Education in Italy: Wikis


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Education in Italy
Ministero dell'istruzione, dell'università e ricerca
Ministro dell'istruzione Mariastella Gelmini
National education budget (2005)
Budget: 66 billion (euro)
General Details
Primary Languages: Italian
System Type: Public
Compulsory primary education 1859
Literacy (2005)
Total: 98.5
Male: 98.5
Female: 98.5
Post Secondary: 386,000

Education in Italy is free and compulsory from 6-15 years of age,[1] and is divided into five stages: kindergarten (scuola materna), elementary school (scuola elementare), middle school (scuola media), high school (scuola superiore) and university (università).[2] Italy has both public and private education systems. Italy has a large selection of universities, with the University of Bologna (founded in ca. 1088) being the oldest in the Western World,[3] and La Sapienza University in Rome being the biggest in Italy.



In Italy a state-born school system, or Education System has existed since 1859, when the Legge Casati (Casati Act) mandated educational responsibilities for the forthcoming Italian state (Italian unification took place in 1861). The Casati Act made primary education compulsory, and had the goal of reducing illiteracy. This law gave control of primary education to the single towns, of secondary education to the provincie (counties), and the universities were managed by the State. Even with the Casati Act and compulsory education, in rural (and southern) areas children often were not sent to school (the rate of children enrolled in primary education would reach 90% only after 70 years) and the illiteracy rate (which was near 80% in 1861) took more than 50 years to halve.

The next important law concerning the Italian education system was the Legge Gentile. This act was issued in 1923, thus when Mussolini and his Partito Nazionale Fascista were in power. In fact, Giovanni Gentile was appointed the task of creating an education system deemed fit for the Fascist system. The compulsory age of education was raised to 14 years, and was somewhat based on a ladder system: after the first five years of primary instruction, one could choose the 'Scuola media', which would give further access to the "liceo" and other secondary instruction, or the 'avviamento al lavoro', which was intended to give a quick entry into the low strates of the workforce. He enhanced the role of the Liceo Classico, created by the Casati Act in 1859 (and intended during the Fascist era as the peak of secondary education, with the goal of forming the future upper classes), and created the Technical, Commercial and Industrial institutes and also the Liceo Scientifico. The Liceo Classico was the only secondary school that gave access to all types of university, until 1968. The influence of Gentile's Idealism was great, and he considered the Catholic religion to be the "fundament and crowning" of education.

In 1962 the 'avviamento al lavoro' was abolished, and all children until 14 years had to follow a single program, encompassing primary education (scuola elementare) and middle school (scuola media).

From 1962 to the present day, the main structure of Italian primary (and secondary) education remained largely unchanged, even if some modifications were made: a narrowing of the gap between males and females (through the merging of the two distinct programmes for technical education, and the optional introduction of mixed-gender gym classes), a change in the structure of secondary school (legge Berlinguer) and the creation of new licei, 'istituti tecnici' and 'istituti professionali', giving the student more choices in their paths.

In 1999, in accordance with the guidelines laid down by the Bologna Process, the Italian university system switched from the old system (vecchio ordinamento, which led to the traditional 5-year Laurea degree), to the new system (nuovo ordinamento). The nuovo ordinamento split the former Laurea into two different tracks: the Laurea triennale (a three-year degree akin to the Bachelor's Degree), followed by the 2-year Laurea specialistica (Master's Degree). A credit system was established to quantify the amount of work needed by each course and exam (25 work hours = 1 credit), as well as enhance the possibility to change course of studies or to continue studies in a foreign country after the first 3 years.

Primary and secondary schools

Today, there are two stages of education in Italy, firstly, the primary and then secondary. Primary school is commonly preceded by three years of non-compulsory nursery school (or kindergarten).

Primary school lasts five years. Until middle school, the educational curriculum is uniform for all: although one can attend a private or state-funded school, the subjects studied are the same, except in special schools for the blind, the hearing-impaired, and so forth.

Secondary education (Scuole medie) is further divided in two stages: "Medie Inferiori", which correspond to the Middle School grades, and "Medie Superiori", which correspond to the High School level.

The lower tier of "Scuole Medie" corresponds to Middle School, lasts three years, and involves an exam at the end of the third year; "Scuole Superiori" usually last five years (even though istituti professionali might offer a diploma after only three years). Every tier involves an exam at the end of the final year, required to access the following tier.

