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Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-11-24

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Parl't debate on Higher Ed: Gov't unwavering on reforms, PM stresses

  • [01] Parl't debate on Higher Ed: Gov't unwavering on reforms, PM stresses

    The government was unwavering on the road of reform of the higher education sector, prime minister Costas Karamanlis stressed on Friday, opening an off-the-agenda parliamentary debate on Education, at political party leaders' level, prompted by Coalition of the Left Movements and Ecology (SYN) leader Alekos Alavanos.

    "The road of reform is non-negotiable," Karamanlis said, adding that his New Democracy government (ND) was open to dialogue, but all sides, however, were obliged to reach an outcome. "We must all respond to the challenge of participation, synthesis, cooperation, collaboration," he said.

    The premier's address focused on the need for a "creative leap" in higher education, but also on the reactions that the government's efforts were met with. "The political forces, nor the educational community, can bow to the conservative view that demands that nothing be changed," he said, adding that this view meant remaining trapped in the past. "It means inertia in the face of society's needs and abandonment of the young generation".

    "We are obliged to act above and beyond the 'cost to the party' rationale," Karamanlis said, and criticised those who put forward "different assessments and different approaches" that were "counter to the commencement of changes, even of those changes on which we agree".

    Society and the citizens, he said, demanded a responsible stance on everyone's part. "They demand positions that put an end to the stagnation and lead forwards, removed from prepossessions, biases and dogmatism, and from cheap populism, evasion and groundless danger-mongering," the premier continued.

    Describing the situation ND inherited from the preceding PASOK government, Karamanlis said that the "supposed free Education ended up being one of the heaviest financial burdens for every family", given that the connection between the University and the developmental and productive course was "reduced". The AEI (institutions of higher education) "produce unemployed degree-holders" at a time when Greece held the world record in "exporting (university) students".

    And while the Greek university was considered the fundamental tool for professional, social and financial growth, "the stagnation of the Greek university, its inability to develop, has begun to restrict its contribution to social and financial development," the premier warned.

    "This is the reality that grew out of the lack of daring, the inertia and the stagnation of the past," he said, a reality "that for years now has been kept concealed under the protective shield of deeply conservative perceptions, 'least-effort' mentalities, and established interests, but also, chiefly, under the shadow of an irresponsible populism which, although citing interest in the financially weaker, in the end works against them".

    The prime minister called on all the political forces to contribute to changing that system through the upgrading of the public university. "This is our goal, which is mandated by the needs and demands of society, and by the prospect of the Single European Education Space, from which we cannot exempt ourselves as the last remaining champions of conservatism".

    Karamanlis called on all the sides to not limit themselves to a simple repetition of the chronic observations, but to forge ahead with reform. "The issue cannot revolve around the question of what we can gain with what we have. The issue is what are we losing by refusing changes. And we are losing much," he said.

    "The cost of non-reform is great. The cost of stagnation is severe. I've said this before and I'll say it again: The biggest challenge is that of breaking the vicious circle of stagnation. And this has already begin," the premier added.

    "The opportunities multiply for those who dare to make changes, who dare to introduce the necessary reforms," he concluded.

    SYN leader: Education not for sale

    Coalition of the Left (SYN) leader Alekos Alavanos placed emphasis on public education, and said he was open to dialogue "but not to authoritarianism", and criticised the premier that his address resembled a campaign platform.

    "I'm confused. I don't know whether we're in the spring of 2004 (run-up to the last general elections) or in the autumn of 2006, with you in the government. Or if you are addressing your visions to the teachers who were on the streets for a month-and-a-half. There was a great distance between what you are saying and those you are saying it to, and that which we are witnessing today in an unprecedented crisis in all levels of education. An across-the-board crisis that only the State can resolve with radical interventions and reforms. SYN wants the dialogue on Education, but the government should have organised it," Alavanos said.

    "What you are saying is not reform, because it goes against the university professors, the primarny and secondary school teachers, against the students and pupils. With what allies will you make reforms? Who are your allies besides certain educational centres or private foreign universities?" the SYN leader asked.

    Stressing the key importance of public universities, Alavanos said: "We would like a discussion, dialogue and common points among the political forces. But we have old accounts with the conservative party. Despite that, however, we are willing to sit down and discuss, but not to subjugate ourselves".

    Alavanos further spoke of an Education "in a glass case", of a failed examinations system in secondary education, and on State responsibilities, while he also charged that the educational system was under-financed.

    "Greece is the country with the smallest expenditure in Education. It gives 3.1 percent (of budget expenditure) to Education and 4.2 percent to defence. You pledged to increase the expenditures for Education in the current four-year term (in government), and today, what are you applauding? That you remained at 3.1 percent?" Alavanos continued.

    On the problems faced by the universities, Alavanos said that the government should not seek the blame in others, because the responsibility was the government's, adding that "this story with the supposedly non-State, not-profit universities must stop".

    "The university is in a state of siege. You are preparing to lower the Greek flag from the Greek universities. We will not allow it. The message from everyone is that education is not for sale," Alavanos said.

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