Pop­ulism grips ed­u­ca­tion

Pre­mier de­fends new bill as crit­ics say it will plunge uni­ver­si­ties into the past

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Ea­ger to pol­ish the gov­ern­ment’s left­ist cre­den­tials, tainted by yet another swath of belt-tight­en­ing mea­sures, Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras yes­ter­day sought to de­fend a new ed­u­ca­tion bill per­ceived as plung­ing Greek uni­ver­si­ties into the past.

The pro­posed leg­is­la­tion, which has also raised eye­brows among the nation’s for­eign cred­i­tors, was harshly crit­i­cized by Kyr­i­akos Mit­so­takis dur­ing a heated par­lia­men­tary de­bate dur­ing which the con­ser­va­tive op­po­si­tion leader out­lined his ri­val vi­sion for the coun­try’s ter­tiary sec­tor. A vote on the bill is to be held to­day. Brush­ing aside crit­i­cism of the mea­sures as re­ac­tionary, Tsipras said that his ad­min­is­tra­tion was “set­ting the foun­da­tions for the coun­try’s fu­ture ed­u­ca­tion [sys­tem].” The ob­jec­tive of the bill, he said, was to achieve “more democ­racy” at Greek uni­ver­si­ties. The pro­posed mea­sures are de­signed to strengthen the role of stu­dents in the man­age­ment of uni­ver­si­ties while mak­ing it more dif­fi­cult for po­lice to en­ter uni­ver­sity grounds, es­sen­tially re­in­stat­ing an asy­lum law that was scrapped by the pre­vi­ous con­ser­va­tive ad­min­is­tra­tion. Another pro­vi­sion fore­sees 40 per­cent of stu­dents en­rolled in post­grad­u­ate pro­grams be­ing ex­empt from hav­ing to pay uni­ver­sity and col­lege fees. In his speech, Tsipras de­scribed changes to post- grad­u­ate pro­grams as an at­tempt to take on “vested in­ter­ests,” while de­nounc­ing uni­ver­sity eval­u­a­tion as “aca­demic dar­win­ism.” Mean­while, speak­ing on plans to re­store the uni­ver­sity asy­lum law, which pre­vents po­lice from en­ter­ing cam­puses in most cases, Tsipras called for a “ro­bust stu­dent move­ment” that will keep law­less be­hav­ior at bay. Stick­ing to a fa­mil­iar mantra, the leader of the op­po­si­tion deconstructed the bill por­tray­ing it as part of a wider gov­ern­ment cam­paign to make a norm of the low­est com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor. He vowed to scrap the law if New Democ­racy wins the next elec­tions. Mit­so­takis added that the bill aims to hold ed­u­ca­tion ran­som to par­ti­san pol­i­tics.

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