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The following OECD assessment and recommendations summarise chapter 4 of the Economic Survey of Greece published on 31 August 2009.
Educational performance needs to be improved, with a focus on early education and care
High educational outcomes are of major importance for raising productivity and living standards in a world of increasing international competition. Despite progress over the past decades, educational attainment in most age groups in Greece is below the OECD average. In particular, participation rates in early childhood education and care, which can substantially improve outcomes in later years, are low, reflecting supply and quality problems as well as social preferences for home care. PISA scores are also weak, pointing to quality problems at primary and secondary levels. This is due to poor incentives for teachers and the lack of rigorous requirements for “in–service teacher training”, reinforced by shortcomings in the curricula of key competences. In view of these challenges, the government has intensified discussions on education reform with the aim of upgrading its quality.
Enrolment rates in early childhood services, 2003/04¹
1. 2001 data for Canada and Germany; 2002 for France; 2003 for Greece and 2005 for the United States.
Source: OECD Family database and Education at a Glance (2008).
Recent initiatives for pre–primary education (kindergartens) to revise curricula and extend compulsory education to a second year are welcome. Steps towards establishing a regulatory framework and modernising the operation of the childcare sector––setting technical standards for the premises, and developing a pedagogical programme for pre–school education––need to be speeded up. The supply of services, especially for children under 3 years, can be increased by eliminating bottlenecks that limit the daily hours of operation and diversity of the services. This is likely to require more public spending, which, given the overall tight budget situation, calls for freeing resources from other sectors. Providing universal access to early childhood education for four year–olds would be in line with international trends and would ensure an affordable place for all children who need it. A more integrated approach to early childhood education would also improve policy efficiency and resource allocation in order to contribute to better access and quality of services.
The quality of primary and secondary education should be improved
Primary and secondary school reform is also high on the authorities’ agenda. Quality problems reflect lack of performance incentives for teachers and very limited school autonomy. Furthermore, the teaching curriculum does not prepare students for post–school life, especially in vocational and technical education, and at upper secondary levels the curriculum is too oriented towards passing the university entrance examinations. Perceived deficiencies in public education have led to large sums spent on private university preparatory courses. To raise education outcomes, Greece should increase school autonomy and teacher incentives, which in other OECD countries have been shown to improve education quality. For instance, by lowering the comparatively high teacher to student ratio could release resources to reward good teachers. Further autonomy, however, needs to be accompanied by increased school accountability. Assessments that monitor student performance and allow benchmarking between schools, which are widely recognised as prerequisites for raising performance, should be part of the reforms. Accountability policies concerning teachers can also have positive effects on achievement. Current reform proposals towards upgrading upper secondary school curricula and disconnecting this level of education from the university entry exams go in the right direction. This could also help to reduce the excessive reliance of students on private crammer courses. Such initiatives, however, as acknowledged by the government, need to be accompanied by a change in the system of entering university. An option in this regard would be to have only one national exam based on an improved curriculum at the end of upper secondary education, leading to the final school certificate. The selection for entering tertiary education could thus be left to universities themselves.
The quality of tertiary education needs to be enhanced
The Greek university system, which is composed of public universities, is rigid and lacks a well–performing evaluation mechanism. Its responsiveness and flexibility to changing demand conditions needs to increase to close the performance gap with respect to other OECD countries. Recent reforms aiming at improving the governance and increasing the accountability of universities have addressed some of these issues, but more needs to be done. Quality would be improved by enhancing competition in the higher education sector through an amendment of the Constitution to allow private universities. The funding of institutions could be related to indicators of performance which are simple and transparent. Such initiatives could be complemented, at a later stage, with deeper reforms to university finances. The introduction of moderate tuition fees for undergraduate students would be a first step towards increasing and diversifying funding for universities as well as generating greater efficiency; this reform would also require a Constitutional amendment. Such change would need to be accompanied by an income–contingent loan scheme, as a means of easing liquidity constraints faced by the less affluent students.
How to obtain this publication
The complete edition of the Economic Survey of Greece is available from:
The Policy Brief (pdf format) can be downloaded in English. It contains the OECD assessment and recommendations.
For further information please contact the Greece Desk at the OECD Economics Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The OECD Secretariat's report was prepared by Claude Giorno and Vivian Koutsogeorgopoulou under the supervision of Piritta Sorsa. Research assistance was provided by Joseph Chien.