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Education in Italy. By David Mayes. Italy. Area: 301,225 square miles (about the size of Florida and Georgia combined), population: 60 million (2009) 20 Regions, 110 provinces Cities Rome: Capital city, 2.8 million, 3.7 million in metro Florence: 367,000; 1.5 million in metro area

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Education in italy

Education in Italy

By David Mayes


  • Area: 301,225 square miles (about the size of Florida and Georgia combined), population: 60 million (2009)

  • 20 Regions, 110 provinces

  • Cities

    Rome: Capital city, 2.8 million, 3.7 million in metro

    Florence: 367,000; 1.5 million in metro area

    Milan: 1.3 million; 3.9 million in metro area

    Naples: 975,000; 3 million in metro area

    Turin: 900,000, 3 million in metro area

    (U.S. Department of State, 2009)


  • Ethnic groups: primarily Italian, but there are small groups of German, French, Slovene, and Albanian Italians

  • Religion: Roman Catholic about 85% (declining)

  • Fasting growing religion – Muslim

  • Official Language: Italian

  • Currency: Euro

  • Literacy: 98%

    (U.S. Department of State, 2009)


  • Life expectancy – 78 years for men; 84.1 years for women

  • Infant mortality rate – 3.7/1,000 live births

  • Work force 25.1 million in 2008

  • Services - 66%, Industry and commerce - 30%, Agriculture – 4 %

  • Unemployment rate – 6.7%

    (U.S. Department of State, 2009)

Politics in italy
Politics in Italy

  • Republic since 1946

  • Prime Minister: Silvio Berlusconi

  • Has served as Prime Minister on three separate occasions: 1994 to 1995, from 2001 to 2006, and currently since 2008

  • Surrounded by controversy

  • Forza Italia – Centre-Right Coalition

    (personal communication with Dr. Shawn Daggett, February 22, 2010)


  • Largest communist party outside of China and Russia(personal communication with S. Daggett, February 22, 2010)

  • In Italy, 59% unfavorable opinions about the United States in 2003 (Zhao, 2009, p. 163)

  • American tourists are valued economically, American politics are not popular because of aggression (personal communication with S. Daggett, February 22, 2010)

Compulsory education
Compulsory Education

  • Education is State controlled under the direction of the Ministry of Public Education

  • Compulsory education from 6 to 15 as of 1999-2000

  • Education is free, but text books are not always provided free of charge

  • The school year lasts at least 200 days from September through the end of June

  • Schools are open 5 or 6 days per week (full or half days)

  • Class Size: Maximum of 25 students per class

    (Unesco, 2004)


  • General curriculum is nationally determined and adapted to local needs of schools

  • Core curriculum for primary schools: Italian, a foreign language, mathematics, sciences, humanities, social studies, art, music, physical education, technical education

  • Religious education is an optional subject

  • Discipline: Corporal punishment is prohibited (Section 47 of Education Act)

    (Unesco, 2004)

Assessment progression
Assessment & Progression

  • No national system of assessment during the school year

  • School based assessment – during the school year is generally by oral exams

  • At the end of school year, oral and written exams

  • Grading scale: 10 point scale in primary schools

  • Comprehensive examinations are given at the end of primary and secondary education

    (Personal communication, S. Daggett, February 22, 2010; Unesco, 2004).

Special needs
Special Needs

  • Students with special needs are integrated into mainstream education

  • Specialist support is provided for children with special needs

  • Classroom size is reduced to no more than 20 students at the primary level when one or more students with special education needs are in the class

    (Personal communication, S. Daggett, February 22, 2010; Unesco, 2004).

Pre school

  • Asile Nido: Nurseries from three months to three years. Costs depend on the parents’ joint income. Placement not guaranteed. Other nurseries are run by commune

  • Scuola Materna: Ages three to five. Placement guaranteed. Public schools are free.

