Greece taps private sector

July 28, 1995

More emphasis on the experience and resources of the private education sector and radical changes in entrance examinations to universities are key parts of the cure prescribed by the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development for Greece's education system.

The comprehensive survey was commissioned by the education ministry last year, but George Papandreou, secretary of state for education, appears ambivalent about its findings. He said at a press conference: "I am very close to most of the OECD's proposals but I have different opinions on others."

Earlier this year, experts from the OECD visited a large number of institutions and held discussions with politicians, academics, teachers and representatives of social and education organisations, leading them to conclude "that there is enough political and professional consensus for a change which would bring about positive and orderly reform".

The report says: "The Greek education system suffers from an excessive dependence on a quasi-legal, over-centralised, party-political patronage which appears to stifle individual creativity, talent, and motivation. Good results are often achieved not because of the system but in spite of it".

It claims "that many of the most important reforms demand a change in attitude rather than a different operation or additional funds".

The report recognises the inadequacy of available resources and points out that in periods of expansion many OECD member states have devoted 20 per cent of their budget to education compared with the 4.2 per cent of GNP that Greece is spending.

Education institutions should adopt a more entrepreneurial attitude which is likely to expand rather than restrict their activities, the report says, proposing constitutional changes where there are such restrictions - the more effective exploitation of private resources, the setting up of private universities and the payment of fees to state universities.

The OECD report may not be binding on the government but all the recent ministry proposals, observers believe, are based on its contents.

In particular, the education secretary's proposals for changes in the Greek constitution, although they repeatedly refer to the safeguard of the state character of education, do not ensure its continuous free provision while they favour the setting up of universities by local and regional authorities, the church and other public sector agencies.

In addition to the payment of fees, the report proposes levying local rates and taxes, attracting additional resources from the wider public sector and from wealthy Greeks or the diaspora.

"If the universities attained greater academic, financial and statutory freedom, the development of a private higher education which would produce graduates with the same qualifications and professional rights with those of the state universities will be possible, under very strict assessment control but without any kind of burden on the tax-payer."

Continuous assessment by a body of assessors independent of the ministry but with the participation of "clients" and students should be set up.

"The Panhellenic examinations, with their over-dependence on certain lessons, discourage the proper method of study both at school and university and place an emphasis on memorisation instead of encouraging the student's critical and creative development," the report states.

To satisfy the evident huge demand for higher education the report proposes the provision of university-level studies by some technical vocational institutes under strict supervision and assessment.

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