Greek Education System, Evolution and Impact

The Greek education system is centralized and overseen by the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs. This centralized structure ensures consistency and standardization across the country, providing equal access to quality education for all students. It also allows the government to effectively implement educational policies and reforms at the national level.

Education in Greece is compulsory for children between the ages of 4 and 15, ensuring that all children have access to basic education. This policy demonstrates the country’s commitment to education as a fundamental right and recognizes its vital role in personal development, social mobility and national progress.

  • The education system of Greece is known for its high academic standards and commitment to intellectual development.
  • Greece has a well-educated population, with an impressive 40% of Greeks over the age of 20 having completed tertiary education.
  • The Greek education system has also gained international recognition for its rigorous academic programs and prestigious universities and institutions that attract students from around the world.

The structure of the Greek education system is designed to provide students with a comprehensive and balanced education. It consists of three levels – primary, secondary and tertiary – each with its own characteristics and objectives. Primary and secondary education aim to provide students with a solid foundation in key subjects, while tertiary education offers specialized knowledge and skills in a range of academic disciplines. The system also includes vocational education, which caters to the needs of students who prefer a more practical and career-oriented approach to education.

The Greek education system also places a strong emphasis on the study of foreign languages. Students are exposed to international languages from an early age, with English taught from kindergarten and other languages such as French or German introduced at later stages. This focus on multilingualism not only enhances students’ communication skills, but also broadens their cultural understanding and prepares them for the globalized world.

school in greece

Primary Education in Greece

In Greece, primary education serves as the foundation for a child’s academic journey, providing the basic knowledge and skills that will be built upon in later years. Primary education consists of two levels: kindergarten and primary school.

Kindergarten (Nipiagogeio)

Kindergarten is available to children between the ages of 4 and 6 and serves as an important transition period from home to school. It provides a nurturing and stimulating environment in which children can develop social, emotional and cognitive skills. For example, children learn to socialize with their peers, follow routines, and understand basic concepts such as numbers and letters.

Primary School (Dimotiko Scholeio)

Primary school in Greece begins at the age of 6 and lasts for six years. The national curriculum includes subjects such as mathematics, Greek language, science and English language learning. English is taught from kindergarten, and students have the option of learning French or German later. The primary school curriculum focuses on building a strong foundation in basic subjects to prepare students for further education.

In recent years, the Greek education system has recognized the importance of integrating technology into primary education. Schools across the country are increasingly using digital tools and resources to enhance the learning experience and develop students’ digital literacy skills. For example, interactive whiteboards and educational software are being used to make lessons more engaging and interactive. This integration of technology into the classroom not only enhances the learning experience, but also prepares students for a digital future.

The Greek primary education system also emphasizes holistic development. Beyond academics, schools promote physical education, the arts, and social activities. Students participate in sports, music, and dance classes that develop their creativity, physical fitness, and social skills. In addition, schools instill civic values and social responsibility, shaping students into responsible and active citizens.

Secondary Education in Greece

Secondary education in Greece is divided into two levels: lower secondary education, known as gymnasium, and upper secondary education, known as lyceum.

Gymnasium (Gimnasio)

Gymnasium is compulsory until the age of 15, and it offers students a wide range of subjects, including humanities, sciences and foreign languages. The curriculum is designed to provide a well-rounded education that equips students with a wide range of knowledge and skills. For example, high school science classes include biology, chemistry, and physics, giving students a broad understanding of the natural world.

Lyceum (Likeio)

After completing high school, students have the option of continuing their education in upper secondary schools. These are further divided into general high schools and vocational high schools. General high schools offer a broad curriculum covering a wide range of subjects. Vocational high schools, on the other hand, provide specialized education in specific fields such as technology, agriculture, and health. These schools equip students with the skills and knowledge needed to enter the workforce or pursue further vocational training.

Vocational high schools play an important role in the Greek education system. They provide an alternative route for students who wish to enter the workforce directly after secondary school or who prefer a more hands-on approach to learning. These schools offer a variety of specialized programs, from automotive technology to culinary arts, that provide students with practical skills and industry-specific knowledge.

To gain admission to higher education institutions, students must take the nationally set Pan-Hellenic Examinations. These exams assess students’ knowledge and skills in various subjects and determine their eligibility for admission to universities, polytechnics, technical institutes and academies. The Pan-Hellenic Examinations are rigorous and highly competitive.

Public Higher Education (Tertiary Education) in Greece

Public higher education in Greece is highly regarded both locally and internationally. The higher education system includes universities, polytechnics and academies, all of which offer a wide range of academic programs and research opportunities. Admission to these institutions is based on the results of the Pan-Hellenic Examinations.

