Diversity in Greece: equity, access and inclusion issues
Throughout this book, the aim is to discuss issues of diversity and inclusion. In this chapter, we aim to offer an overview of these issues in relation to a country that has an interesting social geography: Greece. Greece is a country in south-eastern Europe consisting of two mainland peninsulas and thousands of islands throughout the Aegean and Ionian seas – part of the Mediterranean sea – that surround her. Greece entered the European Union in 1982 and in 2001 became part of the Eurozone that adopted the Euro as its official currency. As will be illustrated, the Greek state traditionally has been a monolingual and monocultural society with a strong national identity. For example, until the beginning of the twentieth century the Greek government’s education policy was characterised by an almost complete lack of interest in issues of diversity and it was mainly the Greek Orthodox Church that was dominating the education system. This situation did not change substantially until the early 1970s (Anagnostopoulou, 1995) and for many years the Orthodox Church retained an influential role in the organisation of education and curriculum design, especially at primary (six to eleven years) and secondary levels (eleven to seventeen years). Greece was one of the few European countries where the Ministry of Education was the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs (Noutsos, 1998). However, during the last three decades Greece has experienced rapid socio-demographic change that has impacted in many ways on daily life, the behaviours of people and the attitudes towards national identity; this has been reflected in the policies and the education system. As will be shown, despite the late response at policy level, the Greek education system is still not keeping pace with the demands placed upon it caused by the changing socio-demographics. Thus, the chapter aims to focus on policies which are implemented in Greece for diverse students, especially for two main groups: children coming from different national backgrounds and children with special needs. It aims to address the challenges that are caused by the financial crisis and will conclude that, despite the introduction of policies, Greek society and the education system are still a long way off being characterised as inclusive and diverse.