We are facing the new law on private education (: Law 4713/20, Government Gazette 147 / A / 29.7.20). Opponents and supporters of the law alike will certainly agree on one thing: this is, indeed, an important piece of legislation. A piece of legislation that came to overturn data and acquis. To disturb, according to others, stagnant waters.
Its value and importance
The institutional framework, which this law replaces, intails a “favorite”, for many, subject of discussion. For decades. It concerned, after all, teachers, employees and owners of private schools. It concerned, of course, the students who attend them. Of course, their parents too. A respectable, that is, part of the population of the country. Not to mention those who are indirectly affected.
With this law, drastic interventions take place in the (basic) legislation that would celebrate, in a little while, half a century of life (: exceeding by a lot, indeed, the life expectancy of a law). In fact, the interventions are of such an extent that we can talk about a “NEW law” that governs private education. The reactions, from the very stage of the consultation, have been intense. In fact, the arguments both for and against it were maybe too intense. Even from people who do not seem to have bothered to read it.
But what is really true?
Let us try to approach the new law with sobriety. Through the most important of its provisions. Ten (probably) “provocative” questions will help us approach it more clearly.
However, it is worthwhile to precede a brief introduction about the State and permanence (in general) but also about the intentions of the legislator (in particular).
Regarding the (always attractive) State jobs and guaranteed job security …
Most of us seniors were nurtured (at least for the most part) by the idea of a “public office”. A public sector that provided the “lucky ones” with the security and stability of the “Salary”. And, above all, permanence / guaranteed job security. The extremely high interest in getting one was not, therefore, “too crazy”.
Confirmation of the attractiveness of State jobs: the “clientelistic state”, the reasons for its creation and the (dramatic) consequences of its existence.
And the same confirmation from another point of view: minimum grade required to get accepted in a university. Philosophical School e.g. had, in those years, a minimum grade requirement higher than Law School. Notice their difference? The first provided a guaranteed job for the State. Recruitments were not based on abilities but on time spent waiting to get hired. But with time, things changed. Additional procedures and exams were introduced for being hired for a State job. ASEP has been mediating for more than 25 years. However, in some periods the “restoration” was direct and independent of ASEP (eg the pedagogical schools during the first decade of 2000). Job security, however, is always present in the State. It is, moreover, known that the fulfillment of the necessary criteria at the time of occupying a position, remains a factor sufficient and capable of securing it, for life.
For those not so familiar with the concept, the maintenance of public privileges in a specific sector of the economy makes an impression. In that of private education.
… but also regarding the legislator’s intentions on the “wrong doings”.
Based on the explanatory memorandum of the law, regulations are introduced, which focus on three main pillars:
“A) Enhancing the ability and flexibility of private schools to provide additional educational services, to formulate and organize more freely their extended timetable …” but with a parallel obligation to follow at least the respective timetable of the Ministry Of Education and Religions “.
- b) Enhance the ability of private schools to better manage their human resources, including the selection and appointment of principals and the evaluation of educational work and teachers, in compliance with current labor law.
- c) Strengthening the freedom of private schools, regarding the use of their facilities and infrastructure, so that their more efficient use is possible “
But are the legislator’s intentions pure?
It seems that not everyone agrees!
Strong reactions came with the new law, starting from the moment it was submitted to the parliament. The reactions come mainly from teachers’ unions. Also from a portion of the opposition. As they claim, the new regulations signal a “return to the Middle Ages”. The modernization proclaimed by the new law is, according to its opponents, an “empty promise”.
But let us proceed to the analysis of the (most critical) provisions of the new law through ten, rather interesting, questions.
Question 1: Is the evaluation of teachers and the educational work done, finally, with “unwritten” rules? And, in fact, at the free will of the “boss”?
The provision of article 2 stipulates that for the evaluation of the educational structures, the teachers but also the educational work of the private schools, the corresponding criteria that are used in the public schools are used in a similar way.
However, it is possible to use additional criteria.
For the application of these -any- additional criteria, their prior provision is required in the Internal Rules of Operation of each private school. It is pointed out that we are not talking about differentiated but about additional criteria. The goal behind providing the freedom to introduce additional criteria? The freedom to deepen the evaluation procedures by private schools, depending on the individual physiognomy of each one.
The evaluation of the structures, the teachers and the educational work done is carried out, in an objective way, based on the criteria set by the State. Any additional criteria must be provided in the Internal Regulations of the Operation approved by the relevant Director of Education.
Question 2: Will there be a curriculum in private schools? Or, finally, will each private school follow its own curriculum and provide whatever services and activities it chooses?
(a) Regarding the Timetable:
Private schools are required to follow the timetable and syllabus of the Ministry of Education and Religions – as will be the case each time. The same, that is, with public schools. In this way, the overall state supervision of the educational process for both public and private education is achieved (par. 1).
(b) Regarding additional educational services
In addition to the compulsory timetable, private schools are entitled to provide additional educational services. These services are provided during extended hours.
However, they presuppose (par. 2) that:
(i) The extended timetable may not exceed 40 hours for each grade level.
