Comparison of Greek, Italian and Hungarian Secondary education systems

Greek educational system

Secondary education

Secondary education includes two cycles of study:


The first one is compulsory and corresponds to gymnasio (lower secondary school).

  • It lasts 3 years
  • It provides general education
  • It covers ages 12-15
  • It is a prerequisite for enrolling at general or vocational upper secondary schools
  • Parallel to day gymnasio, evening (esperino) gymnasio operates.  Attendance starts at the age of 14.


The second one is the optional geniko or epangelmatiko lykeio (general or vocational upper secondary school).

  • It lasts 3 years
  • Pupils enrol at the age of 15
  • There are two different types:
  1. Geniko (general) lykeio. It lasts 3 years and includes both common core subjects and optional subjects of specialisation
  2. Epangelmatiko (vocational) lykeio. It offers two cycles of studies:
  1. The secondary cycle
  2. The optional post-secondary cycle, the so-called “apprenticeship class”.

Parallel to day lykeia, there are also:

  1. Esperina genika (evening general) lykeia
  2. Esperina epangelmatika (evening vocational) lykeia.

Post-secondary education

  1. Institouta epangelmatikis katartisis – IEK (vocational training institutes) are the main providers of post-secondary non-tertiary education. They operate in the non-formal education framework. They lead to the acquisition of nationally recognised certificates.
  2. Kollegia (colleges) provide non-formal post-secondary education and training and are part of the private sector.  They award degrees, titles, study certificates or any other certificate which can be recognised as professionally equivalent to higher education degrees awarded by the Greek formal education system.

Italian educational system

First cycle of education

The first cycle of education is compulsory and is made up of primary and lower secondary education.

Primary education (scuola primaria) starts at 6 years of age and lasts 5 years.

Lower secondary education (scuola secondaria di I grado) starts at 11 years of age and lasts 3 years.

Within the first cycle, students pass from one level to the next one without exams. At the end of the first cycle of education, students who pass the final state examination progress directly to the second cycle of education, the first two years of which are compulsory.

Second cycle of education

The second cycle of education starts at the age of 14 and offers two different pathways:

  • the upper secondary school education
  • the regional vocational training system (IFP).

The first two years of the second cycle of education are compulsory.

The upper secondary school education (scuola secondaria di II grado) offers both general (liceo) and vocational (technical and vocational) programmes. Courses last 5 years. At the end of the upper secondary school education, students who successfully pass the final exam, receive a certificate that gives them access to higher education.

The regional vocational training system (IFP) offers three or four-year courses organised by accredited training agencies or by upper secondary schools. At the end of regional courses, learners receive a qualification that gives them access to second-level regional vocational courses or, under certain conditions, short-cycle courses at higher education level.

Post-secondary non-tertiary education

The post-secondary non-tertiary level, offers courses within the Higher technical education and training system (IFTS) and within the vocational training system managed by the Regions.

The Higher technical education and training system (IFTS) aims mainly at developing professional specialisations at post-secondary level that meet the requirements of the labour market, both in the public and private sectors. In particular, courses focus on the organisation of services, of local bodies and productive sectors undergoing deep technological innovations due to the globalization of markets. They are organised according to the priorities indicated by the economic planning at regional level.

The Regions organise short vocational training courses (400-800 hours) addressed to those who hold a qualification obtained either in the regional or in the State vocational training system. They are also called ‘second-level’ vocational training courses. They are organised with funds coming from the European Social Fund and aim at the acquisition of high-level theoretical, technical and managerial skills, also through practical work and stages in enterprises, to meet the professional needs of specific sectors.

Hungarian educational system

Secondary education

Primary and lower secondary education (ISCED 1, 2) is organised as a single-structure system in 8-grade basic schools (általános iskola) (typically for pupils aged 6-14, covering grades 1-8).

Upper secondary education (ISCED 3, typically for pupils aged 14-18, usually covering grades 9-12) is provided by general secondary schools (gimnázium), vocational secondary schools (szakgimnázium) or vocational schools (szakközépiskola) or vocational school for special education (szakiskola). However, general secondary schools are also allowed to offer longer programmes starting earlier (from Grade 5 or 7).

General secondary schools provide general education and prepare for the secondary school leaving examination, which is the prerequisite for admission to higher education. Secondary vocational schools provide general and pre-vocational education, prepare for the secondary school leaving examination and offer vocational post-secondary non-tertiary programmes (ISCED 4). Vocational schools provide general, pre-vocational and vocational education and may also provide remedial lower secondary general education for those who have not accomplished basic school. Students can continue their studies to get upper secondary general school examination certificate after finishing their vocational programme.

As a tradition of more than 50 years, upper-secondary education (ISCED 3) typically starts from grade 9 in Hungary after completing the 8-grade single-structure educational phase (i.e. primary and lower secondary, ISCED 1 and 2). Most commonly, it involves 4 grades, less commonly 5, 3 or 2 grades. As another 50-year-long tradition, Hungary has maintained the three main programmes of upper-secondary education: general secondary, vocational secondary and vocational education and training. Besides, the so-called Bridge Programmes belong here that usually last for two years. Students completing their studies in general secondary or vocational secondary schools and successfully passing the secondary school-leaving examination are entitled to seek admission to higher education. The three-year vocational education and training does not offer the same qualification and ends with the issuance of a certificate. This certificate provides a state-recognised qualification listed in the National Qualifications Register. It does not entitle school-leavers to enter into higher education. In this form of education, it is possible to obtain a secondary school-leaving certificate in an additional two years, which entitles the student to enter into higher education.