The secondary school situation varies, since there are several types of schools differentiated by subjects and activities. The main division is between the "Liceo", the "Istituto Tecnico" and the "Istituto Professionale". Any kind of secondary school that lasts 5 years grants access to the final exam, called Esame di Stato conclusivo del corso di studio di Istruzione Secondaria Superiore or Esame di Maturità. This exam takes place every year in June and July and grants access to any faculty at any University.

The Programme for International Student Assessment, coordinated by the OECD, currently ranks the Italian secondary education as the 36th in the world, being significantly below the OECD average [1], and observes a wide gap between results in Northern Italy schools, which performed sensibly better than the national average, and Southern Italy schools, that had much poorer results.

The "Liceo" concept was created by Gentile, and in 1923 indicated a specific type of secondary school; today, it rather refers to a class of secondary schools oriented towards the study of the arts and sciences. All of the Licei have some subjects in common, such as Italian Literature, or Mathematics (although the effective number of hours spent on each subject varies), while other subjects are peculiar to a particular type of Liceo (ie. Ancient Greek in the Liceo Classico or Geometrical Drawing in the Liceo Artistico).

The different types of Liceo are:

The "Istituto Tecnico" (Technical Institute), called in Italian ITIS (Istituto Tecnico Industriale Statale, i.e. National Technical/Industrial Institute) and ITC (Istituto Tecnico Commerciale i.e. Technical/Commercial Institute) is more oriented toward practical subjects, such as aeronautics, business administration, computer science and chemistry.

The "Istituto Professionale" offers a form of secondary education oriented toward more practical subjects, enabling the students to start searching for a job as soon as they have completed their studies (sometimes sooner, as some schools offer a diploma after 3 years instead of 5) and is even more specific in terms of vocational course offerings than the "Istituto Tecnico".

The "Istituto d'Arte" is a particular form of Istituto Professionale, which offers an education focused on art and drawing.

"Liceo" education involves a broad, specifically academic curriculum and the preparation it provides is generally considered necessary to enter University.

A typical Italian student is 19 when he or she enters university, while in the UK and other countries, 18 is the more common age.

The Italian school system also features the Scuola serale (evening school), aimed at adults and working students.

School years

  • Pre-school education
    • Scuola dell'infanzia (nursery school, non-compulsory)
      • 3 years, age 3 to 6
  • Primary education
    • Scuola primaria (primary school)
      • Year 1, age 6 to 7 (although some children start primary school at 5 years instead at 6)
      • Year 2, age 7 to 8
      • Year 3, age 8 to 9
      • Year 4, age 9 to 10
      • Year 5, age 10 to 11
  • Secondary education
    • Scuola secondaria di primo grado (first grade secondary school)
      • Year 1, age 11 to 12
      • Year 2, age 12 to 13
      • Year 3, age 13 to 14 (Licenza di Scuola Media, or Licenza Media)
    • Scuola secondaria di secondo grado (second grade secondary school)
      • Year 1, age 14 to 15
      • Year 2, age 15 to 16
      • Year 3, age 16 to 17
      • Year 4, age 17 to 18
      • Year 5, age 18 to 19 (Diploma di scuola superiore, formerly Maturità)
    • or Formazione professionale (secondary school)
      • Year 1 triennio, age 14 to 15
      • Year 2 triennio, age 15 to 16
      • Year 3 triennio, age 16 to 17 (Qualifica professionale)
      • Year 1 biennio, age 17 to 18
      • Year 2 biennio, age 18 to 19 (Licenza professionale, formerly Maturità professionale)
  • University
    • Laurea [Bachelor's degree]
      • Year 1, age 19 to 20
      • Year 2, age 20 to 21
      • Year 3, age 21 to 22
      • Year 4, age 22 to 23; only for "Scienze della Formazione Primaria" (Science of the Primary Education), necessary for teaching in nursery or primary schools
    • Laurea Magistrale/Specialistica [Master's degree]
      • Year 4, age 22 to 23
      • Year 5, age 23 to 24
    • or Laurea Magistrale/Specialistica a ciclo unico [Master's degree]
      • Year 1, age 19 to 20
      • Year 2, age 20 to 21
      • Year 3, age 21 to 22
      • Year 4, age 22 to 23
      • Year 5, age 23 to 24
      • Year 6, age 24 to 25; only for "Medicina e Chirurgia" (Medicine and Surgery)
    • Dottorato di ricerca [PhD]
      • 3, 4 or 5 years


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