OPINION

Upgrading public schools

For the first time in years, education statistics indicate a decline in the market share of private schools. The opening of the academic year in Attica was greeted by the decision of six private school owners to suspend the operations of their institutions, which hosted a total of 1,200 pupils, while another 10 schools will continue operating for one more year in a final attempt to improve their finances. The diminishing appeal of private schools is more evident in nursery and primary schools, which were preferred by parents less for their academic qualities than for their out-of-classroom services. The launch of all-day public schools, whose capacity has seen a fourfold increase from last year, means that parents can now leave their children with the public schools during normal working hours and without having to pay the heavy price that was requested by private institutions. A similar trend, however, is also evident in senior high schools. According to experts, the switch to public senior high schools is a result of the fact that private schools have lost their edge in education services. In other words, parents realize that private schools do not provide an adequate substitute for cramming schools in preparing students for the national examinations for university entry. This fact is confirmed by statistical figures indicating that cramming schools have an equal share of private and public school students. Realizing that private schools do not actually provide any greater quality of teaching, parents instead have their children attend public schools and save money to pay for cramming schools or private lessons at home. In Greece, where spending on private education and health is disproportionate to that in other Western countries – particularly for low-specialization services such as those provided by primary schools or maternity clinics – even a slight improvement in the organization and quality of the public sector is enough to sway citizens from the low-quality private services which have, until now, profited from the disgraceful condition of the public sector. This is a praiseworthy effort and should be kept up, as its principal aim is to reverse the competitive advantage of cramming schools and to contribute toward the creation of a modern public school system that will be able to compete successfully with the country’s major private institutions.