Education in Italy

Infobox Education
country name = Italy

agency =
agency = Ministero dell'istruzione, dell'università e ricerca
leader titles = Ministro dell'istruzione
leader names = Mariastella Gelmini
budget = 66 billion (euro)
budget year = 2005
primary languages = Italian
system type = Public
established events = Compulsory primary education
established dates = 1859
literacy year = 2005
literacy total = 98.5
literacy men = 98.5
literacy women = 98.5
enroll total =
enroll primary =
enroll secondary =
enroll post-secondary = 386,000
attain secondary =
attain post-secondary =
footnotes =


In Italy a state-wide public 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 Regioni (counties), and the universities were managed by the State.Even with the Casati Act and compulsory education, in rural (and southern) areas children often weren't 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 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, 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 workforce.He created the "Liceo Classico" (intended as the peak of secondary education, with the goal of forming the future upper classes), as well as the Technical, Commercial and Industrial institutes. The "Liceo Classico" was the only secondary school that gave access to all types of university.The influence of Gentile's Idealism was great, and he considered the Catholic religion to be "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 present days, 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: primary and secondary. Primary school is commonly preceded by 3 years of non-compulsory nursery school (or kindergarten).

Primary school lasts 5 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 Secondary School level.

The lower tier of "Scuole Medie" corresponds to Middle School, lasts 3 years, and involves an exam at the end of the third year; "Scuole Superiori" lasts from 3 to 5 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 [] , and observes a wide gap between results in the North-Italy schools, that performed sensibly better of the national media, and the South-Italy schools, that had 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:

* "Liceo Classico", which features Latin, Ancient Greek, Italian, History and Philosophy as its most important subjects.
* "Liceo Scientifico", where the emphasis is more on scientific and mathematical topics, such as geometry, calculus, chemistry or physics - although Latin, Philosophy and literature are also taught in depth. Together with the Liceo Classico it is the most prestigious in Italy.
* "Liceo Linguistico" puts emphasis on language learning and languages taught are usually English, French, Spanish and German - although recently Russian has been introduced as well.
* "Liceo Artistico", which is oriented toward arts teaching - in a theoretical (ie. History of the arts) and practical (ie. drawing sessions) sense.

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."

"Liceo" education involves a broad, specifically academic curriculum and is generally considered necessary for University preparation.

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."'

There is also into school Italian the Scuola serale (School evening), aimed at adults and to working students.


Italian universities have a long history, beginning in medieval times with the establishment of the University of Salerno in the ninth century, and the University of Bologna in 1088. Further universities were founded in the subsequent centuries: the University of Padova in 1222, and two years later the University of Naples founded by Frederick II, the University of Florence, founded in 1308, then the universities of Pisa, Pavia and Turin.

Nowadays, the vast majority of universities in Italy are public, and are usually named after the city or region in which they are located and styled "Università degli studi di..." (University of Studies of..., after the Latin title of 'universitas studiorum').

There are also a small number of private-funded universities, accredited by the state and given the power to confer academic degrees. These include Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi, recognised as a school of excellence in economics, or the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, that encompasses a number of universities backed by the Catholic Church.

Nowadays, Italian universities follow the guidelines of the Bologna Process, and the courses are usually divided into two: the "Laurea" (3 years, roughly equivalent to a bachelor's degree) and the "Laurea Specialistica" o "Laurea Magistrale" (3+2 years, roughly equivalent to an master's degree). However, it is worth noting that stopping at the BA level is widely viewed as a poor choice, and the majority of students still go for the "Laurea Specialistica", since they have to face job competition with older students, who graduated before the Bologna Process and therefore followed a 4-year course of studies (Laurea Vecchio Ordinamento), which, anyway, with the new conversion is equal to the new Laurea, even though many employers and students are unaware of this. Some courses have maintained preceding rules of "Laurea specialistica europea" or "Laurea specialistica a ciclo unico", with only one cycle of study of five years (Architecture, Pharmacy), except for medicine which requires six years of courses.

Switching to the guidelines of the Bologna Process has been a major source of distress both for students and faculties, and the new arrangements gave rise to a wide range of possibilities, which the universities explored doing changes when needed - the adjusting process is going on even as of 2007.

University system

The university system in Italy is closer to that of the United Kingdom than to that of the United States. Students concentrate on one subject throughout their degree, and so the academic major system does not apply. However, sometimes a university can offer different undergraduate courses, each specializing in a different sector of the same subject. For example, in Psychology some courses are more geared toward Cognitive Psychology, others more toward Clinical Psychology, Social Psychology or perhaps Psychology of Work or Evolutionary Psychology.

A typical year in an Italian university is divided into two semesters. Courses last no more than a semester and examinations are held at the beginning of the academic year (September), the middle of the year (mid January to the end of February) and at the end of the year (mid May to mid July). Grades are expressed on a scale from 1 to 30, with 18 being the minimum required to pass an examination. A "cum Laude" grade is sometimes awarded to exceed the 30-grade scale (thus, the grade higher than 30 is "30 e lode").

At the end of each "tier" (Laurea and Laurea Specialistica) there is a final exam, often requiring the exposition of a thesis or dissertion that can be based on original experimental work by the student, or on a review of academic literature. The final grade is determined by means of a weighted mean of the grades of the single courses, usually converted to a scale running from 1 to 110. Since the minimum grade to pass an individual examination is 18, the minimum overall grade is 66. To this is added some points for the dissertation (ranging from 3-4 to 7-12). If the overall score (mean of examination grades plus dissertation points, number of "cum Laude"s awarded during examinations) is more than 110, then a degree cum laude can be awarded ("110 e lode").

School years

* Primary education
** Scuola primaria (primary school)
*** Year 1, age 6 to 7
*** 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's secondary school)
*** Year 1, age 11 to 12
*** Year 2, age 12 to 13
*** Year 3, age 13 to 14 (Licenza di Scuola Media)
** Scuola secondaria di secondo grado (second's 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 (Licenza 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
** Laurea Specialistica [Master's degree]
*** Year 4, age 22 to 23
*** Year 5, age 23 to 24
** or Laurea Magistrale 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)
** Dottorato di ricerca [Doctorate]
*** 3 or 4 years

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