Recent education reforms for improving the quality of services for all students have been explicitly oriented towards special education and intercultural education.
Following the priorities set by article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Greek educational policy emphasizes on the right of all students, including students with disabilities and/or special educational needs, for equal access to education.
Within such a framework, the equal access of students with disabilities and/or special educational needs constitutes a basic pillar of the National Action Plan on the Rights of People with Disabilities, drawn up under the coordination of the Minister of State, and is currently being implemented.
The aforementioned National Action Plan provides for:
- a wide array of actions in the field of education for students with disabilities and/or special educational needs
- promote inclusive education
in response to the description of the current situation in education and the recommendations by the United Nations, the representative organizations of People with Disabilities, the Ombudsman and the National Human Rights Authority.
Similarly, the Ministry of Education has drawn up and has currently been implementing the Strategic Action Plan for the Equal Access of Students with Disabilities, which constitutes an extension of the National Action Plan on Disability in the Field of Education. The Strategic Plan includes thirteen (13) Operational Objectives, which are further analysed in projects and actions, with a predefined implementation timetable, in key areas of intervention, such as:
- the review of the current legislative framework,
- the adequate allocation of human and material resources,
- the increase of physical and digital accessibility,
- the training of the staff in issues of differentiated teaching,
- the upgrading of the evaluation and support services,
- the promotion of integration education programmes,
- the strengthening of both early educational intervention and vocational education,
- the equal access to Lifelong learning and higher education,
- the evaluation of the operation of the institution of the integration classes and parallel support.
The currently in force institutional framework for the special education of individuals with disabilities and special educational needs, is laid down mainly in law 3699/2008, as in force, and the subsequent complementary laws 4115/2013 and 4186/2013, 4368/2016, 4415/2016, 4452/2017, 4547/2018, 4589/2019, 4638/2019, law 4713/ 2020 and law 4823/2021.
The inclusion policy is promoted for all vulnerable groups of the student population. In this context, intercultural education concerns the structuring of relations of different cultural groups with the aim to lift inequality and social exclusion. It sets the framework for harmonious and effective integration in the general education system of students with educational, social and cultural particularities.
The objectives of intercultural education are pursued by means of the following (law 4415/2016):
- The registration of children from different cultural backgrounds in schools along with native children
- The reinforcement of the school's democratic function based on the respect for democratic principles and children’s rights
- The drafting of suitable school programmes, school books and teaching material
- Tackling the discriminations caused by cultural differences, xenophobia and racism
- Supporting measures and structures in favor of the educational and social inclusion of children of migrant background in a framework of equity and respect for their cultural identity
- Suitable educational programmes and actions of an intercultural nature which address all members of the educational community.
Overall, the objective of compensatory education is the re-integration of students in the learning process, the improvement of their progress so as to complete compulsory education, reducing early school leaving, as well as increasing access rates to upper secondary education with the prospect of entering tertiary education.
A number of compensatory and supporting structures are put in place for this purpose, such as:
- the institution of intercultural schools (scholeia diapolitismikis ekpaidefsis) and minority schools (meionotika scholeia),
- reception classes (taxeis ypodochis),
- remedial teaching (enischytiki didaskalia) and additional teaching support (prostheti didaktiki stirixi),
- the school life advisor,
- detention centre schools
- as well as educational priority zones (zones ekpaideftikis proteraiotitas - ZEP); educational priority zones promote equal inclusion in the educational system of students from areas with low educational and socio-economic indicators.
Furthermore, in recent years the education of refugees' children and their smooth inclusion in school structures has been a goal of the educational policy for the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs.
Under the provisions of law 4823/2021, a Regional Council of Supervisors (PESEP) is established at the headquarters of all Regional Directorates of Primary and Secondary Education. This Council consists of Regional Supervisors of Quality in Education.
The Council deals with:
- issues of educational planning
- issues of support of educational work
- supporting training of various forms and topics
- the coordination and cooperation of different structures
- the support of school executives, teachers and members of the special teaching staff and special assistance staff in their everyday work, and
- the support of the overall planning and the self-evaluation of the work of school units.
In addition, in each Directorate of Primary and Secondary Education there is provision for:
- one Supervisor of Quality in Education
- positions of Education Advisors of various specialisations, including Advisors of Special and Inclusive Education. Indicatively, it can be mentioned that Advisors of Special and Inclusive Education bear the pedagogical responsibility in clusters of primary and secondary education units regarding the dimension of inclusive education. The assignment of pedagogical responsibility is decided by the Regional Supervisor of Quality in Education or the Regional Director of Education depending on each situation.
Also, law 4823/2021 redefines the role of:
- Centres for Interdisciplinary Assessment, Counseling and Support (KEDASYs) (former KESYs)
- School Networks of Educational Support (SDEYs)
- Committees of Interdisciplinary Support (EDYs).
In the field of higher education, the strong social dimension of national policy, primarily as a result of the provisions of law 4009/2011 and law 4485/2017, is evident in the support that all students and particularly students of vulnerable social groups receive, throughout their studies, through a series of:
- educational and social provisions,
- and facilities.
Finally, pursuant to law 4763/2020 , a key policy of the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs is planning, coordinating, supervising and assessing policies, acts and programmes in the field of vocational education and training, lifelong learning and youth, without discriminations and exclusions aiming at:
- providing to the country’s human resources the current qualifications, adapted to the real needs of the labour market,
- increasing employment with quality job placements, better organizing the competitiveness of the Greek economy,
- reinforcing citizens’ personal development and their upskilling,
- ensuring rights and equal opportunities for all young people that will lead to their unhampered inclusion to the educative, social and economic life of the country.