Greek minister vows to promote climate protection in schools

Greece’s conservative New Democracy government is planning to enrich teachers’ role by promoting environmental consciousness within the mandatory school curriculum, the Minister of Education and Religious Affairs Niki Kerameus told EURACTIV.com in an interview.

She spoke to EURACTIV’s Network Editor Sarantis Michalopoulos.

Kerameus said the government mulls moving toward a “better-rounded” education by introducing new cognitive subjects, such as volunteering and environment education.

“Education can play a crucial role, both in raising awareness and equipping the youth with the necessary tools in order to face the effects of the climate change,” she said.

The Hellenic Federation of Enterprises, a powerful industry lobby, recently published a survey emphasising a huge gap between the Greek education system and the country’s labour markets’ needs.

According to Kerameus, this is one of the biggest challenges for her government. In order to address this, she said young people should be informed at an early stage by introducing mandatory career orientation and having practical training both in secondary schools and universities.

The centre-right politician said the industry should also be helpful and provide students with input regarding the market needs. “I think the industry can also help by participating in these new cognitive subjects such as entrepreneurship. The industry has a lot to offer,” she added.

She cited digital skills as an example highlighting the mismatch. “We have a very high youth unemployment rate, there are companies focusing in technology, who actually end up hiring from abroad because they cannot find youngsters who actually are equipped with the necessary skills”.

State and private universities

Referring to universities, Kerameus said the Greek Constitution provides a ban on private higher education so here can only be state universities.

New Democracy has recently proposed to amend this article in the Constitution and allow private universities but its initiative was rejected by the rest of parliamentarians.

“Unfortunately, I’m afraid Greece will be stuck for another at least five or six years with this ban on the creation of non-public and private universities.”

As for state universities, she said the government wants to make Greece an education hub for Southeastern Europe.

“One thing we want to focus on is, for instance, more foreign language programmes offered through Greek universities, exchange of students and researchers, joint degrees, double degrees between Greek universities and foreign universities,” she said.

“And I think that the private sector is also willing to assist in that direction, through a closer partnership between private companies and public universities,” she noted, adding that aside from increasing the state budget for universities the government will seek other potential sources of income for the universities through donations.

“So, one of our ambitions is also to set forth a more complete framework for donations towards Greek universities.”

Religion course: the hot potato

Debate on religion courses in school has recently heated up in Athens, after a Supreme Administrative Court ruled earlier in September that the latest religion courses suggested by the previous leftist government were unconstitutional.

The previous Syriza government had introduced a new religion curriculum, which according to the Greek court did not promote the orthodox Christian consciousness. It added that the curriculum should exclusively concern orthodox students.

Syriza, now in opposition, said it was a decision from “the Dark Ages” and “dangerously anachronistic”.

Asked to comment on the topic, Kerameus replied: “Greece is a country that has its overwhelming majority composed of Christian orthodox […] we will start the process regarding the drafting of new courses on religion, always in balance with the decisions of the highest courts.”

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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