Refugee Education in Greece: Integration or Segregation

Giorgos Simopoulos and Antonios Alexandridis

Forced Migration Review, Issue 60, March 2019


Although education policies in Greece have been designed to integrate refugee children into the public schools, they have resulted in the segregation of refugee children living in reception centers by creating separate afternoon classes in nearby public schools outside of regular hours. While this parallel system was devised to minimize potential tensions with host communities, nevertheless there were many incidents (some violent) and the system has further stigmatized refugees. Students enrolled in separate afternoon classes have had limited educational achievements and poor development of language skills (due to limited interaction with Greek-speakers), which has reduced students’ motivation. In contrast, refugee students living in urban areas have been able to integrate into pubic schools supported by morning reception classes, helping them to interact more effectively and improve their language and social skills. The authors note that the number of refugee students is only a small fraction of the 150,000 immigrant (including refugee) students that have been integrated into public schools since 1995, for whom it was not felt necessary to develop a special educational framework. The authors recommend: (a) integrating refugee children into the morning programs in public schools (acknowledging that separate afternoon classes may be necessary for large reception centers whose student populations cannot be absorbed by local schools, but that these should be a short term solution until students can be transferred to morning schools); increasing the number of morning reception classes; training and access to interpreters for schools and teachers; removing barriers to enrollment in upper secondary and tertiary education for children without documents; integrating pre-school-aged refugee students into public pre-schools; and progressive transition for students from reception classes to regular classes.