Tuesday, September 18

Beware of Greeks bearing gifts?

When I was studying in Manchester, I was always curious about why there are so many Greek students in the UK, Germany, France, and USA. Very curious. It was only when I actually managed to work for several months in Greece, (right at the centre of Athens, Syntagma Square), and spoke to many parents and students that I understood the problem.

The problem was that high education in the country is highly polarised, politicised and very very inefficient in developing good quality educated people. That is the reason why almost everybody who is anybody in Greece has a foreign graduate degree. This is so amazing, perhaps nowhere else in the developed world would you see such a phenomena. I mean, quite a lot of countries suck at their higher education system but nowhere is there such a wholesale migration out by young students.

Having had the chance to check out some business schools and universities in Athens, like this one, I understood the problem. It was frankly not fit for purpose. It might have changed in the past 5-6 years, but these things dont really change so fast, it takes 10-15 years to turn a country's higher education sector around, even with the best will in the world.

The professors are badly paid, they are very politicised, the attendance in the classes is poor, strange books are used, its basically suckalicious. Anybody who is good will invariably turn out to be educated abroad. Anybody who was solely educated locally was pathetic.

So when i read that the re-elected prime minister, Costas Karamanlis, is facing challenges in trying to fix the Greek Education system, i just whispered a prayer to Athena, Goddess of Wisdom, that he gets help, because not only him, but his entire country needs help to get rid of the scelerotic education system, the old dinosaurs ruling it, and the poxy unions who are stopping the greeks from getting a quality education system. Also, Mr. Karamanlis, take a leaf out of what Sarko is doing in France.

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Greek PM edges back in for tough new term
By Kerin Hope in Athens
Published: September 18 2007 03:00 Last updated: September 18 2007 03:00
Costas Karamanlis, Greece's newly re-elected prime minister, faces hard policy choices as he starts a second term with only a two-seat majority in parliament.
Although the centre-right New Democracy party scored a clear victory over the PanHellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok) at Sunday's snap general election, a new version of Greece's proportional representation system gave additional seats to smaller parties.
A skilfully run campaign, which included generous compensation for victims of last month's devastating forest fires and a pledge to reduce inheritance tax to just 1 per cent, offset popular anger over the emergency services' failure to protect the environment.
Accepting re-election on Sunday night, Mr Karamanlis said he would accelerate structural reforms in spite of his thin majority.
He promised measures to create new jobs, increase social benefits and reduce poverty.
No direct mention was made, however, of the two most pressing issues: a long-awaited overhaul of the pay-as-you-go pension system and a constitutional reform to end the state's monopoly of higher education, which has left Greek universities underfunded and deeply politicised.
The European Commission expects swift action on pension reform, now that Greece's budget deficit is below the ceiling for eurozone members and the public debt has started to decline.
Improving university facilities is a priority for middle-class Greek families who spend an estimated €500m ($693m, £347m) annually on sending their children to study in western Europe.
Analysts are sceptical, however, of Mr Karamanlis's chances of pulling off major reforms, given his sharply reduced majority and a swing to the left by dissatisfied Pasok voters.
Trade unions are opposed to modernisation of the pension system, while students and faculty this year blocked Mr Karamanlis's proposalto allow the establishmentof non-profit privateuniversities.
"There is definitely potential for gridlock. All it would take to upset New Democracy's programme is two backbenchers with a grievance," said Ted Coloumbis of think-tank Eliamep.
The Greek communist party and the Radical Left Coalition, seen as the trendiest political party, doubled their seats in parliament. Both have a tradition of taking protest to the streets.
A revival of political activism among young Greeks could also spell trouble for the government. Greece's jobless rate for young workers, at 25.7 per cent, is the highest in the European Union.
To bolster his position Mr Karamanlis may form an alliance with Popular Orthodox Rally (Laos), a far-right party entering parliament for the first time with 10 seats. George Karatzaferis, the Laos leader, denies accusations that his party is anti-semitic.
He toned down criticism of immigrants during the election campaign.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007

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