A group of high school students from the historic Danish city of Roskilde, 30 km west of Copenhagen, gathered outside Greek Parliament to go on a tour of the building. As to why a team of 30 or so Danish students would be interested in entering the inner grounds of modern Greece’s turbulent political history, the accompanying teacher, Soren Rygaard Jensen, explained that the experience comprises part of the social sciences course taken by the students.
Curiosity and some flashes of excited anticipation could be discerned in the eyes of the students as they stood waiting by the building. The first whispers, marveling at Greek Parliament’s imposing stature, became audible once the young Danes had entered the building and were led through high-ceilinged rooms by their tour guide, a historian and member of Greek Parliament’s educational program department. A first stop was made at the Plenary Hall. Young boys and girls took their places at the benches and attentively followed a half-hour crash course on the history of the Greek Parliament, modern Greek history, as well as civic rights.
“The bright idea of this educational program’s organizers to concurrently present modern Greek history along with the development of parliamentarism”
“The fact that the third Hellenic Democracy [following the 1967-74 dictatorship] has existed for just 42 years came as a surprise to me. I believe that it may be linked to the current political and economic crisis,” noted 17-year-old Laura, a member of the visiting group, as we ascended the impressive marble stairs towards Parliament’s Eleftherios Venizelos Hall.
Unfortunately, no English-language informative signs were to be seen for the otherwise interesting exhibition hosted at this section and titled “40 years since the reinstatement of Democracy”. This was also the case with a permanent exhibition of personal items that belonged to deceased former Prime Ministers and Presidents since 1974. The absence of any English-language information was raised as an issue by the visiting Danish group.
However, the tour did make a favorable overall impression on the students. “It was very informative, offered plenty of historical information on Greek Parliament and how the Hellenic Democracy functions,” remarked Matilde, shortly before taking off for a stroll around the sunny Athenian city center.
Debate concerning the ongoing Greek crisis, differences in political systems, parliamentary democracies, constitutional monarchies and the future of parliamentarism often sparks up, both at the Plenary Hall and outside, once tours have ended.
As expected, teachers, undergraduate and post-graduate students focused on political sciences are better prepared for constructive debate. Responding to a question on what visitors take home following a tour of Greek Parliament, the Danish group’s teacher, Elisabeth Lollike Orsted, remarked: “The bright idea of this educational program’s organizers to concurrently present modern Greek history along with the development of parliamentarism helps offer a better understanding of both.”
Over 1,500 high school and university students from abroad, or 50 to 60 groups of 30 persons, visit the Greek Parliament building every year, free of charge. In terms of numbers, Denmark leads the way.
Greek Parliament’s educational program is also attracting a growing number of visiting high school and university students from the Netherlands, the UK, Germany, Sweden, and the USA, official figures show.
Tours are offered in the English language, while they may be also conducted in French and German, upon arrangement. “The procedure is simple,” said Antonis Kazakos, director of the educational program. “Interested parties only need to submit applications to the foundation’s website.
All applications are satisfied.”