Preprimary & Primary Education
Preprimary—Kindergarten (nepiagogeion): The first interest of the Greek State in preprimary education was in 1895 with a law that allowed Greek citizens to organize private kindergartens after receiving a permit from the MoE. It was for children from three or four years old through age six. The first kindergarten was established in Athens in 1897 by a woman who studied in Germany (like many Greeks did during the nineteenth century). It was private, modeled after the German kindergarten of Froebel (1782-1852). A teacher training institution was part of it.
Until their expansion in the 1970s and 1980s, most kindergartens were private, operating on a fee basis. The teacher and the school's owner determined the curriculum. Teacher training was carried out in separate private institutions.
Children who are three and a half years old by October 1 are accepted and may attend for two years. Attendance is voluntary and participation is continuously increasing.
In 1976 kindergartens became part of primary education. Attendance was still voluntary but can become mandatory in a region if the Minister of Education, the Minister of Health and Welfare, and the Minister of Finance issue a joint resolution according to the needs of the region.
The purpose of kindergarten is to help develop children physically, emotionally, mentally, and socially, and to prepare preschoolers for learning in the elementary schools.
Early childhood education is provided by kindergartens that operate as independent units supervised by the MoE, and within children's centers supervised by the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
Kindergarten enrollments vary from region to region. Most rural areas have higher preschool enrollment ratios than Athens, which has one of the lowest.
A kindergarten class can have from 7 to 30 children. In 1993-1994 there were 5,520 kindergartens with 8,706 teachers (8,682 female), and 133,959 pupils (65,511 female). The pupil/teacher ratio was 15:4. The majority of kindergartens (5,387) were public with 8,457 teachers (8,433 female) and 128,627 pupils (62,933 female). The pupil/teacher ratio was 15:2. There were 133 private kindergartens, with 249 teachers, all female, and 5,352 pupils (2,578 female). The pupil/teacher ratio was 21:5. (NSSG 2000) There are almost no male teachers in kindergarten.
In 1989, the MoE issued a national curriculum for kindergarten and a teacher's handbook with guidelines, examples of lesson plans, and activities for implementing the curriculum. Kindergarten teachers, under the guidance of the Pedagogical Institute, developed the curriculum and the handbook. The curriculum is used throughout the country.
Primary education: Elementary school lasts six years. Children who turn six by December 31 can enroll in the first grade. Attendance is obligatory. Pupils graduating from primary school receive a school-leaving certificate that mentions the attainment levels in the various subjects. They enroll in the first grade of the gymnasium without examinations. It is part of the compulsory education years.
The new primary education curriculum came into effect by Presidential Decree 583 (1982). It was implemented during the 1982-1983 school year and contains the following features: the aims of the primary school, the goals of each subject taught, the objectives of the major teaching units, prerequisites for achieving the goals, activities through which to attain the objectives of the teaching units, and recommendations as to how much time to assign to the teaching and learning of the units.
Environmental studies, health education, and civic education were added to the existing courses of religion, Greek language, mathematics, history, geography, natural sciences, music, arts and crafts (for aesthetic development), physical education, and a modern language (English or French). The goals and objectives of the new curricula were: a) to gradually familiarize pupils with moral, religious, national, socioeconomic, political, aesthetic, and other values; b) to gradually to introduce pupils to the cognitive sphere; and c) to progressively socialize pupils in an atmosphere of freedom and inquiry.
Specialists teach physical education, music, foreign languages, and arts. Laboratories for physics and chemistry, and school libraries, were introduced in primary schools.
The implementation of the new curricula followed the design and publication of new textbooks by the Organization for Publication of School Textbooks for all subjects taught in the primary school. A teacher's guide was introduced to accompany each textbook. It contains basic methodological principles and suggestions on procedures to follow in organizing the teaching and learning of each unit.
The upper limit of pupils per class is 25 children for a single-room school (one teacher for all children in all grades). Since 1990 there has been an effort to decrease the number of single-room schools. They exist primarily in the islands, in the rural areas, and in isolated mountainous villages. Local authorities, in cooperation with the State, are trying to develop re-allocation solutions so that students may be transported to bigger, better-staffed, and better-equipped schools in a region.
In 1993-1994 there were 7,254 elementary schools with 44,981 teachers (24,418 female) and 731,500 pupils (354,773 female). The pupil/teacher ratio was 16:3. Of these, 6,851 were public elementary schools with 42,207 teachers (22,750 female) and 678,145 pupils (328,951 female). The pupil/teacher ratio was 16:1. There were 403 private elementary schools with 2,774 teachers (1,668 female) and 53,355 pupils (25,822 female). The pupil/teacher ratio was 19:2 (NSSG 2000).
Participation rates for boys and girls are almost equal at the primary level. Primary school participation for 1989-1990 was 97 percent for six- to 11-year-olds. Repeaters at the primary school are extremely few (OECD 1997).
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