Expat parents moving to Greece are faced with a difficult choice. Public schools in Greece only teach in Greek. Still, public schooling is arguably the most authentic way for expat children to integrate into Greek society and learn the language – all 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.
All children between six and 15 years old are required to attend school. During these years, public schooling is tuition-free.
Public schools in Greece
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
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.
It's not uncommon for expat and even local parents with children in Greek public schools to 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.
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 the highest 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 but are generally high 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.
Special-needs education in Greece
Greece's policies for special-needs education are largely focused on the integration of students with special needs into mainstream schooling. There are various levels of assistance available, depending on the child's needs.
Children with mild conditions are kept in mainstream classes with numerous accommodations and extra support from the class teacher. In more severe cases, special-needs students in mainstream classes may receive additional parallel support from teachers specifically hired for their expertise in special-needs education. Should more support be required, special-needs students may be placed into 'inclusion classes' in mainstream schools, alongside other students experiencing similar difficulties. Inclusion classes are staffed by special-needs teachers and tailored to the needs of the students.
Those unable to attend a mainstream school may attend a special education school, be taught at home, or educated by a specialised unit within a hospital or institutional setting.
Tutors in Greece
Greek parents with children in public schools frequently make use of tutors as a way to supplement their learning and give them a better chance at achieving high marks in their exams. Expats may find tutors useful to help their children adapt to a new language or curriculum. Some reputable tutoring companies in Greece include Kumon and, for International Baccalaureate learners, Ariston IB.