Reform for the future

The finest minds of Greece would readily agree in private as to why the Greek education system is ailing: Post-1974 populism led to excesses with unforeseen repercussions. In the wake of Greece’s military dictatorship, people welcomed measures that protected the status of so-called «eternal» students, the participation of unionists in the election of rectors and the perpetuation of asylum laws. No one could foresee the mediocrity and intellectual stagnation that would follow. In private, Costas Karamanlis often says that he would like to be remembered as a politician who transformed Greece’s education landscape. Conservative officials, however, are pressuring him to freeze reforms, warning that a violent clash with protesters could revive the right-wing bogeyman. New Democracy will most likely shelve the reforms until it gets a fresh mandate. The truth is that there has never been a serious debate on education reform. Opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou has resorted to 1980s-style slogans, although in private he holds more progressive views than those proposed by the president of the national education council, Thanos Veremis. The efforts of PASOK officials to remind him that education is his field of expertise are in vain, as are reminders that his pre-election pledge for the establishment of private universities in Greece found many a sympathetic ear. Many in the establishment are keeping a low profile. Education Minister Marietta Giannakou is bold but lacks communication skills. True to form, most ND cadres are afraid of the political costs. Society wants change but there is no one is explaining why reform may upset some people but will improve young people’s career prospects overall. Changing things will take some guts – but, after all, that is what distinguishes run-of-the-mill politicians from genuine leaders.