8.3.3 Intercultural education
A Special Secretariat for Intercultural Education, and an Institute operating under an arms length principle, has been in existence in the Greek Ministry of Education since 1996. Several intercultural education schools were created during the last ten years in almost all parts of Greece, and programmes to train teachers for the needs of intercultural education were established. Induction classes were created in general education schools, to help children of immigrant families to be integrated in the Greek school system.
In the context of the integrated inter-ministerial programme for social inclusion, coordinated by the Ministry of the Interior, and following changes in legislation emphasising positive mechanisms for cultural inclusion rather than punitive measures linking residence with acquisition of language skills, educational programmes were established under the auspices of local government to familiarise economic immigrants with Greek language and culture. In addition, a model educational programme for children of the Muslim minority of Thrace has been running since the late 1990s, producing impressive results as regards not only the attainment of educational goals by participating children (cutting dropout rate by half), but also the social capital and the nurturing of mutual cultural understanding in the local community. A similar programme with Roma children, launched in 2002, reportedly more than doubled the percentage of children completing obligatory (9-year) education.
The Universities of Athens, Thessaloniki and the Peloponnese have been involved in regional cooperation projects to produce intercultural textbooks and teaching materials which provide a more pluralistic account for the history and literature of South Eastern Europe that has been traditionally the case in national education systems in the region. Such materials have been tested successfully in experimental educational settings, but have yet to penetrate the general curriculum, which, in public debate, is still dominated by the traditional discourse of national historiography.
For more information, see our Intercultural Dialogue section.