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Greece

Educational System—overview

The first schools in Greece (1834) were patterned on foreign models. The newly independent state had no infrastructure (curricula, books, or organization model). The schools reflected the contemporary ideas prevailing in Western Europe at that time.

The four-year compulsory school was based on the German (Bavarian) tradition that had been influenced by the French educational tradition. It was called demotico (primary). The German and French influences resulted in a strong centralized administration, which exists to date.

A three-year Greek school followed the four-year primary. A four-year gymnasium (secondary school) followed that. After that came the university for four years. King Otto established the first Greek University in Athens in 1837. Instruction was in Greek in all levels. Attendance in primary and Greek schools was compulsory—a total of seven years.

The curriculum included the humanistic heritage of the classics and the orthodox religion but it was progressive: catechism, elements of Greek reading, writing, arithmetic, measures and weights, drawing, singing and, when possible, elements of geography, Greek history, and physical sciences. It also taught gymnastics, gardening, and silkworm and bee culture. The girls were taught "female arts." At the end of each semester there were examinations.

The number of courses was large and practical, but there were not enough teachers to teach them. To compensate, "mutual instruction" (Lancasterian) was employed: The teacher teaches the students of the upper grades, and they in turn teach the younger students the same subject).

At the same time (1834) a teacher training institution was organized in Naupleion, the provisional capital of Greece. The following year the capital and the institution were moved to Athens.


Modern Structure: The structure of the educational system in Greece in 2001 is organized into three levels: primary, which includes a two-year preprimary since 1985 that is not compulsory; secondary;, and tertiary. Children aged three and a half can enroll in the preprimary.

Compulsory education starts with the primary school at five and a half or six years. Since the 1976 reforms, it includes the three-year lower secondary school (gymnasium) lasting 9 years, from age 6 to age 15. By law a pupil who does not complete compulsory education by the age of 15 is obliged to stay on until age 16.

All schools are coeducational. The language of instruction at all levels has been demotic Greek since the reforms of 1964.

Ecclesiastical gymnasiums and lyceums prepare male students for priesthood. In addition to the regular curriculum, they offer extracurricular activities that contribute to the development of appropriate habits and attitudes. Music gymnasiums offer, besides the regular curriculum, an additional 15 hours per week of musical education for talented pupils.

Upper secondary education is provided in general lyceums, integrated (or comprehensive) lyceums, and technical/vocational lyceums, as well as technical/vocational schools. Students graduating from the gymnasium enroll without exams in the next level, the lyceum.

Graduates of the general lyceum may attend university and postgraduate studies. Graduates of the integrated and technical/vocational lyceums attend technological education institutes. After graduation they can continue to the university or join the job market. Graduates of technical/vocational schools attend institutes of vocational training. After graduation they join the job market.

Tertiary education is provided in universities and technological educational institutes. Entrance is based on exams.

The length of the school year for 1995-1996 was September 11 to June 15 for primary schools, and September 1 to June 30 for secondary. There are five school days a week for both primary and secondary schools for a total of 175 days in a year. There are 12 weeks of summer holidays, two weeks for Christmas and two weeks for Spring/Easter. There are also seven days of national or religious holidays.

Primary school pupils attend 23 to 30 lessons a week. The duration of each lesson is 45 minutes. Pupils in lower secondary attend 33 to 35 lessons per week, each 45 minutes. The number of lessons a week in upper secondary schools varies from 30 in the general lyceums to 34 for both the comprehensive and the technical/vocational lyceums to 41 for the musical lyceums. The duration of one lesson in all secondary schools is 45 minutes.

Primary pupils spend about five hours per day in school, secondary pupils six or seven. The primary school day runs from either 8:15 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., or from 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. In big cities, a large number of school buildings accommodate more than one school. Therefore pupils attend lessons either in the morning or in the afternoon, or one week in the morning followed by one week in the afternoon. As a result, educational and functional problems are created in these schools ("Organization of School" 1995).

Enrollment by educational level and sex in public and private schools in 1993-1994 was as follows:

  • 5,520 preschools with 133,979 pupils (65,511 female); 5,387 were public with 128,627 pupils (62,933 female), and 133 were private schools with 5,352 pupils (2,578 female)
  • 7,254 primary schools with 731,500 pupils (354,773 female); 6,851 were public with 678,145 pupils (328,951 female), and 403 private schools with 53,355 pupils (25,822 female)
  • 3,069 secondary schools with a total of 719,746 pupils (364,012 female); 2,813 were public with 671,913 pupils (342,778 female), and 159 private schools with 32,214 pupils (16,877 female) (NSSG 2000).

Enrollment in tertiary education for 1993-1994 was 212,525 students. Of these, 110,295 were "active" (enrolled students who have not completed the compulsory period), and 102,226 were "inactive" (students who have continued their studies beyond the normal required time). Among active students, 59,730—or 51.9 percent—were female. Among the inactive students, 45,909—or 48.1 percent—were female (Protopapas 1999).

