Education and Schools in Greece
Expat parents moving to Greece are faced with a choice. Public schools in Greece teach only in Greek. However, despite this downside, it is arguably the most authentic way for expat 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 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 this will entail a degree of isolation from their local peers.
The Greek education system
The Greek education system is administered by the Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs. By law, all children between six and 15 years old are required to attend school. During these years, public schooling is tuition-free.
The schooling system in Greece is divided into three levels:
Primary school (demotiko) – ages 6 to 11
Middle school (gymnasio) – ages 12 to 14
Senior high school (lykeion) – ages 15 to 17
After finishing gymnasio, children can choose either an academic or vocational route. The academic route culminates in the Apolytirio Lykeiou, while the vocational route culminates in the Technika Epangelmatika Ekpedeftiria (TEE).
Public schools in Greece
Public schools in Greece are closely overseen by the Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs. Government schools do not charge school fees and have traditionally provided free textbooks to students – however, this is subject to change and there have been textbook shortages in the past.
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 partly to improve their children’s chances in the final 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, with a few in Thessaloniki. These schools offer foreign or international curricula, typically taught in the language of their country of origin (often English). International schools are favoured by expats because they provide an opportunity for children to continue with a familiar curriculum in their home languages. Fees differ between schools and tend to increase as children progress.
Homeschooling in Greece
Unfortunately, homeschooling in Greece is illegal except in very particular circumstances, such as if the child has special needs. By and large, it is compulsory under Greek law to attend primary and secondary schools.