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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: Dialogue on education to begin Monday

  • [01] PM: Dialogue on education to begin Monday

    Dialogue on reforming Greece's senior high-schools or lyceums and the current nationwide exams for university entrance will begin the following Monday, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis announced during his closing remarks in Friday's off-the-agenda debate on education in Parliament.

    "I hope and believe that, even at the final moment, all will respond to this call," he added in a message to the political party leaders, stressing the sincerity of the government's proposal and saying that it remained on the table in spite of the misgivings expressed during Friday's debate.

    In his address that launched Friday's debate, which was requested by himself, Karamanlis had invited political party leaders to take responsibility for the start of "dialogue with real substance" on changing the lyceum system.

    "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 brief their parties on the progress of the dialogue," Karamanlis said.

    In response to sceptical responses from the other party leaders, meanwhile, he urged all sides to adopt a clear and positive position on his proposal to begin an open and constructive dialogue from scratch, without setting conditions and provisos that could be used as 'exit clauses'.

    "This is not the time for excuses but for decisions," he had underlined, while he had stressed the government's intention that this major reform should "arise through joint agreement" between the parties, agencies and society.

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

    He added that the processing of specific proposals 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 relationship 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, also making use of the internet.

    Karamanlis added that the 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 underlined that the government was not asking the parties to give their blessing to decisions made in advance and that the dialogue he proposed would begin from scratch, leading to a system that would be followed under all governments in the next 20-odd years.

    "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.

    Replying to concerns raised by main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou, meanwhile, he underlined that "we are not proposing 'our' dialogue. The dialogue is not 'ours' or 'yours'. We propose dialogue by all the political forces, all of Parliament, the academic community, and finall of all society."

    PM on university asylum

    Another issue stressed by the premier in his initial speech was the need to more clearly define the meaning of university asylum and prevent its abuse by elements "alien to the Institutions (of learning)" that "exploited peaceful mobilizations, prohibited the dissemination of any other view, turned violently on the free students and teachers and engaged in destruction". All these, he said, injured the operation and authority of the state 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 instances of violence, vandalism and sit-ins 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 of respect for democracy."

    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, adding that the government was doing everything in its power to support Greek farmers.

    He also cited the current economic crisis and past high deficits in order to explain the government's failure to fulfill a pledge to increase spending on education to 5 percent of GDP.

    "When this was announced, PASOK governments were claiming that they were drawing up surplus budgets: we found deficits that in 2004 reached 7.5 percent of GDP. Today we are faced with a new economic crisis that imposes new self-restrictions," he said, adding that the "initial planning is not being abandoned," in spite of the huge difficulties and demands of the economy.

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