The journey of learning a foreign language, primarily English, in Greece is multifaceted, beginning early in a child’s academic life and continuing through high school. It includes a mix of formal education, private language instruction, and active parental involvement.
A notable focus of this journey is the preparation for and attainment of English language proficiency certification, which is considered a key milestone in a student’s educational development.
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Primary Education: A Strong Foundation in English
In Greece, kindergarten students start learning English from the age of four. Since the 2021/22 school year, preschool education has incorporated English through creative activities that foster a sense of belonging and respect for diversity. This approach not only enhances language skills, but also contributes to the holistic development of children, including cognitive, socio-cultural, personal and emotional aspects.
Mandatory English and Optional Second Languages: French or German
English, the compulsory foreign language, is taught in all six grades of primary school.
In Grade 5, the curriculum expands to offer students a choice of French or German as a second language. This early exposure to multiple languages prepares Greek students for a more interconnected and inclusive world.
Lower Secondary Education: English, French and German in the Curriculum
- Lower secondary education in Greece continues to integrate foreign languages into the curriculum.
- English remains a compulsory subject for all students, solidifying its role as a cornerstone of Greek education.
- In addition, students must choose between French and German as a second compulsory language, broadening their language repertoire.
- Some high schools also offer Italian, demonstrating the system’s flexibility and commitment to multilingual education.
Language Education in Senior High Schools and Vocational Schools
In Senior High Schools (Lycea), English continues to be an important part of the general education for all three grades. French or German becomes an optional subject, allowing students to tailor their language learning to their personal interests and future aspirations.
The Technical Vocational Schools (TEE) offer English for specific purposes, catering to various specializations. Students in Applied Arts and Beauty and Hairdressing are taught French, emphasizing the importance of language skills in vocational careers.
Tertiary Education: A wide range of language opportunities
In Greek universities and institutes of technological education, English remains the primary foreign language. However, students have access to a wide variety of other languages, including French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian and Arabic, depending on their specific curriculum. In addition, courses are offered in neighboring languages such as Bulgarian, Romanian, Serbian and Turkish, reflecting Greece’s geographical and cultural ties.
Private Foreign Language Schools
Private language schools play an important role in the teaching of English and other foreign languages in Greece.
Many Greek students, often as young as six years old, enroll in these schools for additional afternoon classes. The primary goal is to become proficient in English, French, German (or another language) and obtain a recognized foreign language certificate. This trend stems from a widespread belief that the standard school curriculum alone is not sufficient to master English, despite the efforts of many dedicated teachers.
Tourism, a highly developed industry in Greece, significantly influences the country’s educational priorities. Many young Greeks seeking career opportunities in this sector recognize the importance of language skills. As such, the acquisition of strong language skills becomes a strategic focus for students, equipping them for successful integration and advancement in the tourism-driven economy.
Parental involvement is an important factor in this educational framework. Greek parents generally demonstrate a strong desire for their children to learn English, recognizing its value in providing expansive educational, professional, and socioeconomic opportunities.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is English the only compulsory foreign language in Greek education?
A: Yes, English is the compulsory foreign language at all levels of education in Greece, with the option to study other languages such as French, German and Italian at various levels.
Q: Can students in Greece choose languages other than English, French and German?
A: Yes, in higher (tertiary) education, students have the opportunity to study a variety of languages, including Italian, Spanish, Russian, Arabic and languages of neighboring countries.
Q: How does foreign language education in Greece prepare students for global citizenship?
A: By emphasizing English from an early age and offering a variety of languages at later stages, Greek education promotes global awareness and cultural diversity and prepares students for active participation in a globally interconnected world.