OPINION

Education and development

Some people are expressing fear that the introduction of tougher entry criteria for technical colleges in Greece’s provinces will leave empty seats in these institutions. But the debate is being held on the wrong basis as people tend to concentrate on the short-term gains for local political leaders while keeping silent on the long-term damage being inflicted on the education sector. Growth of the regions must be high on the state’s agenda. But a country where some 40 percent of the national population and half of all productive activity is concentrated in the capital and its surroundings is a country without a future. Hence any plans for balanced growth are welcome. But there can be no balanced growth without growth. And there is no growth without education. Education cannot be left to become a tool for secondary objectives. Quality education cannot be held ransom to governments’ regional policy. Socialist administrations saw the tree of regional growth but missed the forest of education. In place of the old army camps, PASOK set up faculties of seriously fragmented university and technical institutions. The establishment of new faculties responded not to the country’s educational needs but to the demands of provincial towns. The damage was not done to education alone. The trend actually undermined the aim of long-term, sustainable development. Entire areas grew dependent on student money, business turned to catering for student needs for profit, houses were rented at ripoff rates. The provinces do not produce wealth anymore; they live off the odd redistribution achieved through internal student migration. The Greek state ought never to forget the regions. Above all, it must keep in mind that its failure to offer real education will condemn not just the provinces but also the entire country to poverty. For that reason, it must render unto the provinces the things that are the provinces’ and unto education the things that are education’s.