(ii) The additional educational services, which concern all students, are notified (included in the extended schedule), to the Directorate of Education and
(iii) The working hours of teachers under the extended schedule for the provision of additional educational services are subject (if assigned) to the hours of regular weekly teaching.
(c) Regarding the afternoon and extracurricular activities
These activities are optional. They are not part of the schedule (neither the mandatory nor the extended). They are performed after the end of the program schedule. As they do not constitute a regular weekly teaching, the regulation of the time limits of employment and the remuneration of the teachers is regulated by labor law (par. 5).
(d) Co-location of private schools with language centers, tutoring centers and other educational institutions
The new law restores the possibility of private schools being under the same roof with language centers and tutoring centers (par. 6). At the same time, it allows the co-location with other private schools, foreign schools, lifelong learning centers and other bodies, (as they are provided in sub-par. I3 of par. I of article one of law 4093/2012).
According to the provision of article 3, the operation of private schools is placed within extended, but clear, limits. Clear provisions are made for: (a) the timetable, (b) additional educational services, (c) afternoon and extracurricular activities, (d) co-location of private schools with language centers, tuition centers and other educational institutions. These limits are defined as absolutely binding for private schools.
Question 3: Is the role of the Director of Education becoming decorative?
The role of the Director of Education (as the latter is selected under Article 30 of the new law) becomes crucial. The Director of Education is the one who, based on article 4 of the new law, judges the contradiction or not of the Regulation of Operation of the private school with the current provisions and proceeds (or does not proceed) to its approval.
In addition, the important role of the Director of Education is demonstrated by the fact that they make decisions on the appointment and replacement of Principals and Deputy Principals of private schools (as discussed below in question 7).
The role of the Director of Education is proving to be anything but decorative. Among their essential and important responsibilities is the approval of the Regulations for the Operation of Private Schools that they supervise. Also, the appointment and replacement of their Directors and Deputy Directors.
Question 4: Was the manipulation of the teachers finally achieved through the recognition of the owner’s right to participate in the meetings of the Teachers’ Association?
There has been a lot of talk about the provision of Article 5 of the new law. And, obviously, without any reason whatsoever. The participation of the owner, if they are a teacher, in the meetings of the Teachers’ Association is not new. It was also provided for in the pre-existing law (article 9 par. 3 of law 682/1977). The new provision simply extends the same possibility and under the same conditions to the members, partners and shareholders of the owner-legal entity, in those cases where the owner is not a natural person. The reason? The different, now, organization of many private schools and the non-existence of only one owner-natural person.
The owner of a private school had also in the past the right to participate (anyway – as long as they were a teacher), in the meetings of the Teachers’ Association. The exercise of this right has simply expanded. Owners of the legal entity to which the private school belongs are now entitled to exercise it. Under the same, self-evident condition: that they are teachers.
Question 5: Is it necessary to promote the competition between private schools? And, in addition, should it be borne, again, by the “usual suspects” -teachers?
Article 6 of the new law adds to the current regime of law 682/1977 (article 12 par. 4) the possibility of further utilization of the facilities of private schools. Their field of their activity is expanding. The (healthy) competition between them is strengthened. Therefore, so does their effort to provide more and quality upgraded services. The only beneficiaries will be, of course, the students.
Expanded educational services obviously require the employment of adequate human resources. New jobs are expected to be created. Especially in the teaching industry – a sector with high unemployment.
The further (additional) employment of teachers is protected by the provisions of labor law. Both in terms of pay and working time limits. This, additional, employment is introduced as optional. It requires, of course, the consent of the teacher. Therefore, any reaction to the misappropriation of teachers in the provision of additional services by private schools is, in fact, against the effectiveness of the labor law itself. The arguments of the opponents of this regulation, perhaps, should look for different bases.
The actions and educational services provided by private schools are expanded, within a predetermined framework. This will benefit not only the competition between them but also, of course, the students. Teachers’ involvement in specific actions and services is not defined as mandatory. In any case: teachers are protected by labor laws and working time limits. The increase of jobs is also logically expected.
Question 6: Will the operation of the private schools be governed by clear rules or is it logically left to the good mood and business freedom of the owner?
The provision of Article 7 of the new law makes clear provisions regarding the enrollment, transfer and studies of students in private schools.
It clarifies that the rules that apply to students in private schools apply for specific issues. Regarding, in particular: the beginning and the end of the school and teaching year, the registrations, transfers, absences and tests, the grade, the disciplinary penalties, the repetition of the students, the promotion and the dismissal of the students.
It also provides for the direct transfer of a student from a private to a public school, from a public to a private or from a private to another private school, of the same or another owner, throughout the school year. Also: the registration of students in the order of acceptance by the school of their registration application.
It clarifies that the non-re-enrollment or removal of a student from the private school during the school year is not allowed for reasons of poor performance. It allows it for specific reasons. However, in any case, by decision of the Teachers’ Association: (i) for disciplinary misconduct of the student, (ii) for violation of the internal regulations of the school.
