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Athens News Agency: News in English, 09-01-23

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] PM calls for cooperation on education reform
  • [02] Papandreou: Last-ditch effort to salvage the gov't
  • [03] LAOS: We haven't done will in educating the youth
  • [04] Alavanos: Sharp criticism of gov't policy in all sectors
  • [05] Cargo ships run aground due to rough seas
  • [06] KKE: 'No' to gov't model of dialogue

  • [01] PM calls for cooperation on education reform

    Prime minister Costas Karamanlis called for the commencement of a dialogue of substance, under the responsibility of the political party leaders, aimed at reforming lyceum schooling and change of the system of entry into tertiary (higher) education, speaking in parliament on Friday during an off-the-agenda discussion on the education sector held at his own initiative.

    Karamanlis at the same time stressed the need for designation of the meaning of university asylum.

    The prime minister said that changes in the lyceum and in they system of university entrance exams was a reform of major importance which "we want to arise from within common agreement" among the political parties, agencies and societies.

    Karamanlis proposed that "we should all undertake, today if possible, a specific commitment towards the children and towards every Greek family".

    "I propose that we, all the political leaders, take upon ourselves the responsibility of dialogue. That we, each of us, designate a colleague MP and set up a high-level Policy Committee for this purpose, the members of which will be in a constant, two-way communication with the minister of education, convey the ideas and suggestions of their parties, and also to brief their parties on the progress of the dialogue," Karamanlis said.

    He elaborated that the processing of the specific proposals both on the 'new lyceum' and on the higher education entrance system would be conducted under the existing institutional framework as per Presidential Decree 127 of 2003, and specifically by the Council on Primary and Secondary Education that operates under that framework, but also in a two-way relatinship with the National Council on Education.

    Under the prime minister's proposal, an ad hoc team would review the "most interesting systems" at international level and submit a relevant report both to the Council and the Policy Committee, while a working group would collect the views of the entire education community and society, making use also of the internet.

    Karamanlis added that his ruling New Democracy (ND) party was entering into this dialogue with proposals of its own, and would designate a party MP as its representative to both the five-member Policy Committee and to the Council on Secondary Education.

    "Our aspiration is a system that frees the children from the immense pressure they face during lyceum schooling, relieves the Greek family from the immense burden of 'para-education', and is rid of the mentality of memorization (learning by rote) and teaches the pupil 'how to learn'," the premier explained.

    Karamanlis said that he came to the parliamentary discussion not to announce a governmental choice but "with the concern and determination for us to forge together the path that will be followed by ministers and governments, the path that the children will follow over the next 20 years".

    The dialogue is beginning a "square one", and the government was not asking of anyone to ratify pre-determined decisions, he said. "We want a reform by all the parties, by the entire parliament, by all of us. We want equal participation by everyone, in good faith and with respect for all the views. We want national decisions. We want the dialogue to be of substance, and the parliament to be briefed regularly on its progress. I commit myself, in this respect, to hold another off-the-agenda discussion, in four months' time at the latest," Karamanlis continued.

    Another focal point of the prime minister's address concerned the issue of protection of the University Asylum, which he said was being blatantly violated by "elements alien to the Institutions (of learning)" which "exploit the peaceful mobilizations, prohibit the dissemination of any other view, turn violently on the free students and teachers and engage in destruction". All these, he said, injure the operation and authority of the public university, and made it mandatory for the political forces to uphold the Rectors' Councils so that they could carry out their roles as set out by law.

    "It is necessary that we all know precisely what we mean by 'university asylum' and precisely what it protects. In no instance, however, is the university a place for which no one is responsible. It is not a refuge and springboard of violence," the premier stressed.

    Karamanlis further called on the political parties to take a stance on the phenomena of violence, destruction and takeovers in secondary schools: "It is necessary that we all take a clear-cut position. A position for open schools. A position for unhindered access of every student, every pupil, to his/her classes. A position, in the bottom line, of respect for democracy."

    "The violence cannot continue. We must state this loudly and clearly. We must all say this, in unison. We must condemn and jointly isolate all forms of violence and all its expressors," the premier urged.

