Students are turning from private to public education in the last year, as the fees of private schools increased between 60% -200% for five years but because of the economic crisis too. The decline in the number of students is expected to reach about 15% next year and this will affect mostly small and medium-sized private schools. To find out the parents’ attitude private schools have already started to make a preliminary lists with the next year students so that they can plan their own activities and determine how many teachers they will need.
For its part, the Ministry of Education is facing the problem of a large influx of students from private to public education, which will further increase the number of students, having in mind that after the merger of schools under the Kalikratis plan the classes already have a very large number of students. In an interview with GRReporter George Hristopoulos from the federation of teachers in private schools told about the problems faced by private schools.
What is the rate of outflow of students from private schools and from which classes do the students leave mostly?
Last year when we had the data the outflow of students in private schools was about 20-25% for introductory classes and 15% in the interim classes. By introductory classes I mean the first grade in primary school and the first year in high school. These percentages are expected to reach the peak this year. There are schools where the percentage of enrolled students reached 35-40% in the introductory classes.
Does this mean that the number of redundant teachers increased?
Of course, it also affects the employees. By law, when a class breaks up and there are no classes in a certain subject this means that the teacher whose class is broken up should be fired.
According to the data you have, are there towns where more private schools close than in others?
I think this phenomenon is observed in the whole of Greece and there is no distinction by cities, i.e. it does not depend on the region as much as on the school. This outflow of students is observed mostly in small and medium-sized private schools. Large private schools like the Moraiti College do not experience this big problem. Larger colleges and schools register a decline in the interest, i.e. once there were queues of children to enroll there while there is a relative drop now. But small and medium-sized schools in the neighbourhoods are facing a big problem and now there are entire schools that are on the verge of closing.
Maybe the outflow is related to the amount of fees. What are the prices the parents pay for the private education of their children?
In 2005, when the fees were liberalized, we turned to the political leadership of the Ministry of Trade at that time and the union of the owners and told them not to increase the fees because this will turn against us as a boomerang. Unfortunately, they did it despite our warnings and the fees increased by between 60% and 200% for those five years from 2005 to 2010. As you understand, this fact in combination with the economic crisis made private education a "forbidden fruit" for the average Greeks. The fees are currently around € 7,000 a year average. Who could pay such an amount? The schools the fees of which were around € 3,000-3,500 raised them to € 7,000-7,500 over five years. This is the result of the owners’ greed despite our warnings that society can not withstand such prices. So, not only the crisis is the reason for this decline in the number of students but also the pricing policy of the owners was unacceptable.
Do you think that this will change?
Fees were not increased since last year. The Secretary General of Commerce Stefanos Komninos said not to increase the fees. Only the students transport prices could be increased due to the increase in gasoline prices. I do not know what will happen this year, but in my opinion many private schools either will not increase or reduce their fees, because they understood that the people can not afford these prices, and they themselves should make reductions in order to keep on the surface.
Could you advise the parents who want their child to study in a private school what they should pay attention to?
A private school should observe the law. The parents who want their child to study in an elementary school should be aware whether there are teachers in this school because, unfortunately, there are schools that take 6,000, 7,000 and 8,000 euros from the parents and have no teachers in elementary school. As you know, this is waste money, i.e. the parent should be sure whether the staff working there is legitimate and meets all the required criteria. This is the most important thing. I have to say, unfortunately, that the staff in two thirds of the elementary private schools does not meet the law requirements. Second, the parents should see whether the school meets all requirements for children safety and what the premises look like in general so that the children feel good at school. We believe that many private schools meet those criteria.