Monday, March 22, 2010

Pastitsio and Public Education

I married into my 'Big Fat Greek Family' almost 21 years ago. Until 4 years ago, I had never bothered to try my hand at any Greek recipes. Then I found the ultimate pasta dish, that was my destiny - pastitsio. It is a Greek version on lasagna, with sweeter spices such as cloves and cinnamon. After several practice attempts, with all the expected fine tuning, I took a deep dish pastitsio to the family dinner. Face with all the Greek in laws, I earned their deepest respect and was crowned the best pastitsio maker in the family. (An honor I do admit to deserving...the last sister-in-law to make it, must have used glue.)

At these monthly family dinners, we share all the events of our individual families. The latest discussion over my perfect pasta was Christine's upcoming Easter vacation to Greece. Most of the family has been there, and we are told that my husband and his siblings actually own property there. Haven't yet seen pictures, or money from said property, but it is supposedly there somewhere. And while my husband had been to Greece several times while growing up, he has yet to take his lovely wife and teenage boys.

The closest I can get is with family pictures, and my assignment to look into a foreign country's education system. Naturally, I spent time learning about the options for students in Greece.

As in all European countries, the Greek educational system is governed by laws and administrative Acts. While preschool can start as early as 2 1/2 with either public or private institutions, it is not mandatory. For children ages 6-15, education is mandatory in Greece. The system consists of three increasing levels: Primary (Dimotiko), Secondary (Gymnasio) and Tertiary education level.

Primary or Dimotiko education if for children 6 to 12 years old, after which they enter the secondary level. This next portion of education is further divided into two sections. The first of which lasts until the age of 15, when a student may decide to leave school. If they choose to continue, they will finish the Gymansio portion of their education and can proceed with the Tertiary level. This is completed by way of a State run university or a technological institute.
Technological Educational Institutions (TEI) form part of higher education just like the universities but belong to the non-university sector. Military Academies enjoy the same status as universities but they fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defence. There are no private universities. The diplomas awarded by certain private post-secondary education institutions are not recognized by the State.

As all of my Greek in laws have been educated here in the United States, they are not terribly interested in the details of the tri-level education of their ancestry. However, I will gladly share with them what I have learned about that, but will keep the secret to a perfect pastitsio to myself.

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