Context Education

Education in Greece

All children in Greece, including refugees and asylum seekers, have the right to enroll in public schools.



The legislative framework (mainly Law 1566/1985, Law 2910/2001) in Greece guarantees access to education for all children, citizen or foreigner in a compulsory manner from the age of 6 to the age of 15 regardless of legal or illegal residence of the parents in the country. Compulsory education includes pre-primary (one year), primary (six years) and lower secondary education (three years). Upper secondary education (three years) is optional and includes general upper secondary school and technical vocational school.

The arrival and presence of a great number of repatriated Greek diaspora during the 1980s but also migrant children of school age with a mother tongue different than the Greek language made it necessary for the Greek state to adopt educational measures to deal with the new school reality in order to support the inclusion of these children into formal education.
Throughout the ‘90s, the ongoing influx of repatriated and migrant children urged the adoption of a flexible teaching scheme of operation of Reception Classes.
The unprecedented influx of migrants and refugees in 2015 in Greece urged for an immediate response to the new circumstances. In 2016 the Greek Asylum Service received a total number of 51.091 asylum applications of which 14.806 were children aged 0-13 and 4.915 between 14-17 years old. According to the last registered data of the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT), in the academic year 2018-2019 a total of 1.461.857 students were enrolled in the Formal Education System. Out these, 54.137 were foreign origin students. 

Law 3966/2011 established the Institute of Educational Policy which is up to date the established scientific body that supports the Ministry of Education, Research and Religions in matters related to all educational levels aiming to guarantee the access to education for all children residing in Greece.

With the Law 4415/2016, Reception Facilities training programme for education of refugees named DYEP was established. This educational one year programme aimed to operate as preparatory year (afternoon classes) that would enable the smoother integration of refugee and migrant children into mainstream classes in Greek schools. Classes can take place in public schools, neighbouring camps or hotspots, for children aged 4-15 years old.

According to the Joint Ministerial Decision no. 152360/ΓΔ4 in every school unit located near reception centers an independent refugee reception and education facility would be established. Furthermore, for children aged between 4-5 years old staying in accommodation centers, reception and education facilities were established as nursery schools’ departments that will function within the limits of accommodation centers.

The Ministerial Decision no. 131024/Δ1 defines as Educational Priority Zones all Primary and Secondary Education Regional Directorates where Reception Classes and Reinforcing Coaching Classes for refugee children can be hosted. EPZs aimed to support education of refugee children by learning Greek as a second language and organizing programs, educational interventions and activities.
Finally, an important element guaranteed in 2016 was that foreign pupils can be enrolled in secondary schools in the country anytime during the school year.

Therefore, the educational scheme for refugee education was composed by three basic forms:

  1. Reception and Education facilities (mostly in accommodation centers);
  2. Reception Classes (Level I & II, exclusively in school structures);
  3. Reinforcing Coaching Classes (exclusively in school structures);

Furthermore, the MoE established the Scientific Committee for the support of education of refugee children in March 2016 with the goal of providing guidance on the refugee education response. One of the most helpful mechanisms in accelerating progress is the appointment of Regional Education Coordinators (RECs) to liaise between the formal education system and refugee families.

Although a lot of steps and innovative interventions and measures have been introduced in the Greek educational system in order to facilitate the access of all non-Greek speaking children to the formal education, it seems that their attendance and furthermore performance has been hindered by several factors.
The implementation of the educational programme (DYEP) followed a slow pace, especially in the initial phase. This could be justified by the very short preparation period for the hosting schools and the lack of proper official information to the local communities. Additionally, it has been reported that DYEP classes, instead of enabling educational integration of refugee students, created segregation and stigmatized them.
In general, the number of children residing in the RICs and Facilities that are enrolled in schools is dramatically far from their actual attendance, and the situation worsened with the spread of Covid-19.


On the 10th of March 2020 all educational institutions of all levels were closed temporarily, and their operation was On the 10th of March 2020 all educational institutions of all levels were closed temporarily, and their operation was suspended. Instead, the Ministry of Education and Religion Affairs started an electronic distance learning that would replace the in-person school program of all levels (pre-primary, primary, secondary and tertiary). Since March 2020 up today, this distance learning program has been on and off given the ongoing pandemic and measures imposed by the Government of Greece to reduce the spread of the Covid-19 virus. 

The unprecedented lockdown conditions have created various challenges for the Greek state and for the school aged children and even more for the most vulnerable groups of the TCNs, who found themselves at an increased risk of educational and social exclusion. According to the Greek Ombudsman’s report on 11/03/2021, attending courses through distance learning remained extremely problematic for the enrolled children residing in the Facilities (Camps), if not impossible, for a number of reasons: lack of access to internet in many Facilities, poor connection in most, lack of equipment (tablet, mobile or landline phone, computer). 

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