Finally, it makes the re-enrollment of a student non-mandatory in case of non-full payment of tuition fees of two (2) school years. The latter regulation aims to discourage strategic defaulters at the expense of the school and, ultimately, other parents.
The rules governing the operation of private schools are not left to the owner. They are set, in a clear and strict way, by the State. The State is the one that, basically, governs the operation of public schools as well. The special arrangements are basically in line with the specific nature of private schools.
Question 7: Principals and Deputy Principals: Whoever the headmaster choose?
According to article 8 par. 1 of the new law, the Principal of the private school and the optionally appointed Deputy Principals are appointed and replaced by a decision of the Director of Education. The owner of the school simply nominates the (according to them) suitable person for the position of Principal. Their powers were not mentioned.
Furthermore, according to par. 2 of article 8, for the appointment of Principals and Deputy Principals, the assistance of the formal conditions that apply in public schools is claimed. In this case too, however, the assistance (or not) of the required conditions will be judged by the relevant Director of Education.
The selection, placement and replacement of Principals and (possibly) Deputy Principals of private schools is governed by specific criteria and rules. But it is not the privilege of the owner. It is at the discretion of the Director of Education.
Question 8: Was a legal excuse found to reduce teachers’ salaries?
Article 9 par. 1 of the new law defines the framework within which it is possible to reduce the working hours of teachers. However, their relevant willingness and request is required.
This regulation recognizes a (self-evident) right of teachers.
However, there is another possibility: the non-completion of the working hours of teachers appointed to them when they were hired. Of course, in this case, the teacher’s salary will be correspondingly reduced.
Paragraph 2 of Article 9 regulates issues of strengthening the employment and income of teachers. The possibility of providing their services to schools, foreign language tuition centers and other bodies of the same or different owners is provided. It is therefore possible to boost their income from more sources. The relevant obstacles of appointment are removed.
Teachers’ employment and remuneration are streamlined. However, the possibility of additional employment and income is provided. For the most capable ones. For those who, in the end, will choose it.
Question 9: Are teacher redundancies finally becoming free and not subject to any controls?
With Article 10 of the new law, private teachers’ employment contracts are placed on a new, completely new basis. They become, in particular, of indefinite duration. Consequently, the recruitment, employment and termination of the contractual relationship are now governed by the provisions of common labor law. (With the explicit reservation of the special provisions for private teachers-especially of article 36 of law 682/1977).
This regulation does not equate to free redundancies, as is (rather in bad faith) supported.
In addition, we must take into account that in other, important, sectors of the economy (which we would characterize as of public interest – eg the health sector) employment contracts are also governed by labor law. (Further: Do we not adequately take into account the ills of job security in the public sector?)
We are talking about the constitutional requirement of the protection of private education (as well). But should we not also take into account the constitutionally protected economic and business freedom?
The owners of private schools bear the entire business risk of the school activity. Is it not really understandable why the removal of a teacher who is not fulfilling their responsibilities should be prevented? Who else is harmed, in this case, besides our students – our children? And yet: why should a teacher enjoy higher protection than other employees in critical areas? From a doctor e.g. and in exactly the same context: For what reason, then, should a teacher (good or bad) enjoy a tenure corresponding to that of a civil servant while a doctor does not?
And regardless of all this: The allegation of free and uncontrolled dismissals of teachers seems completely groundless. Labor law prohibits termination of employment contracts for unlawful reasons. This regulation specifies, in addition, and further extends this prohibition.
The inability to terminate teachers’ employment contracts seemed neither a logical nor a legally appropriate choice. The logic was simply restored by including teachers’ contracts in the protection of labor law. And this protection is, and remains, absolutely strong.
Question 10: Are we in danger from the operation of foreign schools?
The provisions of articles 12 and 13 of the new law facilitate and strengthen the operation of foreign schools. They now have the opportunity to operate schools of other levels of education, from those for which they were originally established. They also now have the opportunity to bring to Greece and employ foreign teachers. For the latter: For what reason, is the corresponding possibility not provided in Greek private schools?
We are not in danger from the operation of foreign schools. Strengthening and facilitating their operation contributes to healthy competition. And this can only be for the benefit of the students. It is desirable, in this context, to provide the possibility for Greek private schools to recruit foreign teachers.
Some people like to talk about “sacred cows”.
Some, in fact, want to believe that they do exist.
Personally: I DO NOT.
And even more: I do not intend to co-protest in Klafthmonos Square (or anywhere else) for the abolition of privileges harmful to fair play, healthy competition, education and, ultimately, the country and its development.
After all: the drastic intervention of the state in the field of entrepreneurship has historically proved to be an obsolete model. It was time for the necessary corrective actions to take place in the field of private education as well.
The (new) law frees private education from a completely anachronistic and outdated regulatory framework. It is undoubtedly moving in the right direction.
For its positive effect we can all, safely, take a stand.-
Disclaimer: the information provided in this article is not (and is not intended to) constitute legal advice. Legal advice can only be offered by a competent attorney and after the latter takes into consideration all the relevant to your case data that you will provide them with. See here for more details.