With a qualified and well-engaged teacher workforce, motivated 15-year-old students with a strong sense of school belonging, and one of the lowest dropout rates across the European Union, Greece is well placed to build a strong and inclusive education system.
Education for a Bright Future in Greece recognises the Greek Government’s efforts to increase the quality and equity of the education system through a combination of innovative policies and deep structural reforms. The current government’s efforts to improve the governance of schools and education institutions and resources, can provide students with the environment, knowledge and skills needed to contribute to more inclusive and sustainable growth, boosting productivity and well-being, according to the new OECD report.
Strongly affected by the economic crisis, the Greek education system has suffered a series of cuts in public spending (a decline of close to 36% in nominal terms over the past decade), and a recruitment freeze of public civil servants which has impacted wages and resulted in the hiring of new teachers on short-term contracts. This is affecting the quality of schools and the education system as a whole as it deals with an increasingly diverse student body, including high levels of child poverty and a larger proportion of migrant and refugee students. Results from the OECD PISA global education survey show that the performance of 15-year-old students in reading, mathematics and science remains below the OECD average.
In this complex context, the Greek education system is facing several structural challenges, including a high proportion of substitute teachers, a highly centralised school system, the need for better professional development support for teachers, the effects of widespread shadow education, and weaknesses in tertiary education.
“Now that Greece’s economic prospects are improving, it is time to centre attention on building a highly performing education system that puts children at its centre. Greece can turn its education system into the dynamo of a more inclusive and sustainable growth. Building on international best practices, reforms should consider more autonomy for schools and school principals, a solid accountability framework, and a culture based on evaluation. In the context of the digital revolution, that is affecting all aspects of life, prioritising the skills and competencies of Greek children, youth and workers will be key.” said Gabriela Ramos, OECD Chief of Staff and Head of the OECD-Greece Joint Steering Committee, launching the report in Athens with Kostas Gavroglu, Greek Minister of Education, Research and Religious Affairs.
The current reform agenda should also focus on providing teachers with greater contractual stability and innovative tools for professional development, giving stronger roles to school principals, as well as developing a set of strategic principles for tertiary education policy-making and raising quality of in-school lessons to tackle shadow education.
Streamlining and improving the governance and financing of the education system and its schools would also help. For individual schools to thrive, governance and funding should be aligned. This requires developing an overall future-oriented vision of education for Greece, providing financial clarity on resources available, giving schools an identity and capacities of their own and creating a permanent teacher workforce in schools. It is also important to make progress in developing an evidence-based system to measure progress of school performance and evaluations. Lastly, raising standards in higher education would also help address mismatches between the skills of tertiary graduates and the skills employers need, as well as reduce the high levels of graduate unemployment. To implement these changes and many of the recommendations of the Review, Greece will need to give education expenditure the importance this sector deserves. Considering the dire impact of the crisis in this sector’s budget, educational public spending will have to recover.