OPINION

Improving schools

The opening of the school year took place yesterday amid the usual problems and complaints over deficient infrastructure, double shifts and organizational shortcomings. Given that we are in the runup to the elections, it was no surprise that the opposition berated the government’s sorry performance, while the government congratulated itself for making progress. Such annual incidents must not lead us to treat educational concerns as trivial issues accompanying the beginning of the school year, only to be forgotten the day after. Education has always been an instrument for wider professional and social purposes, which means that equality of opportunity opens new opportunities for economic and social development. The role of education is even more crucial in the increasingly globalized «knowledge economy» in which one’s level of schooling affects individual prospects and the competitiveness of the economy as a whole. The fair provision of education to all children, including foreign ones, will determine the degree of inclusion for second-generation immigrants in Greek society. In this light, the beginning of the school year raises issues that must not be forgotten or become subjected to political expediency. Planning will become more complex than just raising new schools in the place of old ones. Demographic pressures and the geographical concentration of foreign students warrants replanning and difficult political decisions as regards the distribution of immigrants among schools in order to ensure that educational standards remain intact – for their own benefit as well. Even more complex are issues that concern the quality of education. Some public schools indeed excel in this respect, but they are exceptions to the rule. In effect, parents prefer to send their children to a private school if they can afford to or give a false home address so as to send their kids to a better institution and not the one in their neighborhood. These problems have to be examined closely if we do not want to see all EU funds ending up in construction projects. To be sure, the road to real convergence with our EU partners passes through education. However, reforming education requires substantial and bipartisan measures – not pre-election charters – that will lay the foundations for reforms and investments that won’t be jeopardized at the first political changeover.