In 1989-1990, some 57.8 percent of four- and five-year-olds attended public kindergartens, or those supervised by the MoE. Primary school participation was 97 percent, and secondary, 93 percent. Participation rates for boys and girls are equal at preschool and primary levels. At the secondary level the participation rate is 95 percent for boys, 91 percent for girls. Rates may actually be somewhat lower since repeaters are included in the enrollment figures (OECD 1997).

Textbooks for primary and secondary education are published by the Organization of School Textbooks (OEDB).

There are no examinations from the primary to the secondary school. There are nationwide (Pan-Hellenic) examinations for entrance to the university and the technological education institutes.

Because education is prized as an end in itself and as a means of upward mobility, there is a great demand to enter universities. Many children attend private "cramming" classes (frontisteria), after school to prepare for the university entrance exams. Competition for university places is extremely high in spite the creation of new universities between 1960 and 1980.

Law 682 (1977) provides for the operation of private primary and secondary schools. They are under the supervision of the MoE and are required to follow the national curriculum and to use the same textbooks as the public schools. About 6 percent of the students attend private schools. The Constitution forbids the establishment of private universities.

There is educational television in the State television stations. Computers and instructional television were introduced in the classrooms.

Technical/vocational education broadened the base of education and gave pupils more choices. It met the demand for technical personnel and opened venues to the job market, contributing thus to economic development.

Law 309 (1977) abolished the lower vocational schools and replaced them with technical/vocational schools (TES). Intermediate vocational schools were replaced by technical/vocational lyceums. General education from this point on was provided by the general lyceums.

Graduates of three-year lower secondary schools could enroll in the TES without examinations or, after examinations, enter either the technical/vocational lyceum or the general lyceum.

Opportunities for technical/vocational training in tertiary education have increased. In 1989-1990, of about 42,000 places available in tertiary education, the TEIs made up approximately 19,000, or 45 percent. In 1991 and 1992 the distribution tended to be 50-50 (Stavrou 1996).


Minority Groups: Greece has a small percentage of linguistic and cultural minorities. By legislation, the Greek government provides a budget and ample facilities to educate minority children. As of 1983, primary schools enrolled 12,000 Muslim students. Four hundred twenty-one Muslim teachers (Greek nationals) taught the classes in these schools, plus 27 temporary instructors who came from Turkey. The Turkish language, as well as religion, is taught in these schools. At the secondary level, three schools offer bilingual instruction, one in Komotini (the Celal-Bayar Lyceum) and two Muslim seminaries in Xanthi. Both cities are in Thrace. The Greek government intends to establish technical/vocational schools for the Muslim minority, provided there is agreement among the Muslim communities. Teachers for the Muslim children are trained in a special program at the Pedagogical Department of the University of Thessaloniki.

There are two primary schools for Armenian children in Athens. Also,in the mid-1980s, a pilot program for itinerant Gypsy children was organized by the University of Thessaloniki.

In 1980-1981, the government developed education programs specifically for the children of repatriated Greeks from Germany, the United States, Canada, and Australia. These children have limited proficiency in the Greek language. The objective of the programs was to "aid the repatriation of youth by integrating them in school and social milieus and in the Greek way of thinking and behaving" (OECD 1982). On average, 5,000 children per year were repatriated from Germany, and 4,000 per year from English-speaking countries. Two types of programs were designed for them: special bilingual classes in the regular schools, and out-of-school or "extra class" bilingual programs.

In the 1990s, with the influx of economic refugees, the number of foreign pupils attending Greek primary and secondary schools increased to 6 percent of the total. In 1991-1992 in elementary schools, 51.73 percent of these pupils were from the countries of the former USSR, 24.48 percent were from Albania, and 23.78 percent came from all other countries. In the secondary schools, 39.12 percent were from the countries of the former USSR, 22.14 percent were from Albania, and 38.74 percent were from all other countries (Katsikas and Kavadias 1996).


Special Education: Law 1566 (1985) incorporated the education of children with special education needs (SEN) into the central framework of the educational system, based on the philosophy of equal opportunities in education at all levels. Greece, as a member of the international organizations for child protection, has planned the special education program in order to respond to two basic principles: integration and participation.

Pupils with SEN from 3-1/2 to 18 years of age are in the mainstream school. Compulsory education is from six to 15. Special schools share buildings with mainstream schools; they partially integrate the curriculum and totally integrate the social activities. Special education councilors promote the integration of SEN pupils by providing instruction and support programs for teachers in the mainstream schools. The curriculum, "Activities for Learning Preparedness," helps teachers support pupils to develop to the extent of their capacities and to possibly integrate into the mainstream.

There are about 200 special needs school in Greece. In 1995-1996 there were 39 preschools, 138 primary schools, 10 schools for general secondary education, and four for technical/vocational education. Registered SEN students make up less than 1 percent of all pupils (Meijer 1998).


Additional topics

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceGreece - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education