Who Needs Greek to Teach English?

Greece faces European Union court action if it does not scrap a Greek-language
requirement for foreign-language teachers

By Kathy Tzilivakis ktzilivakis@athensnews.eu

THE EUROPEAN Commission is threatening to take Greece to court over legislation requiring all non-Greek nationals teaching English and other foreign languages in Greece to demonstrate fluency in the Greek language.

This controversial requirement has been in force since 1985. The law says a Greek-language proficiency certificate issued by the education ministry is one of the main stipulations for the issuing of a licence to teach at a private foreign­language school, or frontistirio in Greek. It is a requirement for all foreign-language teachers, including Greek citizens, who have not completed secondary school in Greece.

The commission has formally called on Greece to amend the law on the grounds that it violates EU directive 2005/36/EC on the recognition of professional qualifications and the EU treaty guaranteeing the free movement of workers.

"The right of member states to require a certain level of knowledge of their national language is not unconditional and must be proportionate and necessary for the job in

question," said the commission in a statement issued on June 25. "The general requirement for all foreign teachers to have an excellent knowledge of Greek independently of the framework in which they are exercising their profession and the scope of their teaching activities is considered disproportionate."

Now Greece has two months to amend the 1985 law. If it does not, the commission will refer the matter to the European Court of Justice.

According to the education ministry, the Greek-language exam is based on vocabulary and other material that is found in the Greek public school's Grade 9 (the first year of secondary school) grammar and essay textbook. The oral portion of the examination includes a series of questions about each candidate.

Critics say the legislation is being used to exclude them from a competitive and lucrative, multimillion-euro industry. Greek households spend 500 million euros each year on tuition fees for private-language frontistiria, according to the National Statistical Agency. A report published by the education ministry's pedagogical institute in 2005 says some 8,000 frontistiria operate in Greece.


In 1997, the European Commission threatened Greece with financial penalties over the Greek certificate requirement for those wanting to open a frontistirio or to be a director or teacher in such schools. The commission issued the following statement: "Greece adopted in 1994 a decree concerning the setting up and running of frontistiria, which suppresses the explicit nationality clause. However, the 1994 decree still requires people directing, teaching in or setting up a private school to possess a certificate issued by the ministry of education concerning a person's knowledge of Greek language and history. To obtain the certificate, people must pass an examination set by the education ministry. The commission considers that this legislation does not adequately conform to the requirements of the court rulings, in so far as it continues to discriminate against nationals of other member states."

(Posting Date 14 September 2009 )

HCS readers can view other excellent articles by this writer in the News & Issues and other sections of our extensive, permanent archives at the URL http://www.helleniccomserve.com./contents.html
. The author is a journalist and writer for the English-language Athens News. Readers enjoying this article may wish to view other fine selections or to subscribe to this publication by visiting the website http://www.athensnews.gr.

All articles of Athens News appearing on HCS have been reprinted with permission.

2000 © Hellenic Communication Service, L.L.C. All Rights Reserved.