The Impact of Greece’s Economic Crisis on Education is Real

In 2010, Greece’s government faced an uncertain future. Unable to finance the country’s debt, the nation’s leaders turned to the EU, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank – together known as “the troika”– to cover its financial needs to the tune of €45 billion for the remainder of the year.  As a condition of this loan, Greece would not only sacrifice its economic independence but the future of its people as well. The Greek government was required to introduce a number of austerity measures to offset their financial obligations and reduce government spending. Since that time, Greece’s government has borrowed €320 billion from “the troika”.

The impact of these measures have been felt by people across the country – especially by Greece’s 370,000 public service workers and sadly, the country’s youngest citizens and students.

Under the pressure of the financial crisis, education spending has been reduced by 45% and more than 1000 schools have been closed since 2011, forcing teachers out of work. Students have been pushed into overcrowded classrooms and forced to travel further to schools.  And the number of unemployed workers between the ages of 15 – 24 has reached a staggering 62%.

“We’ve become an example of a new economic model,” says ADEDY president Odysseus Dravalas. “The only ones who have lost from these policies are the people.”

According to Drivalas, the government just passed a bill on education without any consultation with teachers. Now there will be examinations every year, which will lead students to flee to private schools and tutors, or to drop out of school altogether.

Eliminating public sector jobs and downgrading public services like education will not alleviate Greece’s financial woes. Neither will the government’s practice of allowing Greece’s most wealthy to evade taxes – funds that could be used to stimulate the economy and strengthen the country’s education system.

The people of Greece need a “EU that works for the people, not for the wealthy stakeholders or financial institutions of “the troika,” said public service workers’ union leader Drivalas.

Austerity measures aren’t working. In fact, even with reduced spending on education, health, and utilities like heat and water – the nation’s debt continues to climb, costing jobs and reducing any chance of economic growth.  The implications of the economic crisis on public sector workers and students are serious. Future generations of Greeks will need a strong public sector and economy to stand on.

by Courtney-Rose Dantus, SEIU, USA