Cultural workers in Greece are marching again after government abolishes art education in high school


Cultural workers in Greece are mobilising again to protest the recent abolition of art subjects from secondary public education. With a decision published on the 15th of June, the Greek ministry of education has removed art subjects from high-school curriculum, which included a general "art education" class in the first year and "line drawing" and "freehand drawing" in the final year of studies.

This is the latest in a series of government decisions that undermine cultural development in Greece, after hurting cultural workers, implementing inefficient funding schemes and excluding the majority of the sector from the programming of public festivals and commissions. With every new decision it takes, the Greek government seems to be methodically undermining the cultural sector in general — ignoring the fact that, as the country sinks deeper into recession, cultural workers will bleed even more and the cultural landscape in Greece will dramatically change to the worse.

Since the beginning of the lockdown last March, cultural workers from every art field have organised under many different groups, with the most popular being the Support Art Workers group. In a statement issued today, the group calls out the government for treating art education on a demand-and-offer basis, bringing "the final blow" on an already dysfunctional cultural system. In another statement issued last Friday in response to the educational "reform", the group Cultural Workers Alliance Greece point out "the urgent need for long-term strategic planning for culture" in Greece that will create the conditions for the development and sustainability of the country's cultural sector. Looking at the bigger picture, the abolition of art subjects in high-school education is deemed dubious, since it constitutes "a step towards the exact opposite direction".

After the ministry of education announced the new curriculum, confusion ensued. The media coverage on the subject took almost the shape of a disinformation campaign, as fact-checkers 'Ellinika Hoaxes' flagged the story as fake on the 17th of June. This resulted in Facebook also flagging the story, with activists and workers being completely disoriented as for the accuracy of the information. Ellinika Hoaxes retracted their announcement and confirmed that the story was true by the end of the same day, but a flaccid official announcement by the ministry of education only added to the confusion.

At a time when the cultural sector in Greece is suffering and substantial aid is still to be provided, it is important to sustain cultural activity by any means possible, both now and for the future. As Cultural Workers Alliance Greece state in their announcement, "the teaching of art subjects in schools should be expanded, not removed, since the absence of art education constitutes a huge blow on social welfare [...] The more Greece's youth is distanced from art education, the more the cultural sector will shrink and atrophy in the long run."

Indeed, cultural education in Greece should be expanded, not abolished, as it forms the cornerstone of a humane and empathetic society. Also, art education forms a great part of the cultural economy in Greece, where many artists are also educators and can support their personal practice only through teaching. Therefore, more art subjects should be added to school curricula and students should be actively encouraged to participate.

The Greek Federation of Secondary Education State School Teachers is rallying tomorrow Tuesday the 23rd of June at 13:00 in front of the Ministry of Education (Andrea Papandreou 37, Marousi 151 80). Support Art Workers and Cultural Workers Alliance Greece have endorsed the protest and invite their members to attend.

UPDATE 24 June: The Greek Federation of Secondary Education State School Teachers is mobilising again tomorrow Thursday the 25th of June at 19:30 in Syntagma. The EETE and Cultural Workers Alliance Greece have issued invitations as well.

Cultural workers demonstrate in front of the Greek parliament in Athens on the 7th of May 2020. Photo by Alexandra Masmanidi.