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I'm almost certain that everyone's educational system can easily be described as ''complicated'', ''exhausting'', or even ''horrible.'' Greece's educational system doesn't escape that particular theory; in fact, I believe it's one of the most complicated systems and it brings students to the point of absolute despair and exhaustion; we have even had suicides because of the so-called dreadful ''panhellenic'' exams; think of the hunger games, only with students crying in fetal position. Now that I got your attention, I shall provide you with the details in the hopes that you will be able to break down the complexity of our system. Here we go.
Greece's educational system consists of three levels: primary, secondary and tertiary.
During the primary education, the child is sent, at first, to kindergarten and then, at the age of 6, goes on to the so called elementary, where they are being taught basic stuff about Greek language, history, math, science, usually at the age of 8 they start teaching the second language which is the English one and RELIGION (LOTS AND LOTS OF IT THROUGHOUT ALL THE LEVELS OF EDUCATION). So far, so good. Everything looks normal. Well, it's about to get bumpy, so fasten your seat belts.
Once the children enter the level of secondary education, teachers and parents prepare them for the panhellenic exams, emphasizing on the fact that their success to these can determine the rest of their lives. From the safe and calm environment of the elementary school, they are being thrown to a ''shark tank'', where they must learn how to write and understand ancient Greek, comprehend complex mathematical, biological, physical and chemistry terms, learn by heart endless - and I mean endless - pages on RELIGION (YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT WE GO THROUGH) and history; usually classes last from 8 am till 3 pm with 3 breaks of 15 minutes in between classes. During their junior high school years, most kids are introduced to '' frodistiria'', the most stable companion of all high school students; basically it's like private (yep, you have to pay your own actual money) after school classes where a small or smaller number of students gathers to have additional work and practise as much as they can so they'll be prepared for the exams that take place every 4 months throughout the school year. Basically, we are talking about classes from 8 am till 3 pm, then an hour or two to rest at home and then a few hours of extra school (though that is more intense in high school). Like I mentioned before, during junior high, all students must take the exams twice, once every 4 months. If the students fail they are called to take the repetitive exams during September and if they fail again, they must repeat the class. It'd be wrong not to mention that students who attend public schools are often faced with somewhat ''peculiar'' circumstances. Many times throughout the year the students decide to go on strikes refusing to step inside the classes, they occupy the school building with signs, banners and posters demanding that their demands are met; and often, they have serious reasons. You see, the Greek government never hires enough teachers which means that thousands of students are left with no one to teach them. Matters are even worse for those who reside in less populated areas, such as the islands. For example, there is a small island where there is only one teacher for all the kids.
During the second year of high school,students realise that the inevitable end is near. Crazy study hours, immense pressure from everyone and your own desperation that your are a worthless dumb who should hide in a cave till everything is over. Students are divided in classes according to their ''orientations''. We have the theoretical, or humanitarian one, where the subjects being taught are, ancient Greek, modern Greek literature, Latin, history, and a subject of personal choice which can be even from the other orientations: history (not many choose it), physics (I have no idea why some choose this one), mathematics, literature or biology with the most popular ones being the third and the last one. The second one is the orientation that has to do with the health professions. Subjects that are being taught: biology, chemistry, physics , math (optional) and modern Greek. If a student decides to take additionally mathematics, they basically "unlock" another orientation, that has to do with teaching. Same subjects are being taught. The fourth one is the technological, where they are being taught physics, math, modern Greek and computers. NOTE: every orientation provides the same free lessons of personal choice.
Now, let me introduce you to the ''hell year'', '' dooms year'', ''the end of life as we know it '', the ''Sleep? What is this thing that you speak of?'', or, a personal favorite of mine, ''the year I gained 30 kilos and shall not be talked about again''.
You're 17 going to 18. During your last high school year nothing and I mean NOTHING exists, except for school and studying. It's basically one vicious cycle; wake up, eat, school, frodistirio, study, eat, eat, eat repeat. School lasts from 8 am till 4 pm, with endless work, exercises, and teachers and family treating you like a fragile little nugget that's about to be sent into the grinding machine; not far from what you're about to face. Panhellenic exams take place at the same time all over Greece. The government declares which schools shall be used as exam centers. Usually they take place in May-June. Each exam lasts approximately for about 3 hours; from personal experience of having taken these exams twice, I'd say that its nowhere near enough. Especially for the theoretical orientation, where we have to answer SO MANY THINGS. When the exams start, all students go to the exam schools with their fellow classmates, they are being sat alphabetically, with their names being on a sticker on their desks and they go over the rules with the attendees. I've been through a lot, but I have to admit that the panhellenic exams have been the most stressful event of my life. Once the exams are completed, the students take the exams of their school, which basically consists of subjects of general knowledge. Then they must wait for about a month or two till the results are out.
That leads us to the third level of education: university.
Though we have a pretty high level of education and first class professors, we are lacking dramatically when it comes to the infrastructures. Broken down buildings, no heat during the winter, no air conditioning during the summer, many garbages build up adding to the chaos and my personal worst, the internal political parties. Yes, you read that correctly. Each political party has its own team within the universities, polytechnical schools, technological institutions etc. that consists of students where they basically try to get more voters for each political party, some try to lure the new students with notes on the subjects or by offering to take them out for a coffee, or by inviting them to their parties. There is great bigotry and students are divided in fronts, refusing to hang out with people from other political parties. Some times they even get physical with each other (and not in a good way). Like on all levels of education, we have also here the elections ,where students vote for president ,vice president ,general secretary and treasurer (I was elected the president of my high school class and the president for the entire junior high). Another usual phenomenon is anarchists invading the public buildings, occupying them, going on strikes, and basically burning down everything.
The positive is that we are offered free education and free books throughout all levels of education and in times like ours, we can only be thankful!!!