most student unions (apart from those affiliated with the ruling New Democracy party) have declared their intention of beginning the academic year with sit-ins at universities and technical colleges. Hot on their heels are the high school pupils’ associations, whose coordinating body (which led the school sit-ins last October) is scheduled to meet when schools reopen on January 8. Meanwhile, a considerable sector of university faculty staff has distanced itself from the intention to set up private universities and the significance of that decision for the Greek tertiary education system. Almost all university senates have publicly criticized the move. On the other hand, a considerable number are in favor of modernizing the operation of universities. Yet there remains a question mark regarding the amount of attention the Education Ministry will give to proposals made by university groups regarding the changes. Many university officials, including the head of the National Education Council, Thanos Veremis, have pointed to the risk that the strength of the opposition to changing Article 16 will also put paid to much-needed reforms in existing, state universities if the issue is not handled properly. There are those who insist that the changes must begin in primary education and, if they have their way, these will be evident in the evaluation of the new textbooks. The head of the Teachers’ Institute, Dimitris Vlachos, told Kathimerini that this will begin in the spring. Time will tell how fast these changes are brought about, how the teachers receive them and to what extent the ministry will make good use of the results.

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