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Politics

Greek Education Reform Sideshow: Mitsotakis vs Tsipras

February 12, 2021

ATHENS – Before the Greek Parliament controlled by the ruling New Democracy – as expected – approved an education reform bill, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis again sparred with major opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, who accused the Conservatives leader of being authoritarian.

That came in debates on the floor over the legislation that sets higher standards for education that SYRIZA lowered during its 4 ½ years in power, wanting open universities with essentially no admission requirements.

The Leftists also opposed a change that now ends the so-called “Eternal Students” at universities allowed to stay for life, some of them milking the system to get free rooms and food for as long as they wanted.

But it was the issue of campus police forces that drew Tsipras’ ire, his party having many former student protest leaders and riddled with anarchist and terrorist sympathizers.

Mitsotakis said that the police presence would not be repressive but that it would bring freedom from a culture of lawlessness, intimidation and impunity encouraged by Tsipras’ SYRIZA party, said Kathimerini.

SYRIZA also doesn’t want students to pass entrance exams, the party notoriously admitting it opposes “excellence in education” and wants all students treated the same even if they aren’t.

Tsipras tried to paint Mitsotakis as beholden to private interests, said Kathimerin, claiming the passing grade requirement would keep 24,000 students out of the public universities they weren’t qualified to enter.

But he argued most of them were underprivileged and should be allowed to attend universities even if they couldn’t pass the entrance exam or tests once they were in.

He said the intent of the law was to push students toward private institutions of higher education to pay tuition, unlike Greece’s free universities, although Article 16 of the Constitution doesn’t accept private schools.

Mitsotakis mocked Tsipras’ assertion, asking him how could he predict the number, the report said as they sallied back and forth with charges and counter charges although New Democracy had the votes to pass the reforms.

About 77,500 students in 2020 were admitted to Greece’s public universities, which charge no tuition for undergraduate studies and, in practice, doesn’t require them to even go to class or graduate.

Greece’s Constitution mandates a public monopoly of higher education and any diplomas issued by private Greek post-secondary institutions are not recognized as university-level, which means graduates of even Ivy League schools in the United States such as Harvard can’t get a state job.

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