2015 | Dec
The Greek history of education is full of characteristics often described as disconcerting, and interpreted through a reference to the particularities of the Greek society. Among such particularities is the much lower class selection in education, detected in the 1970s within the Greek educational system (Τσουκαλάς 1977 et Tsoukalas 1981), in comparison to almost all other European countries.
In fact, as studies in the sociology of education have documented during the 1950s and 1960s, the educational system reproduces social inequality, while school achievement is determined by social origin (Bourdieu and Passeron 1964, Coleman 1966). According to national statistics, from the period after World War 2 until the end of the 1970’s, this was not the case in Greece, where in higher education, students from the working classes were more than 40 per cent of the total student population (among which 25 per cent of peasant origin). This high percentage, together with the traditionally high and continuously growing demand for higher education, was interpreted as a particular ‘tendency towards education’ of Greek lower social strata and particularly the agricultural population.
The above phenomenon is primarily related to the history of Greek education, in which the main trait appears to be a very long and difficult road toward a democratic society, and the corresponding educational system.
The democratic principle of the right of all citizens to education appears very early in the history of the Greek state, albeit excluding for almost a century from this right of ‘all’, the lower social strata and the women (as was the case in other European countries). The political project aiming to create an educational system, enrolling in compulsory school the entire corresponding age population, being adapted to the needs of economic development and forming responsible citizens, also appeared very early. Nevertheless, as a result of economic difficulties, social unrest, and the wars (from 1912 to 1922, and from 1940 to 1949), access to education was quite slow.
As a result of the above, Greece of the 1950s is a widely uneducated society. According to the 1961 Census, among the close to 7 million citizens over 10 years of age, only 1.9 per cent had a higher education degree, and 7.5 per cent a 6 year high school degree. That is, less than 10 per cent of all citizens were educated (3.8 of women). For the rest, 43.4 had accomplished the 6 year primary school, while almost half of the total population, that is 47 per cent, are registered as having had “some years of schooling” in primary education, while it is specified that “among them” 37.5 is “illiterate”.
Source: 1961 Census, National Statitics Association, vol. II: Education
As far as the content of education is concerned, Greek schools in the 1950s could be described as transmitting grammatical knowledge on dead languages, and blunt political propaganda. These were the times of the ‘Great Fear’ of the civil war. Lacking legitimacy, in the Weberian sense, the authorities assigned to the educational institutions the sole function of ensuring the political and ideological control of the young generations. They felt insecure to the point of treating democratic values and freedom of the press as socially dangerous, while the use of Demotic Greek in schools was seen as subversive (Δημαράς 1974).
- Δημαράς Α (1974) Η μεταρρύθμιση που δεν έγινε. Τεκμήρια ιστορίας 1895–1967). 1η έκδ. Αγγέλου Ά (επιμ.), Αθήνα: Ερμής.
- Τσουκαλάς Κ (1977) Εξάρτηση και αναπαραγωγή. Ο κοινωνικός ρόλος των εκπαιδευτικών μηχανισμών στην Ελλάδα, 1830–1922. 1η έκδ. Πετροπούλου Ι και Τσουκαλάς Κ (επιμ.), Αθήνα: Θεμέλιο.
- Bourdieu P and Passeron J-C (1964) Les héritiers: les étudiants et la culture. Paris: Les éditions de Minuit.
- Coleman JS (1966) Equality of educational opportunity. Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
- Maddison A, Stavrianopoulos A and Higgins B (1966) Assistance technique et développement de la Grèce. 1st ed. Paris: OCDE.
- Tsoukalas K (1981) Some aspects of ‘over-education’ in Modern Greece, Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora. Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora VIII(1–2): 109–121.