Education in Greece - 1883 Pamphlet published by U.S. Government Printing Office


by Professor Pio, of Denmark, in a recent number of the Hamburger Korrespondenz.

Reprinted by the United States, Department of the Interior, Bureau of Education, and Commissioner James Eaton. - Government Printing Office, 1883

A great stumbling block to learning is said to be the use of modern Greek in conversation and ancient Greek in official and social correspondence.  Even adults find that this creates a difficulty, and for children it is especially hard to overcome.  Compulsory education for children between 5 and 12 years of age is a feature of the law since 1834.  Yet even the fine of 50 francs for any infringement of the law has no material effect, and it practically remains a dead letter on the statute books.  The people will not pay the fine, so the officials forget to enforce the penalty.  Certain studies are required by law, but theory and practice seem to differ.  The law specifies the following subjects for common schools:  The catechism, elementary Greek, writing, arithmetic, weights and measures, linear drawing, singing, and, "when convenient," the elements of geography, history of the country, and the elementary training most needed in natural sciences; for boys there are these additional branches:  gymnastics, practical agriculture, horticulture, arboriculture, beekeeping, and silk culture; for girls, practical instruction in handiwork.  In reality no instruction is given in gymnastics, at least the writer of this article has seen nothing of the kind, either in the common or higher schools.  In the district schools many of the above mentioned branches are taughts; in the village schools the limit is reading and writing (not very correct chirography, either), and the fundamental rules of arithmetic in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.  After 1834 many of the schools were subdivided into schools for girls and schools for boys, yet many mixed schools existed.  As the years went on the people revolted against the coeducation of the sexes, so that, by law of 1852, a separation took place and a philanthropic society took charge of education of girls.  In Greece, the connecting link between the common (elementary), middle (Hellenic), and higher schools (gymnasia) is an established fact.  In the Hellenic schools, which are similar in grade to the lower Gymnasien of Germany, instruction is given in ancient Greek, biblical history, ancient Greek history, with short exercises in more modern history, in geography, arithmetic, and geometry.  French is taught from the second school year, while pupils fitting for the gymnasium take up Latin from the third year.  The course of study in the gymnasium includes reading from Greek authors, with grammatical instruction (12 hours a week), Latin (4 hours a week), French, history, algebral, geometry, trigonometry, and mathemmatical geography; also, natural history, physics, psychology, logic, and religious instruction.  According to the school law of 1836 German, drawing, painting, amd music are also to be taught, but they do not enter into the course.  In theory the Hellenic (middle) schools require a good deal of their pupils, but, on account of the scarcity of scholars, this course of study is rarely carried out.  In a gymnasium the pupils are expected to be very thorough, and the requirements are considerable, but the lack here is in the culture of the teaching force.  Tuition fees are the order of the day in the lower grades, but instruction is free in the middle and higher schools.  In the matter of punishment a very humane course is pursued, the law forbidding corporal punishment.  Unfortunately this phase of law does not seem to be appreciated by the school children, for they are reported as lacking greatly in discipline.  According to official statements the illiteracy among the people, estimated on the basis of those supposed to attend the lower public schools, is as follows:  In the district of Thebes, as in the Peloponnesus, the percentage of population regarded as illiterate is 90 to 95 percent; in other districts, 75 to 90 percent; and where more favorable reports are received - as in Attica - 55 to 60 percent, can neither read nor write.  The contrast in the education of the sexes is quite noticeable.  For instance, in Attica and Ithaca, where more than half of the men have some education, there are few districts in which more than 30 percent of the women are educated, while often only 1 to 2 percent have been instructed.  As an offset to the statements of a lack of education mentioned above, reports indicate that private schools are flourishing.  The philanthropic society associated in the work of providing a suitable education for girls developed many private institutions.  These are laying a foundation for a higher order of culture than is found elsewhere.