Education Minister Nikos Filis referred to the reform process in the education sector as a “breathing” project. The process, which will follow a national and social dialogue, began with an announcement regarding the “permanent appointments” of thousands of teachers in an unspecified time frame. This was likely an effort to reassure teachers’ unions, so their members would refrain from reacting from the start to the government’s highly ambitious plan to modernize the entire sector.
This is also why the so-called Committee of National and Social Dialogue on Education was appointed to organize the discussion, even though the vast majority of its members are patented government friends and SYRIZA comrades.
There is no doubt that the entire Greek education sector needs a major overhaul in order to satisfy the very basic requirements of the times. The “system” is literary out of sync and (most probably) absolutely rotten. It can no longer bear any more criticism and every bona fide observer with a bit of common sense is aware of this, so there is no need to convince anyone. But there is major doubt as to whether this government, the minister in question, as well as SYRIZA and Independent Greeks, are aiming at real reforms, in the right direction, in a reasonable amount of time.
This is because the idea of “reform not being exhausted in one or two years, not even in a four-year mandate” leads to one thinking that the so-called “national and social dialogue for education” will prove to be a pretext as well as never-ending. A dialogue for dialogue’s sake, along the lines of art for art’s sake.
It’s not proper, of course, to maintain a suspicious, if not negative stance, when it comes to a new effort. Nevertheless, the behavior of SYRIZA members, whether back in the days when the party was in opposition or today in its position as the ruling party, does not allow for any kind of optimism. Even if we choose to forget their contribution and support given to sit-ins and other activities which systematically discredited high schools and universities up until recently, we have also observed their attempts to establish the downward leveling of education, following their own rise to power.
This was witnessed in former education minister Aristides Baltas’s anathema to “excellence,” all the way through to amendments repeatedly tabled in Parliament aiming at reinstating a sick situation at high schools and universities, abolished through major efforts carried out by former education ministers Marietta Giannakou and Anna Diamantopoulou. Thankfully, they were forced to backtrack on a number of amendments following intervention by the country’s creditors.
Filis would be more convincing regarding his good intentions if he were to prioritize, as is his obligation, putting together a committee, which in collaboration with the OECD, will map out a new road map for education.