    Turning to the current economic conditions, Karamanlis noted the difficulties due to the "immense public debt".

    "We all know that the margins for interventions are stiflingly limited, as the state deficit, despite its substantial containment, remains at high levels," Karamanlis said, and reiterated that the government was aware of the difficulties faced by small and medium size enterprises, farmers, tourism and other sectors He also reassured that "we are exhausting all margins for supporting our farmers".

    The premier stressed that each and every political force should follow the government's example and make its own self-criticism, adding however that the citizens' belief that party expediencies undermine the search for a national strategy. "This is a common challenge for all of us, to give a new momentum and prestige to the educational system...and on such matters it is our obligation to seek to the degree possible a common course of all the political forces...There is no room for evasion by anyone, each and every one must shoulder their responsibilities. We are assuming ours to the fullest. Now and for the future," Karamanlis concluded.

    Caption: Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis speaks in parliament on Friday 23 January 2009. ANA-MPA/KATERINA MAVRONA

    [02] Papandreou: Last-ditch effort to salvage the gov't

    Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou charged on Friday that the off-the-agenda discussion on education being carried out in parliament at prime minister Costas Karamanlis' initiative was a "last-ditch effort to salvage the ruling party", but nevertheless outlined his own proposals "that ensure the seriousness of a dialogue to which PASOK commits itself as the future government".

    Papandreou said that education in Greece needed a "radical re-orientation" which, however "the present government is not in a position to materialize" but which only a future government, with a different educational proposal linked with a model of green growth could ensure as well as the relevent resources from the EU.

    Indicatively, Papandreou noted the operation of new technology electronic books which had the ability of contianing thousands of books in its 'memory', have access to the internet, and could conduct multiple-choice tests, and consequently could be introduced into the educational and examinations process.

    "If all this sounds like science fiction, ask any youth the age of Alexandros who was murdered in Exarchia. You'll realize how close to his reality this is and how far from the reality of today's school," Papandreou said.

    Among the terms and conditions for a dialogue on education, Papandreou included his proposals for converting the National Council on Education into an Independent Authority and for establishing an inter-party Committee on Education, while he also called for an end to the 'party favoritism in the education system". "You speak of evaluation in education. When there is no meritocracy, how can there be evaluation?" he asked.

    "The problems will not be solved through violence, but through dialogue. There is no room for scapegoats, street tactics, bullying, the supposed revolutionary violence, the destruction of the public property of the (educational) Institutions. Let's safeguard the true meaning of asylum. And we all have a responsibility in this matter, first of all the government. But also responsible is the university community itself. We must contribute towards an EFEE (nationwide university students' federation) that can truly contribute to the protection of asylum. I consider it positive that even a section of the anarchists -- who the other day stopped a violent racist clash in an Athens neighborhood -- are against violence. The ends to not justify the means. This rationale has been used to justify the worst crimes against humanity," Papandreou said.

    "As the head of a future government," Papandreou said, he committed himself to "reversing the class filter in education" through upgrading of technical education, interest-free loans for student's housing needs, abolition of the ceiling on the number of university entrants, and the entrance of the youths to Schools rather than a department so that the student will not be forced to decide on his professional future at the age of 15, but instead during his tertiary studies. On primary education, he said priority would be placed on the all-day school so that the pupil would not need to do work at home, with fewer but more substantial classes.

    Papandreou said that all these would cost, but added that education is a part of the solution to the problem. Investment in the human being was a necessary condition for reversing the economic downswing, he said, stressing that every euro that went to education would be returned to the country "with interest". The PASOK leader said that funds would be cut from everywhere else, and the change would be apparent from his future government's very first budget, which would ensure one billion euros more for education.

    The money will be found, not to be lost in a funnel, but to be used for financing the major changes and meeting the needs of the reforms, Papandreou assured.

    Caption: Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou address in parliament on Friday 23 January 2009. ANA-MPA/KATERINA MAVRONA

    [03] LAOS: We haven't done will in educating the youth

    "Let's agree that we haven't done well. Things today are not as they were," Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis said on Friday during a parliamentary off-the-agenda discussion on education called by the prime minister, noting that LAOS was the only opposition party taking part in the inter-party dialogue on education.