Undergraduate programs at Greek universities typically span four years, although certain specialized fields like engineering, dentistry and medicine require an extended duration of five or six years for completion. The curriculum is designed to provide students with in-depth knowledge in their chosen field and to develop their critical thinking and research skills. For example, an undergraduate program in economics would cover subjects such as microeconomics, macroeconomics, statistics, econometrics, and economic policy, providing students with a comprehensive understanding of economic theories and their real-world applications.

Upon completion of their undergraduate studies, students have the option of pursuing postgraduate studies, which can take one to two years. These programs offer opportunities for specialization, allowing students to delve deeper into their chosen field and develop advanced skills and knowledge. Postgraduate programs often include a significant research component, preparing students for careers in academia or research-intensive industries.

Doctoral programs in Greece offer students the opportunity to make original contributions to their respective fields of study. Doctoral programs typically last three to six years and involve rigorous research and the completion of a doctoral dissertation. Doctoral studies require a high level of commitment and intellectual ability, and open up opportunities for careers in academia, research and management in a variety of sectors.

university of athens
University of Athens, Central Building

List of Universities in Greece

  • Athens University of Economics and Business
  • Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
  • University of West Attica (formerly TEI of Athens and TEI of Piraeus)
  • Agricultural University of Athens
  • Athens School of Fine Arts
  • Democritus University of Thrace
  • Harokopio University of Athens
  • National Technical University of Athens
  • National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
  • Hellenic Open University
  • International Hellenic University
  • Ionian University
  • Panteion University
  • Technical University of Crete
  • University of the Aegean
  • University of Crete
  • University of Ioannina
  • University of Macedonia
  • University of Patras
  • University of Peloponnese
  • University of Piraeus
  • Hellenic Mediterranean University
  • University of Thessaly
  • University of Western Macedonia
  • School of Pedagogical and Technological Education (ASPETE)

Percentage of higher education graduates in Greece

In 2011, the share of young people who had completed tertiary education was 32.3%, while in 2020 it rose to 43.7% (an increase of 11.4 percentage points).

Vocational Education in Greece

In addition to traditional academic pathways, the Greek education system also offers vocational education and training (VET) opportunities. VET programs offer practical skills and industry-specific knowledge, providing a more hands-on approach to learning. These programs play an essential role in meeting the needs of the labor market and providing alternative pathways to employment. Approximately 23% of 25-34 year olds in Greece have a VET qualification.

Vocational education in Greece begins at the upper secondary level, with vocational high schools offering specialized programs in fields such as technology, agriculture, and health. These schools combine theoretical learning with practical training, providing students with a comprehensive education that prepares them for their chosen career. For example, a student in a vocational high school specializing in automotive technology would learn about engine mechanics, automotive electronics, and automotive repair, while also gaining hands-on experience through workshops and internships.

Upon completion of their vocational high school education, students have the opportunity to participate in post-high school apprenticeship programs. These programs provide students with on-the-job training, allowing them to gain real-world experience and further develop their skills. For example, a graduate of a culinary arts program might apprentice in a restaurant, learning directly from experienced chefs and gaining hands-on experience in a professional kitchen.

Workers with vocational skills often have higher earning potential than those without such skills. This suggests that vocational programs not only provide students with practical skills and knowledge, but also improve their employability and career prospects. By offering vocational education and training, Greece ensures that its education system is responsive to diverse learning preferences and career aspirations while meeting the needs of the economy.

Financing Education in Greece

Education funding in Greece is primarily the responsibility of the state. The Greek government is committed to providing free education for all, ensuring that all children, regardless of their socio-economic background, have access to quality education. Public schools and universities in Greece do not charge tuition.

In addition to free education, the Greek government also provides free textbooks to students. This policy reduces the financial burden on families and ensures that all students, regardless of their economic circumstances, have access to the necessary learning materials. The provision of free textbooks is an important aspect of the Greek government’s efforts to promote equity in education and ensure that all students have the resources they need to succeed academically.

The Greek government allocates a significant portion of its budget to education. In 2018, Greece spent an average of $6146 per year per full-time equivalent student.

A significant portion of Greece’s education budget is allocated to infrastructure development, teacher salaries, and student support services. The government also invests in educational technology, recognizing the importance of integrating digital tools and resources into the learning process. These investments are critical to maintaining the quality of education, promoting innovation in teaching practices, and ensuring that Greek schools and universities remain competitive on the international stage.

