Athens News: 14 March 1998

The Rigours of Teaching in Greece
by Andrew Leech (


Reading  a poignant letter, recently, regarding problems faced by non-EU teachers married to Greeks, reminded me of how all non-Greeks (before Greece joined the EU) had faced the same bureaucracy for years. The truth is the cards are well stacked against the foreign teacher in Greece. While school owners want at least one foreign teacher, concurrently they don’t want them obtaining any rights that might eventually lead to opening schools of their own; and whatever party is in power won’t risk losing votes from a sizable and vocal part of the community.

EU teachers have fought for the last 17 years to get the few privileges they enjoy now: worse than that of the Greek, but better than that offered the non-EU teacher. Unfortunately, the long line of unemployed Greek teachers fans a fear against easing restrictions (leading to injustice to some, particularly foreign spouses of Greek nationals) which, though alleged to contravene the Maastricht agreement, are considered a necessary political and economic expediency; and no politician is willing to espouse a cause that can only result in the loss of votes. Greece continues to base its stand and reasoning on the fact that any person (Greek, non-Greek, or Greek from abroad) wishing to obtain a Greek teaching licence has always had to satisfy the requirements of Apolitirion, Ptychio or Ellinomatheia (even before Greece joined the EU).  

Along with 86 others, I elected to try my luck at the Ellinomatheia just to remove myself from the annual September bureaucratic hassle. Taking a deep breath, I decided to learn Greek as thoroughly as I could and take an exam that would put me on a par with Greek teachers. I chose the Elllinomatheia, rather than the Apolitirion as it didn’t contain Ancient Greek. Exam dates are March and October and further information and past exam papers are available on tel:  323-7860 at the Ministry of Education, Dept of Secondary Education (Deutero Bathmias), 15 Mitropoleos St, Athens, where candidates also apply to sit  the exam. For Apolitirion you merely contact any Lykeio near you.

Those who had taken the trouble to obtain and read the pamphlet given out by  the Ministry, detailing past exam questions, knew that it would be no cakewalk; but, on copying down the questions being squeakily chalked onto the blackboard (no modern whiteboard trash, here!), we soon realised this was definitely going to tax our skills to the limit and prove who had studied thoroughly and who had not. Those who had hoped to sail through on sheer linguistic ability alone were going to be sharply disappointed — it would be a solid knowledge of Greek History and Culture, coupled with linguistic knowledge, that ensured a pass.

The essay question was: the role of ethics in child education and its use as a weapon to combat crime in modern society, and the 3 history questions were:

(1) the consequences of the Peloponnesian War, for the States concerned and for Hellenism

(2) the meaning and consequences of the achievements and civilization of Alexander the Great for the spread of Hellenism

(3) the consequences to Hellenism  of the Asia Minor Catastrophe

We had 4 hours to complete both History and Essay questions, and there were no limits to length. As one of the examiners said:"the concept of a 500 word essay is an Anglo-Saxon  one — we want as much as you feel you need to express the topic satisfactorily."  And the feeling starting to radiate round the room  was of being among the 300 Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae ! Our Ephialtis had arrived!

5 pages later, after two and a half hours of writing History, my arm ached; the hand shaking like an alcoholic in the final stages of delirium tremens, from the strain of tightly squeezing the pen. I felt a throbbing in my temples and around me was the smell of sour, cold sweat. But the essay still had to be written. I looked at it for half an hour, but not a single word would suggest itself. My mind was totally blank: a classic case of what the Greek student calls "trak". I felt I would fail, but I didn't care; I just wanted to get out of there — and sleep.

Then, spasmodically, one word came and was quickly scratched onto paper, then another. A pause, then another. And, finally, wheezing, jerking and blowing  like a recalcitrant steam engine coming to life after 3 decades of mothballs, I was rumbling down the track — the sharp clack of my pen bonking down the tone marks with the regularity of iron wheels crossing wooden sleepers.

"There are 10 minutes left, please check your work." I tried to concentrate and reread. Is this letter correct? Was it an ipsilon or an iota? Should this be an omega or an omicron? I tried to distance myself from the thoughts of the content and concentrate on technique. Did the sentence hang together? Was there too much translation? Had I used idiom correctly? I wanted to coolly criticize and analyze, just as I'd tried to teach my students, but there was too much emotion and I couldn't concentrate. The end came, and the  badly checked,  worse re-checked and oh-hang -it-all-and-take-the-bloody-paper was collected; and I was free to numbly stumble down the stairs.

In class, that evening, I gave the same questions to my CPE Class. No problems there with answering, but they pointed out that 2 of the questions had been set in the previous year's Panhellenic Exams, and closely questioned me on what and how I'd answered.

Next morning, we all gathered in  the school yard. Some were casually drinking coffee, others swotting up last minute facts from bundles of notes. Then, the first group was called.  There were 3 examiners and the candidates were examined in groups of 4.

The questions ranged from a gamut that included: how often the Ionian Islands had been invaded, when and where the 1821 Revolution had started and its major figures, the ancient dramatists and their works, the Iliad and the Odyssey, Greek poets, the Persian Wars, the 2nd World War etc, and some vocabulary questions such as: explain the meaning of diapistephtiria (credentials) and enkathidrisi (installation of an incumbent in office); which were followed by a personal discussion of the candidate's background. This oral examination took about 20 minutes.

46 out of 86 passed. I can't answer for anyone else but, with hindsight, I found the experience a very rewarding one. Although, as teachers, we are constantly aware of what our students have to face, these memories become fainter with the passage of time until, at last, they assume the nostalgic facade we imbue them with .The sudden shock and harsh reality of actually facing such an exam, where your chances are on a par with your students, is a re-recording of those memories, but with the nostalgia removed and reality substituted. It is teacher training in vivo, with all its sweat and blood.

