Education and Schools in Greece
The standard of education and schools in Greece has suffered as a result of austerity measures imposed by the EU. Job cuts and staff redeployments have resulted in many teachers becoming unemployed. The result is that many qualified teachers have left the country and others have taken to the streets in mass demonstrations.
Expat parents moving to Greece are faced with a choice. Despite the downsides of public education, it is arguably the most authentic way for children to integrate into Greek society and learn the language, while not having to pay tuition fees.
On the other hand, many expats elect to put their children in expensive private schools where they may get a better education but this comes with a hefty price tag. In the case of English-speaking, private international schools, expat children will have an environment that is closer to what they’re used to at home but, will mean a degree of isolation from their local peers.
The Greek education system
The Greek education system is administered by the Ministry of National Education and Religious Affairs. By law, all children between six and 15 years old are required to attend school, although many children begin school from the age of five.
The schooling system in Greece is divided into three levels:
Primary education (demotiko) - six years
Junior high school (gymnasio) – three years
Senior high school (lykeion) – three years
After finishing gymnasio, children also have the option of attending a more practically focused Vocational Training Institute (IEK). In their final year of school, students write the Pan-Hellenic National Exams which determine their eligibility for tertiary studies.
The school year in Greece is generally divided as follows:
Christmas term: early September to late December
Easter term: early January to early April
Summer term: late April to late June
Public schools in Greece
Public schools in Greece are closely overseen by the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs. The Ministry dictates the curriculum, available funding and staff appointments. Government schools do not charge school fees and have traditionally provided free textbooks to students, however, this is subject to change.
Even before the economic crisis, many expat parents with children in Greek public schools would also spend thousands of euros on private tutors. This is partly due to an inflexible education system which relies on rote memory and, as is the case with locals, partly to improve their children’s chances in the PanHellenic exams.
Private schools in Greece
Greece has one of the highest private school attendance figures in Europe, mostly due to the perception that the quality of private schools in Greece is superior to public education. As a result of the country’s economic problems, however, many parents have struggled to keep up with private tuition fees and have had to consider public schooling for their children.
While private schools certainly have more autonomy than their public counterparts, they are still supervised by the Ministry and the medium of instruction in most of them is Greek. For expats who can afford it, Greek private schools are perhaps an effective middle ground between an integrative experience for their children and an education of a high standard.
International schools in Greece
There are a number of international schools in Greece, most of which are situated in Athens. There are also a few private international schools in Thessaloniki, Larissa and Crete. Aside from Crete and the mainland, expats might find it difficult to find English schools in Greece. Fees differ between schools and tend to increase as children progress.
Generally, international schools follow a similar school calendar to public schools in Greece. This may differ between individual schools, however, and expats should check with prospective schools individually.
Homeschooling in Greece
Unfortunately, homeschooling in Greece is illegal. It is compulsory under Greek law to attend primary and secondary schools.