Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) is organised in two discrete systems based on age, namely the pre-school and the pre-primary system. The pre-school system involves day nurseries (International Standard Classification of Education level 0), and childminders, all operating under the remit of the Ministry of Labour, Welfare and Social Insurance. The pre-primary system involves kindergartens operating under the remit of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport and Youth. All types of institutions are co-educational.
The pre-school system
Day nurseries (pedokomikoi/vrefokomikoi stathmoi) are open to children from birth until the age of 4 years and 8 months. There are public, community and private day nurseries.
Public day nurseries are established by the Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance in cooperation with the Parents’ Association and the local authority for the area where the institution is located.
Community day nurseries are established and run by local authorities on a not-for-profit basis.
Private day nurseries are established and supported by individuals, usually on a for-profit basis.
Home-based ECEC is also available. Childminders are persons entitled to look after a number of young children at home.
There are no educational guidelines from top-level authorities for the pre-school system.
The pre-primary system
Kindergartens (Nipiagogeia) are open to children from the age of 3 years. In September 2004, attendance for children aged between 4 years and 8 months and 6 years became free and obligatory. As the starting age for compulsory primary education has recently been raised by 2 months, since 2020/2021 attendance has been free and obligatory until children are aged 5 years and 10 months. Starting September 2021, attendance is free and obligatory until children are 6 years old.
There are public, community and private kindergartens.
Public kindergartens are established by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport and Youth in cooperation with the Parents’ Association and the local authority for the area where the institution is located. Public Kindergartens may operate with one teacher (monodidaskala), with two teachers (dididaskala) or with three or more teachers (polydidaskala).
Community kindergartens are established by a Parents’ Association, a local authority, a municipality, a Welfare Community Council, a Trade Union or a charitable organisation, following approval by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport and Youth. They operate on a not-for-proﬁt basis, usually in areas where the number of public kindergartens is insufficient to meet the needs of the community. In many cases, they are co-located with public kindergartens and they serve children in the age range of 3 years - 4 years and 8 months. Community kindergartens are subsidised by government, with an annual grant of EUR 6 834–11 960 each.
Private kindergartens are established and operated by private individuals with the approval of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport and Youth, and they run on a for-proﬁt basis. There are three types of private kindergartens, as follows.
- Same type. They follow, without any exception, the curricula and the timetables of the public kindergartens.
- Similar type. At least two thirds of their curricula and timetables are the same as those of the public kindergartens.
- Other types. They are neither of the same type nor of a similar type. They follow their own curricula and timetables, subject to approval by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport and Youth.
All of the different types of kindergartens are registered with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport and Youth and they are subject to inspection by the Department of Primary Education of the ministry.
Note that a day nursery may be integrated with a kindergarten and thus open to children up to the age of 6 years old. Integrated day nurseries are registered with both the Ministry of Labour, Welfare and Social Insurance and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport and Youth, each ministry being responsible for one age group of children.
The preschool education curriculum applies to kindergartens.