OPINION

Solid education sector needs funds

Is the 1,400 euro monthly salary sought by striking primary and pre-school teachers excessive? In other circumstances, we might have regarded it as too scant. If we want to have a serious education system, we need to have well-paid teachers, good schools and constant evaluation of the performance of these schools and teachers (an evaluation that, obviously, requires serious funding). Governments in the most developed countries of Western Europe have grasped these truths and earmark up to 7 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) to their education sectors. In Greece, the government has never committed more than half of this percentage to its schools. As for the actual amount of money spent, it is best to avoid comparison. On the other hand, Education Minister Marietta Giannakou is quite right to remark that if teachers are given the increases they demand, many other sectors will be up in arms, demanding similar hikes. Such a development would drain scant public funds dry. Already, teachers have been awarded a 176-euro bonus, which was originally issued to level out inequalities in the public sector but has actually ended up going out to all staff. But where is the government going to get the money to give a 450-euro raise to the country’s teachers? The thing is this state has a host of other problems to solve, including stopping ailing Olympic Airlines from closing down, covering the shortfalls of the Hellenic Railway Organization (OSE), filling in the gaps at insurance funds so that some people can retire at 50, and so on. As a result, all sectors have faced some cuts. So, although no one can be particularly happy with the current situation, we are unlikely to see widespread social disaffection either. Governing a country involves averting such social protest and so we are being asked to pay for the upkeep of our national carrier and are having to watch our education sector suffer as a result. But the government has declared that the country’s future depends on education. So if it wants to make good on this pledge, then it should throw its weight behind the education sector and cut from elsewhere.