In Greece, the entire educational system is under state supervision, according to article 16 of the Constitution. The state has undertaken the “fundamental mission” of educating its citizens and education is a right of everyone, as well as a social benefit. The two main institutions responsible for the implementation of public policy in this crucial sector are the Ministry of National Education and Religion and the Pedagogical Institute.
The literacy rate among the population is more than 97%, not amazing for a country where school attendance is compulsory for a full 9 years, i.e. from the age of 6 when primary schooling begins up to the age of 15. This period consists of two phases: the first phase is the 6-year Dimotiko (primary school) with about 650,000 pupils today. There are approximately 6200 primary schools. The second phase is the 3-year Gymnasio (lower secondary school), with about 39,000 pupils today attending over 1800 schools. The non-compulsory higher secondary school is the 3-year Lykeio, with about 270,000 pupils today attending over 1200 schools (both public and private). Tertiary education comprises 18 Universities (Panepistimia-AEI) with 110,000 graduate and post-graduate students and 14 Technical Educational Institutes (TEI) with 55,000 students. In addition, at least 30,000 young Greeks are studying in universities abroad.
Although there exist and function —under the above-mentioned state supervision— many private primary and secondary schools, tertiary education institutions (AEI-TEI) are still public by constitutional mandate but also completely self-governed. University attendance for all students, regardless of their social status, is entirely free of charge, excluding a few highly sought-after post-graduate courses, especially in politics, media, economics and management. Enrolment depends upon strict and written examinations held every summer on a national level.
In the past decade, post-graduate studies have been organized in almost every university department and they offer both Master's and Ph.D. degrees, the completion of the former now being a necessary condition for admission to the latter. Even tertiary education for grown ups —which is not, however, free of charge— is now offered to those interested, by the newly formed EAP (Greek Open University). This can lead to both undergraduate and post-graduate (Master's only, not Ph.D.) titles in many fields.