The cost of education in Greece and in other OECD countries

  • OECD countries, including Greece, spend a good portion of their money on education. In 2019, OECD nations used about 4.9% of their total economy, or GDP, on schools from primary through college levels. In Greece, this figure was a bit lower at 3.7%.
  • In Greece, the government used 6.9% of its budget for these education levels, which is less than the 10.6% average for all OECD countries. The amount of money spent on each student also differs. On average, OECD countries spend about $11,990 per student every year, but Greece spends only around $5,992.
  • When it comes to primary and secondary schools, OECD countries spend roughly the same amount per student. In Greece, however, the amount is lower, at $7,279 for primary and $6,728 for secondary education.
  • Most of the funding for elementary and secondary schools comes from the government in all OECD countries. In Greece, only 7% of the money comes from private sources. At the college level, however, private funding is more common, although it’s still less in Greece (13%) than the average across OECD countries (31%).


The role of private schools, colleges and universities

In addition to the public education system, Greece also has a thriving sector of private tutoring schools and colleges. These private institutions play an important role in the Greek education system by providing supplemental instruction and alternative educational pathways. They offer additional support to students who wish to improve their academic performance, prepare for national exams, or pursue specialized courses not available in public schools.

Private tutoring schools, also known as frontistiria, are common in Greece. These institutions offer tutoring in subjects such as math, science, and foreign languages, as well as exam preparation courses. Many students choose to attend a frontistirio to supplement their schooling, catch up on difficult subjects, or prepare for the Pan-Hellenic Examinations. These institutions employ experienced tutors who provide personalized instruction and customized learning strategies to meet students’ individual needs and learning styles.

Private colleges in Greece offer a wide range of academic programs and degrees. These institutions often have smaller class sizes, allowing for more personalized instruction and closer student-teacher interaction. Private institutions may also offer specialized programs not available at public institutions, giving students more options to pursue their interests and career aspirations.

Teachers in Greece

The quality of an education system is largely determined by the quality of its teachers. In Greece, the teaching profession is held in high esteem, and the crucial role that teachers play in shaping the minds of the future generation is recognized. However, the teaching workforce in Greece faces unique challenges, such as an aging population. Approximately 65% of teachers in general upper secondary education in Greece are 50 years of age or older. This presents a challenge in terms of workforce renewal and the need to attract young, energetic teachers into the profession.

The ageing of the teaching workforce is a cause for concern, as it could potentially lead to a shortage of teachers in the future. It also highlights the need for continuous professional development for older teachers, especially in the use of new technologies and innovative teaching methods. Recognizing these challenges, the Greek government has implemented several initiatives to encourage young people to enter the teaching profession. These initiatives include scholarship programs, mentoring opportunities, and professional development support.

In addition to attracting young teachers, there is also a need to ensure that teachers receive continuous professional development. The field of education is constantly evolving, with new research, methodologies, and technologies emerging. To keep up with these changes, teachers need to engage in continuous learning and professional development.

Historical Background of Greek Education

The Greek education system has a rich and fascinating history, shaped by various cultural, social and historical influences. The ancient Greeks placed a high value on education, believing that the development of a citizen’s physical, intellectual, and moral abilities was of paramount importance. This belief was deeply ingrained in ancient Greek society, where education was seen as a crucial tool for creating virtuous and enlightened citizens. For example, the philosopher Plato believed in the transformative power of education and founded the Academy, one of the first institutions of higher education in the Western world.

The Byzantine Empire, which spanned over a thousand years from the 4th to the 15th centuries, also left a significant mark on Greek education. During this period, the Greek Orthodox Church played a key role in preserving Greek culture and knowledge, especially during the Dark Ages. Monastic schools were established where monks taught subjects such as grammar, rhetoric, theology, and philosophy. These monastic schools were instrumental in preserving ancient Greek texts and passing them on to future generations, thus ensuring the survival of Greek culture and knowledge throughout the centuries.

In modern times, the Greek education system has undergone transformative changes. After gaining independence from the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century, Greece embarked on a journey to modernize its education system. The Greek Ministry of National Education and Religious Affairs was established to oversee the development and implementation of education policy. The Ministry has played a crucial role in shaping the Greek education system, ensuring that it adapts to the needs of a rapidly evolving society and is aligned with the country’s broader national development goals.

The influence of the Ministry of National Education and Religious Affairs cannot be overstated: it has been instrumental in standardizing the curriculum, formulating education policy, coordinating national examinations, and administering the education budget. Over the years, the Ministry has introduced a number of reforms to improve the quality of education, promote inclusiveness, and ensure that the education system remains relevant in the face of social and economic change.

Greece Index