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I.  Right to Education

The right to education is enshrined in article 16 of the Greek Constitution, which provides as follows:

  • Art, science, research, and teaching shall be free and their development and promotion shall be an obligation of the State.  Academic freedom and the freedom to teach shall not exempt anyone from his or her duty of allegiance to the Constitution.[1]
  • Education is a basic mission of the state and has its objective development of the national, religious conscience and assisting people to become free and responsible citizens.[2]
  • Education is mandatory for the first nine years.[3]
  • All Greeks have the right to free education at all levels in public educational institutions.  The state assists those students who excel as well those who are in financial need or in need of special protection, according to their abilities.[4]
  • Higher education is provided by institutions that are legal entities of public law and are fully self-governed.  Such institutions shall be under the supervision of the state, have the right to be assisted financially, and operate on the basis of statutorily enacted bylaws.  Merging or splitting university level institutions may take place notwithstanding any contrary provisions, as the law shall provide.[5]

Greece is also bound by international agreements that contain the right to education and have been ratified by Greece.  These include the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms,[6] the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,[7] and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.[8]  Such agreements constitute an integral part of the Greek legal order and take precedence over other conflicting domestic legislation.[9]

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II.  Implementing Legislation

The Ministry of Education, Research and Religion is responsible for the overall administration of the Greek education system.[10]  Implementing legislation (laws, decrees, ministerial decisions, and circulars) has been adopted in order to ensure the enforcement of the right to education.

Article 16 of the Greek Constitution and implementing legislation have raised a number of legal issues, first before Greek courts and subsequently before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for final adjudication.  The two ECHR cases cited below deal with the rights of minorities (Roma children) to attend Greek schools:

  • The case of Sampanis v. Greece involved Roma children who were denied access to school and were assigned to special classrooms in an annex to the main primary school buildings.  The ECHR found a violation of article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) in conjunction with article 2 of Protocol No. 1 (right to education) of the European Convention, because the Greek government failed to provide schooling for the children and because it placed them in special classes due to their Roma origin.[11]
  • The case of Lavida and Others v. Greece also concerned the education of Roma children who were restricted to attending a primary school in which the only students attending were Roma children.[12]  The Court held that Greece’s refusal to take any anti-segregation measures implied discrimination and a breach of the right to education.

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Prepared by Theresa Papademetriou
Senior Foreign Law Specialist
May 2016


[2] Id. art. 16, para. 2.

[3] Id. art. 16, para. 3.

[4] Id. art. 16, para. 4.

[5] Id. art. 16, para. 5.

[6] European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Protocol 1, art. 2, Mar. 20, 1952, as amended and supplemented by later Protocols, http://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/Convention_ENG.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/8FNW-B74W.

[7] International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights art. 13, Dec. 16, 1966, entry into force Jan. 3, 1976, 993 U.N.T.S. 3, https://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-3&chapter=4& lang=en, archived at https://perma.cc/C3P9-PTTS.

[8] Convention on the Rights of the Child art. 28, para. 1(a), Nov. 20, 1989, 1577 U.N.T.S. 3, https://treaties.un.org/ Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=IND&mtdsg_no=IV-11&chapter=4&lang=en, archived athttps://perma.cc/ZNC3-4MXC.

[9] Constitution art. 28, para. 1.  

[10] Ministry of Education, Research and Religion, http://www.minedu.gov.gr, archived at https://perma.cc/ CVM2-E8JV.

[11] Information Note, Case of Sampanis v. Greece, Eur. Ct. H.R., App. No. 32526/05, June 5, 2008, http://hudoc.echr. coe.int/eng?i=002-2052, archived at https://perma.cc/B7YV-4E4S.

[12] Affaire Lavida et Autres c. Grèce, Eur. Ct. H.R., App. No. 7973/10, May 30, 2013, http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng? i=001-119974 (in French), archived at https://perma.cc/8AXW-KR8Z.