Reform may cost minister his job

8th January 1999 at 00:00
GREECE. One fail and you're barred from university - for life. Makki Marseilles on why pupils are enraged

The Greek education secretary Gerasimos Arsenis is fighting to keep his job after secondary students vowed to continue opposition to education reforms.

Students occupied more than half the country's 3,000 secondary schools before Christmas but Mr Arsenis had hoped two goodwill gestures announced before the holiday would defuse the situation.

Students are demanding the abolition of the new law which forces them to take more examinations in the last year of secondary school, and bars access to university education for life if they fail at the first attempt.

As a Christmas concession Mr Arsenis announced that students' grades in the second class of senior high school will not count towards their final certificate if they were lower than the grades obtained in the third class. The minister added that students in the second class who had got a high enough grade to go to the third class would be allowed to retain their oral grade and resit subjects in September which they had failed in June.

He said that the measure was only temporary and would apply only for the school year 1998-99.

Mr Arsenis, who refused to make concessions during the two-month crisis, was forced to reconsider as the students' well-organised, militant movement continued to cause considerable embarrassment to the government.

Students organised the biggest demonstrations held in the country for many years. Their new tactic of closing major roads caused traffic chaos and flummoxed the authorities.

Teachers question whether the education secretary's concessions alter the basic philosophy of his reforms.

They want the Act to be repealed and to start negotiations on reforms afresh. They are to hold three-hourly work stoppages and host a huge concert in Constitution Square to coincide with the students' panhellenic demonstration on January 15.

Mr Arsenis staked his political future on the reforms but faces mounting criticism for the way he has handled the crisis, and his resignation has even been demanded by members of his own party .

He still enjoys the support of the prime minister but he has been ordered to resolve the dispute with the students as soon as possible.

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