We are in a period of deep capitalist crisis, where many rights acquired through tough struggle in the past years are under threat in all areas of society. One of them is the free, state-run school. The new “reforms” being introduced in Greece are putting the rights of teachers and students in the firing line too.
Specifically, the Additional Teaching Support (ATS) which was addressed to students of all grades of secondary education has been now dropped. This project was set up with the aim of helping struggling students so that they would not have to repeat the year or leave school early. Most importantly it helped increase a students chance of accessing higher education. It mainly involved students from working class and poor families who couldn’t afford to pay for private tutorials. As always, however, during a capitalist crisis, the poorest get hit first with cuts. Thus, the ATS was the first in line to be cut. Its abolition means the dismissal of the teachers who worked under it, while also forcing thousands of students from working class families to live without additional teaching. In times of crisis it is impossible for ordinary working class students to afford to go to a private tutorial, and as a consequence more and more Greek students are being deprived of a higher education.
A second point of the government's proposals has to do with the "New Secondary School" program which will include 3 mandatory lessons; Greek Language and Literature, English and physical education and 6 elective from; mathematics, experimental sciences, antiquity, social sciences, foreign languages and culture. This idea for the “new school” is rife with contradictions. Firstly, it is not possible to implement this program because there are no qualified teachers for the new courses and the ministry does not intend to hire new ones, since it is trying to reduce costs as part of the Greek governments’ austerity programme. Secondly, students are not being adequately prepared for higher education, which will lead to difficulties in the future.
At the same time, another proposal brought by the minister is the licensing of foreign companies to provide tutorial help to students. It is not difficult to understand that this trick opens another window for the privatization of education and turns the learning process into a business for profit.
One final but extremely important point is that under the current proposals, school textbooks are to be abolished! Students and teachers, who have so far been granted free books, will be forced to buy them or find them through the Internet. Even the OEDB (Textbook Publishing Organization) is to be repealed and replaced by a new “semi-private” entity. The abolition of the OEDB and the transfer of its powers to private entities means that the production of the textbook, from which most students study, will be given to private enterprise, where again the bottom line is private profit not the needs of ordinary Greek students.
It is obvious that in order to get out of the economic crisis, the Greek capitalist class, like the ruling class internationally, are determined to eliminate the reforms gained by the working class in previous years, such as public education, and will therefore once again make class background a hard and fast determining factor in how students access education. It is necessary to fight and defend our rights from such attacks from the government and the capitalists, through the formation of a common front of students and workers.This article first published in the paper of the Greek Marxists, Marxisti Foni. Translated by George Diakageorgiou.