All over the world the economic downturn is having a negative impact on education. Public spending is being slashed and schools have not been spared. Now, as students take to the streets, governments are struggling to maintain education as a basic right.
Greece: “Bread, Education and Freedom”
In 1973, when the students from Athens Polytechnical School went on strike against the military regime, their slogan was “Bread, education and freedom!” In response the government sent tanks onto the campus and launched a violent crackdown.
38 years later, the slogan remains relevant. Schooling in Greece has become progressively privatised and most parents pay for private tutoring.
These private schools cost around 4,000 euros a year. They’ve become essential for filling in the holes left by public education so that students can prepare for university entrance exams properly.
But the evening school solution isn’t possible for everyone because not everyone can afford it.
Speaking about this issue, Ellen Hazelkorn, the head of the Higher Education Policy Unit at the Dublin Institute of Technology, in Ireland, said:
“This is a really important issue that often gets lost in the economic crisis. At the system level we see a lot of governments, in response to global competition, moving to restructure their higher educations systems.
“Universities are having to restructure themselves, to reshape themselves, look at their priorities, look at their funding. They are changing their curricula, changing contracts, the choice of subjects is shrinking and this is having an impact clearly on students and on the concern about quality.
Internationally the student body is now reaching almost 200 million students and these numbers of students are increasing pressure.
“We’ll see some universities becoming multinationals, in the way which we have already seen American universities changing, with campuses in many parts of the world including where you are in the Middle East. Governments are now making choices as to where are they going to put their money, and in some countries you see a drive towards excellence initiatives whether it’s in China, India, Malasya, Germany, France.”
Chile: The Education Battle
Since 1993 education in Chile has gradually been partially privatised, and nowadays parents have to pay education fees, even at state schools. But now the government is under pressure to takeover the funding of education so that it is free for everyone.
Poor families here have great difficulty in paying school fees – even if they are only the equivalent of 12 euros a month.
There have never been larger or more determined demonstrations about education in Santiago. Sometimes there are 100,000 people on the streets.