Apart from the spiritual value of passing the exam the practical one is that you can apply for a Greek teaching licence on the basis of your qualifications and never have to repeat the bureaucracy in your lifetime. You also have the possibility of opening your own school should you be fool enough to wish to do so and be taxed at rates the Government think you earn which are not negotiable (objective criteria); but that is another story!


Regulations for Employment of Teachers:

EU teacher: Teaching Licence (applied for by frontistirio, not teacher, to Ministry of Education and requiring certified copy of degree, CV,contract and “declaration of suitability as teacher”. Licence renewed annually and subject to ‘1 in 10 rule’ — I foreign to 10 Greek teachers . Needs annual medical exam, registration with Ministry of Labour and IKA.

non-EU Teacher: as above but with addition of work-permit (applied for by frontistirio to Ministry of Labour and renewed on annual basis);

Greek Teachers (and holders of Ellinomatheia):submission of photocopy of teaching licence, registration with Ministry of Labour and IKA.

NB1  Greek teachers may obtain a teaching licence on submission of a university degree or a Cambridge or Michigan proficiency certificate. Non-Greek teachers must have a degree in a language-related subject.

NB2  According to the Ministry of Education, non-Greeks cannot be employed at state or private schools, unless those operate a frontistirio department as well.

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This information was checked with the Ministry of Education (Dept C, Private Education, tel:323 1883 and confirmed by fax. Copies of Ministry docs (in file TEACHLIC.doc) follow on page 3.

The undermentioned is the only information/ list of requirements  given/requested by Ministry of Education for the teaching of languages in Greece. The first are employment regulations for non-Greeks, the second the requirements for a Greek teaching licence.

Απαιτούμενα δικαιολογιτικά για την πρόσληψη αλλοδαπού σε φροντιστήρια

Α  1. Θεωρημένο αντίγραφο Πανεπιστημιακού διπλώματος του αλλοδαπού ή πτυχίου Παιδαγωγικής Ακαδημίας               ή  πτυχίο Ανωτάτης Σχολής.

2. Επίσημη μετάφραση του ξενόγλωσσου τίτλου.

3.   Βιογραφικό σημείωμα του αλλοδαπού.

4.   Πιστοποιητικό υγείας του αλλοδαπού από εξωτερικά Ιατρεία Νοσοκομείου.

5.   Ονομαστική κατάσταση των ελλήνων καθηγητών που απασχολούνατι στο φροντιστήριο θεωρημένη από τον επόπτη εργασίας.

6.   Σύμβαση εργασίας ιδιοκτήτη και αλλοδαπού.

7.   Υπεύθυνη δήλωση του άρθρου 8 του ν. 1599/1989 του ιδιοκτήτη του φροντιστηρίου ότι, ο αλλοδαπός κρίνεται κατάλληλος.

8.   Αίτηση αλλοδαπού προς το φροντιστήριο για πρόσληψη.

Β. Για παράταση άδειας αλλοδαπού (ής) υποβάλεται όλα τα παραπάνω δικαιολογητικά πλην των 1, 2 και 3 περιπτώσεων και αντί αυτών υποβάλεται η προηγούμενη έγκριση της υπηρεσίας για την πρόσληψη του αλλοδαπόυ.

Χρόνος απάντησης: 30 ημέρες

Πληροφορίες πρέχονται: από τη Διευθυνση Ιδιωτικής Εκαπαίθδευσης Τμήμα Φροντιστηρίων τηλ. 32 31 656, από το φραφείο ενημέρωσης πολιτών (ΓΕΠΟ) καθημερινά 9 - 2, τηλ. 32 52 001, 32 30 461, 32 30 861 και από τα γραφεία και τις διευθύνσεις δευτεροβάθμιας εκαπάιδευσης.

Στη σελίδα αυτή να επικιλληθούν τα ένσημα εκαιδευτικών τελών

Α. Για τη χορήγηση επάρκειας διδασκαλίας ξένης γλώσσας χρειάζονται τα εξής διακιολογιτικά:

1.   Αίτηση του ενδιαφερομένου

2.   Φωτοαντίγραφο ξενόγλωσσου τίτλου σπουδών θεωρημένο για την γνησιότητά του από το μορφωτικό ακόλουθο της Πρεσβείας ή τα κατά τόπους προξενεία της χώρας από την οποία προέρχεται.

3.   Επίσημη μετάφραση του ξενόγλωσου τίτλου σπουδών από την αρμόδια Υπηρεσία του Υπουργείου Εξωτερικών (οδός Βουκουρεστίου 3).

4.   Φωτοαντίγραφο θεωρημένο απολυτηρίου Ελληνικού Λυκείου ή εξαταξίου Γυμνασίου ή πτυχίου Ελληνικού Πανεπιστημίου ή βεβαίωση γνώσης της Ελληνικής γλώσσας και ιστορίας.

5.   Φωτοαντίγραφο Θεωρημένο Αστυνομικής Ταυτότητας ή Διαβατηρίου.

6.   Ενσημα εκπαιδευτικών τελών 2.000 δραχμών, τα οποία πρέπει να επικολληθούν στη σελίδα αυτή.

Β. Τα υποβληθέντα διακαιλογητικά δεν επιστρέφονται

Γ. Τυχόν διευκρινίσεις παρέχονται:

1.   Από τη διεύθυνση Ιδιωτικής Εκαπαίδευσης - Τμήμα Φροντιστηρίων: Ερμού 15, καθημερινά 12 - 14.30’

 τηλ. 32 31 656

2.   Από τα γραφεία Ενημέρωσης Πολιτών (ΓΕΠΟ), Ερμού 15 - 1ος όροφος καθημερινά 9 - 14.30’

     τηλ. 32 52 001, 32 30 461, 32 30 861.

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