    "There was a time when (the education system in Greece) produced educated and thinking people, a Tsatsos, a Kanellopoulos," Karatzaferis said, adding that "today, we don't teach the young people what they should learn - to cultivate their minds, to understand the meaning of the nation...even in here (parliament), how many know the seven wise men, or the nine muses?".

    "We haven't structured our society in such a way to provide useful learning-education to our children," he said.

    [04] Alavanos: Sharp criticism of gov't policy in all sectors

    Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA parliamentary alliance) leader Alekos Alavanos put forward three conditions for the dialogue on education to be credible, speaking in parliament on Friday at an off-the-agenda discussion on education instigated by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

    The first condition was abolition of the existing framework law on education, the second was freezing the law on the KES (Liberal Studies centers, referring to franchise colleges), and the third was increased expenditure for education.

    Alavanos further called on the government to conduct a dialogue with the country's two major teachers' and professors' umbrella federations OLME and POSDEP.

    The SYRIZA parliamentary group leader strongly criticized government policy in all the crucial sectors, accusing it of being unable to provide solutions to the immense problems faced by the country.

    "Something odd is going on. At the discussion of the budget in December, there was the shadow of education. At today's discussion (on education) there is the shadow of the budget and the justified farmers' mobilizations. This shows that the country is face-to-face with all the crucial sectors and that the government cannot give substantive solutions and answers," Alavanos said.

    [05] Cargo ships run aground due to rough seas

    Two foreign cargo ships ran aground earlier on Friday due to rough seas in the region of Salamina, near Piraeus, and off the port of the island of Kos in the southeastern Aegean. No injuries were reported among the crew members and no pollution was caused in either incident. The cargo ship "Amiral" with 14 foreign crew members but empty of cargo ran aground off the port of Kos where it had set anchor to avoid the adverse weather conditions. Shortly afterwards, the Sierra Leone-flagged tanker ship "Jasmine 5", also with 14 foreign crew members, ran aground in shallow waters near Salamina where it was anchored. All ships hin the ports of Piraeus and Rafina have been anchored since Thursday night due to the strong winds blowing in the region, with the exception of one ferryboat servicing the Chios-Lesvos route.

    [06] KKE: 'No' to gov't model of dialogue

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga rejected the type of dialogue proposed by the government on the grounds that "this page of the dialogue being proposed is not blank, but full of measures and laws by PASOK and ND, which created the negative state of affairs" in the education sector.

    Speaking Friday at an off-the-agenda discussion in parliament on education, instigated by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, during which she tabled a nine-page text of proposals by her party, Papariga made it clear that there were no expediencies hidden behind the KKE's rejection of this model of dialogue.

    She said there were fundamental characteristics in the education system that could not be overcome, and "when the KKE says that it does not agree with the government's policy, this also includes education".

    "We radically disagree with the way that the two mainstream parties (ND and PASOK) perceive development, because education is organized in accordance with the kind of society and growth you want. And knowledge is completely linked with development," Papariga said.

    The KKE secretary general also expressed disagreement with main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou, stressing that 'having an encyclopedia in your pocket does not mean that you have knowledge", commenting on a reference by Papandreou to electronic books, and added that the PASOK leader's proposal for a pupil-oriented school was dangerous and should be rejected as it rendered the teacher a simple observer and called on the young pupil to choose.

    Papariga also said that the examinations system was not the substance of the problem, but comprised a lever for widening the class barriers in access to the higher education institutions, while she called free education a "myth".

    The KKE leader further proposed a mandatory 12 years of schooling.

    On the issue of university asylum, Papariga said that "when we say asylum, we don't mean only that on the dissemination of ideas, but also of a center of struggle in all its forms, not only for the students and pupils, but also other forms of the popular movement".

    Caption: Communist party of Greece leader Aleka Papariga speaks in parliament on Friday 29 January 2009. ANA-MPA/ KATERINA MAVRONA

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