The economic crisis and fiscal consolidation have inevitably affected education and all other economic sectors. At the same time, the need for private educational courses in parallel to primary and secondary education remains constant, while their prices are becoming unaffordable. The result is a lower quality of the proposed public education and unaffordable fees for additional training, Greek teachers said. In addition, access to higher education is getting more difficult for an increasing number of young people, the federation of specialists in secondary education stated.
The federation president Nikos Papachristos believes that private schools for additional training in parallel with secondary education are a necessary evil at present. In his opinion, the exams for higher education in Greece remain very difficult and the preparation provided under the ministerial education programme is not sufficient. "Children still need extra lessons, but not everyone can afford it," the trade unionist insisted. One way to eliminate the need for private lessons that additionally burden household budgets, education experts said, is to make the tests less complex so that more young people have access to universities. GRReporter asked, "Will the notion of higher education make sense if all will be allowed to study without a measure of their knowledge?" To this question, Nikos Papachristos replied that all should have equal rights and educational opportunities. According to him and the majority of educational unions in Greece, those who have an academic future should be screened in the first year at university rather than through school-leaving and university-entry exams.
Papachristos explained that the main problems of teachers in secondary schools are reduced wages, cuts in staff and increased working hours of other teachers. "Libraries have also become victims of the programme for cuts in spending on education. By 2008, the Ministry had assigned certified teachers to maintain school libraries because there were no staff for librarians. Since the cuts started, four thousand teachers have been withdrawn. The ministry decided to close the libraries and appoint the teachers to teaching jobs to fill the gaps and not to make new appointments. As a result, Greek schools have libraries today but due to the fact that they remain locked and lack staffstudents cannot use them."
The federation of specialists in secondary education sent a SOS signal for the situation in secondary schools at a press conference convened to give publicity to the problems in the field. Unionists from the education sector in Argentina were also invited who shared the difficulties in offering quality education in a period of fiscal consolidation. Lack of funds, mergers and closures of educational centres and reduction of staff are the main threats to the level of education of young people, the federation said. The problem is not only in Greece but also throughout Europe, as shown by a study of the status of education in 26 European Union countries and another 14 outside it. The study examined the status of the education system from 2008 until today and measured the effect of global financial meltdown over the quality of education in the respective countries. In Greece, since the outbreak of the crisis, around 1300 primary and secondary schools have been closed and another 1930 schools have been merged. Cuts in education costs have reached 20% in Greece in the last four years but Romania and Latvia suffered the most as there, the costs for the same period were cut by 50% and 55%. The lowest cuts in education costs were made by Belgium and Croatia - between 2% and 5%. The data for Bulgaria shows that in addition to budget cuts, students have to pay for extracurricular activities stipulated in the ministerial programme. Although hundreds of schools have been merged or closed in Greece and Bulgaria, no teachers were dismissed in the first country, whereas this step was taken in the second one.