    (Personal communication: S. Daggett, February 22, 2010)

  • Reggio Emilia schools: A type of Scuola Materna (Bignold & Guyton, 2009)

Lower primary school scuola elementare
Lower Primary School: Scuola Elementare

Ages 6-10

Teachers stay with the students through Elementare

Regular oral exams

(personal communication: S. Daggett, 2-22-2010)

Lower secondary school
Lower Secondary School

  • Scuola Media: 11-14 years old

    • Continue curriculum of Italian, a foreign language, mathematics, sciences, humanities, social studies, art, music, physical education, technical education

    • Oral and written exams at the end of each year

    • Comprehensive examinations (Oral and written) at end of Scuola Media for diploma

  • Upper Secondary: Scuola Superiore: 3 to 5 years beginning at 14 or 15

Upper secondary
Upper Secondary

  • Scuola Superiore: 3 to 5 years (14-19)

  • After age 16, students must pay an enrollment tax (Hampshire, 2007).

  • Schools begin to specialize. Students must make choices

  • Options include specific technical (Instituto) or university track (liceo) programs

  • Opportunities are not consistent throughout the country

University track
University track

  • Classical High School (Liceo Classico): 5 yearsCurriculum includes:Latin, Greek and Italian literature, philosophy and history

  • Scientific High School (Liceo Scientifico): 5 yearsCurriculum: Emphasis on physics, chemistry and natural sciences, plus Latin and one modern language

  • Fine Arts High School (Liceo Artistico) 4-5 yearsPreparation for university studies in painting, sculpture or architecture

  • Teacher Training School (Istituto Magistrale) 3-5 yearsPreparation future primary school teachers. The 3 year program for nursery or pre-school qualifies a student for a diploma, but not enrollment at a university.

    (Stewart, 2009)

Technical track
Technical Track

  • Technical Institutes (Istituti Tecnici) 5 yearsPrepares for both university studies and for a vocation. There is a majority of students in technical schools that prepare students to work in a technical or administrative capacity in agriculture, industry or commerce.

  • Artistic Schools (Istituto d'Arte) 3 yearsPreparation for work within an artistic field and leading to an arts qualification (diploma di Maestro d'Arte)

  • Professional Institutes (Istituti Professionali) 3-5 yearsThese studies lead to achievement of a vocational qualification.

    (Stewart, 2009)


  • A great number of reforms are under way in Italian schools. One of the reforms is to allow more freedom at the local level.

  • Compulsory education lasts through the age of 16, and the current system will be replaced in 2010 with 2 years of Biennio education before students are expected to specialize in Triennio or three years of optional specialized education.

  • The number of required hours of instruction will increase from 800 hours per year to 891 plus 198 hours of organization time in Primary and Lower Secondary schools.

    (Pasquali, 2009; Unesco, 2004).

Higher education
Higher Education

  • University education is available if a student has an upper secondary school diploma

  • If the student attended a technical institute, an additional year of schooling and diploma are necessary to qualify

  • Higher education includes 55 state universities, 3 technical universities, 17 non-state university institutes, 2 universities for foreigners, and 12 higher schools/institutes

    (Euroeducation, 2009)

University of bologna
University of Bologna

Founded in 1088

Oldest continually operating European University

Pontifical gregorian university rome
Pontifical Gregorian University - Rome

One of the largest theology departments in the world: 1600 students from 130 countries.

The Holy See accredits degrees.


Capital City

Population: 2.8 Million


The Coliseum

Milan italy1
Milan, Italy

Victor Emanuel Gallery

Florence italy
Florence, Italy

Ponte Vecchio

Leaning tower of pisa
Leaning Tower of Pisa

AP Images Dec. 29, 2005


Bignold, W., & Gayton, L. (Eds.) (2009). Global issues and comparative education (Perspectives in education studies). Southernhay, England: Learning Matters.

Euroeducation. (2009). European education directory. Retrieved from

Hampshire, D. (2007). Living and working in Italy. London: Survival Books Limited.

Pasquali, L. (2009). The New Italian high school system. Retrieved from

Stewart, C. (2009, February). School system in Italy. Retrieved from

Unesco. (2004, September). Summary sheets on education systems in Europe: Italy. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of State. (2009, October). United States of America department of state: background notes: Italy. Retrieved from

Zhao, Y. (2009). Catching up/or leading the way: American education in the age of globalization. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.