Written by Mara Vasile
From the financial crisis of 2008 to the Covid measures that moved education online, Greece has been faced with numerous challenges that increased the inequality in the education sector. In this article, we will dive into some of the most important ones.
According to the European Commission’s Education and Training Monitor, digital education is a priority in Greece. Like all countries, during Covid-19 Greece made efforts to move education online, but nevertheless encountered implementation and access issues.
Performances in subjects like math and science have declined, and socioeconomic background is a significant factor that impacts achievement levels. On a brighter note, higher education is beginning to be modernized, with changes in funding and quality assurance.
One important problem regarding education is the exclusion of disadvantaged students. This can happen due to many reasons, but during Covid, it was amplified by the lack of digital equipment: In 2018, one-fifth of students did not have a computer for school work. Moreover, not many students have above-average digital skills: only 32%, compared to the EU average of 57%. While Greece tried to improve its digital infrastructure, it still does not compare to any other EU countries. (Source: European Commission)
More statistics regarding Covid educational challenges:
90.6% of students had problems during distance education
53.1% didn’t have a proper internet connection.
45.8% had technical problems with platforms(Source: European Commission)
Inequality represents a fundamental problem in Greece’s educational system. For example, rural schools do far worse than urban schools on the PISA tests, and schools of students with a migrant background lag behind the ones with non-migrant students.
Another issue of inequality is the impact of socioeconomic background on educational performance. 46.4% of students from the lowest socio-economic quartile are underachievers in reading, for example, while students from the highest quartile do not face this problem as much.
In addition, migrants are facing challenges in integrating into the educational system, and many of them remain out of school.
Issues like bullying and schools not having enough teachers further worsen the conditions of education in Greece. Children feeling safe in school is a prerequisitive for them being able to learn, and bullying often times makes pupils adopt a fearful attitude towards the educational space. Moreover, the lack of teachers creates staff and administrative problems.
Education is underfunded in Greece, especially at the university level. In 2018, Greece invested only 3.9% of its GDP in education, being one of the lowest values in the EU.
The financial crisis of 2008 left significant marks on Greece’s economy – and this was also reflected in the education system. Greece’s education system became one of the most unequal systems in the developed world. Because the bailout agreements made during the crisis also forced public schools to impose spending cuts.
Another harmful practice that is happening in Greece is the normalization of expensive private tuition, according to BBC, students pay for private tutoring in order to pass the Panhellenic exams, the exams for getting into university.
This parallel education system of private classes is also called “frontistiria” and brings challenges for students from low socio-economical backgrounds, who cannot afford to pay for the expensive classes.
Different legal issues also took place in the education sphere, like one student protest reported by the Guardian. Students protested in 2021 against an education bill that was supposed to create a special campus police force. Although this is not related to the quality of education, it shows the lack of consensus in education measures that are adopted in the country.
As such, based on reports from the EU Commission and UNICEF, Greece is facing multiple challenges regarding education. This is why fundamental reforms are needed, including more funding in the educational sector, investing in digital infrastructure, and getting rid of the private tuition market that disproportionately disadvantages people from lower economic backgrounds.
Smith, H. (2021). Greek students at the barricades in a dispute over education bills. The Guardian. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/feb/11/greek-students-at-the-barricades-in-dispute-over-education-bill
European Commission. (2020). Education and Training Monitor. Retrieved from: https://op.europa.eu/webpub/eac/education-and-training-monitor-2020/countries/greece.html
Pickles, B. M. (2015). Greek tragedy for education opportunities. BBC News. Retrieved from: https://www.bbc.com/news/business-34384671
UNICEF. (2022). Impact evaluation of COVID-19 restriction measures on Children’s Rights – Greece. https://www.unicef.org/greece/en/reports/impact-evaluation-covid-19-restriction-measures-childrens-rights-greece