In Greece, the state offers public pre-school and primary education free of charge in:
- Nipiagogeia (preschools/kindergartens)
- Dimotika scholeia (primary schools)
Attendance in pre-school education (Nipiagogeia) lasts two years. It is compulsory for 4 and 5-year-old children and it is part of primary education. (Law 4704/2020).
Attendance in primary education (dimotika scholeia) lasts 6 years. It includes grades 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. Six-year-old pupils enroll in grade 1.The Ministry of Education supervises the organisation and operation of pre-school and primary schools.
After the end of primary education, pupils study in secondary education that is a separate level of education. It includes two study cycles:
- Lower secondary education school (gymnasio).
- Upper secondary education school (lykeio) that can be either general or vocational.
For more information, please visit Chapter 6.
Compulsory education in Greece includes:
- The two-year compulsory attendance for 4 and 5-year-old children in nipiagogeio (pre-school).
- The six-year attendance of pupils in dimotiko scholeio (primary school).
- The three-year attendance of students in gymnasia (lower secondary education schools).
Curricula are centrally developed and nationally implemented for all schools at all levels of Greek education.
The objectives of pre-school and primary schools
The purpose of pre-schooling is to help children develop physically, emotionally, mentally and socially (law 1566/1985) and in particular:
- Develop pupils' senses and organise their actions, motor and mental skills.
- Hepl pupils enrich and organise their experiences from the natural and social environment and acquire social and communication skills.
- Develop the ability to comprehend and express themselves with symbols particularly in the fields of language, mathematics and aesthetics.
- Establish interpersonal relationships that will help them to integrate gradually and harmoniously into society.
- Develop initiatives freely and effortlessly in an organised environment and adjust in the two-way relation between individual and group.
Dimotiko scholeio (primary school)
Primary education aims at the mental and physical development of children (law 1566/1985). In particular, primary school helps pupils:
- Broaden their creative activity, as they relate with the things, situations and phenomena they study.
- Build up the mechanisms that will help them assimilate knowledge, develop physically and improve their physical and mental health.
- Conquer the content of the most basic concepts and gradually acquire the ability to move from the data of the senses to abstract thinking.
- Acquire the ability to use oral and written language correctly.
- Become gradually familiar with moral, religious, national, humanitarian and other values and organise them into a value system.
- Cultivate their aesthetic judgement, so as to appreciate works of art and express themselves accordingly through their own artistic creations.
Reforms and policies
The last years have seen a series of reform interventions in pre-school and primary education:
A) The establishment of the two-year attendance at nipiagogeio for 4-year-old children, which was fully implemented from school year 2021-2022. The aim is:
- To meet social needs.
- To compensate for the inequalities provided by the different social backgrounds students come from.
B) The implementation of the reformed all-day pre-school education and primary school (Law 4957/2022). This pilot programme, which offers extended school hours until 5.30 pm (up to 2 hours extra), was implemented in school year 2022-23 in approximately 50% of the classes that operate today as all-day, i.e. in almost 5,000 classes in Athens, Thessaloniki and other regions. This important reform introduced a new revised and enriched teaching programme on an expanded daily timetable. The aim is:
- to extend the teaching time for study/preparation in language and mathematics, while enriching it with a significant number of creative and engaging activities, such as robotics, experiments, world wide web, crafts and constructions, musical instruments etc.
- to make good use of the time pupils spend in the afternoons at school. Hence, it relieves the family’s financial burden. Parents do not need to search for extra educational services beyond the school environment.
C) Moreover the expansion of the optional all-day school in pre-school/kindergarten aims at fully preparing the children to enter primary school, to provide quality and creative learning experiences through play, to creatively utilise children's free time and ultimately to improve children’s communication skills. Another important aim is also to support the family and especially the working parents.
D) The support framework for school units and educational work shifts from single-person bodies to an interactive and dynamic relationship between the school and support structures (law 4547/2018). Schools adjust their needs according to their annual planning of the educational work and ask for help by the support structures. The latter respond efficiently and at the same time reinforce reforms within their regional planning and support from the directorates of education.
Additionally, educational goals, pedagogical practices, examination types and formative assessment (law 4823/2021) are shaped by school units and groups of schools with the co-operation of:
- Interdisciplinary Assessment, Counselling and Support Centres (KEDASY)
- Environment and Sustainability Training Centres (KEPEA)
- Education Consultants, Regional Education Quality Supervisors and Education Quality Supervisors.
It is anticipated that this reform will create a new dynamic in the Greek educational system.
In parallel with public pre-school and primary education, private pre-schools/kindergartens and primary schools also operate, which do not belong to the state. These are established and maintained by natural or legal persons. More details are available in Chapter 2.4.