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Education in Italy

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Education in Italy

Education in Italy
Ministero dell'istruzione, dell'università e della ricerca
Minister of Education Stefania Giannini
National education budget (2009)
Budget €61 billion
General details
Primary languages Italian
System type Public
Compulsory primary education 1859
Literacy (2007)
Total 98.9[1]
Male 98.9
Female 98.9
Post secondary 386,000

Education in Italy is compulsory from 6 to 16 years of age,[2] and is divided into five stages: kindergarten (scuola dell'infanzia), primary school (scuola primaria or scuola elementare), lower secondary school (scuola secondaria di primo grado or scuola media), upper secondary school (scuola secondaria di secondo grado or scuola superiore) and university (università).[3] Italy has both public and private education systems.


  • History 1
  • Primary education 2
  • Secondary education 3
  • Higher education 4
  • Summary 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


In Italy a state 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 provinces, 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 nearly 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 Benito Mussolini and his National Fascist Party 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 education, one could choose the 'Scuola media', which would give further access to the "liceo" and other secondary education, or the 'avviamento al lavoro' (work training), which was intended to give a quick entry into the low strates of the workforce. The reform 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 the Liceo Scientifico. The Liceo Classico was the only secondary school that gave access to all types of higher education 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 tracks: the Laurea triennale (a three-year degree akin to the Bachelor's Degree), followed by the 2-year Laurea specialistica (Master's Degree), the latter renamed Laurea Magistrale in 2007. 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 and facilitate the transfer of credits for further studies or go on exchange (e.g. Erasmus Programme) in another country. However, it is now established that there is just a five-year degree "Laurea Magistrale a Ciclo Unico" for programmes such as Law and a six-year degree for Medicine.

Primary education

An elementary school in Aosta Valley, with the name both in Italian and French

Scuola primaria (primary school), also known as scuola elementare, is commonly preceded by three years of non-compulsory nursery school (or kindergarten, "asilo"). Scuola elementare lasts five years. Until middle school, the educational curriculum is the same for all pupils: although one can attend a private or state-funded school, the subjects studied are the same (with the exception of special schools for the blind or the hearing-impaired). The students are given a basic education in Italian, English, mathematics, natural sciences, history, geography, social studies, physical education and visual and musical arts.

Until 2004, pupils had to pass an exam to access Scuola secondaria di primo grado (Middle school), comprising the composition of a short essay in Italian, a written math test, and an oral test on the other subjects. The exam has been discontinued and pupils can now enter Scuola secondaria di Primo Grado directly.

Secondary education

A high school in Lodi, the Istituto tecnico economico Agostino Bassi.
A high school in Palermo, the Liceo classico Vittorio Emanuele II, right next a cathedral

Secondary education in Italy lasts 8 years and is divided in two stages: Scuola secondaria di primo grado (Lower secondary school), also broadly known as Scuola media, which corresponds to the Middle School grades, and Scuola secondaria di secondo grado (Upper secondary school), also broadly known as Scuola superiore,[4] which corresponds to the high-school level.

The Scuola secondaria di primo grado lasts three years (roughly from age 11 to 13).

The Scuola secondaria di secondo grado lasts five years (roughly from age 14 to 19). Every tier involves an exam at the end of the final year, called esame di maturità, required to gain a degree and have access to further university education.

For historical reasons, there are three types of Scuola secondaria di secondo grado, subsequently divided into further specialization. Currently all of the secondary schools in Italy have most of the structure and subjects in common (such as Italian grammar, history and mathematics),[5] while some subjects are peculiar to a particular type of course (i.e. ancient Greek in the Liceo Classico, economy in the Istituto tecnico economico or scenography in the Liceo Artistico):

  • Liceo (lyceum), the education received in a Liceo is mostly theoretical, with a specialization in a specific field of studies (humanities, science, or art); less attention is devoted to the technical-practical education.[6]
  • Istituto tecnico (technical institute), the education given in an Istituto tecnico offers both a wide theoretical education and a specialization in a specific field of studies (e.g.: economy, humanities, administration, law, technology, tourism), often integrated with a three/six months internship in a company, association or university, during the fifth and last year of study.[7]
  • Istituto professionale (professional institute), this type of school offers a form of secondary education oriented towards practical subjects (engineering, agriculture, gastronomy, technical assistance, handicrafts), and enables 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.

Any type of secondary school that lasts 5 years grants access to the final exam, called esame di maturità or esame di stato; this exam takes place every year between June and July and grants access to university.[8]

In 2013, The Programme for International Student Assessment, coordinated by the OECD, ranks the Italian secondary education as the 21st in the world, above the United States and in the OECD average,[9] and observes a wide gap between results in Northern Italian schools, which performed significantly better than the national average (among the best in the world in some subjects),[10] and Southern Italian schools, that had much poorer results. Moreover, students in state-owned schools perform better than students in private schools. An Italian student is 19 when they enter university, while in other countries 18 is the more common age.

Higher education

University of Bologna, Italy and Europe's oldest university, founded in 1088

Italy has a large and international network of public and state affiliated universities and schools offering degrees in higher education. State-run universities of Italy constitute the main percentage of tertiary education in Italy, and are managed under the supervision of Italian's Ministry of Education.

Italian universities are among the oldest universities in the world. In particular the University of Bologna (founded in 1088) and the University of Padua, founded in 1222, are the oldest state universities in Europe.[11][12] Most universities in Italy are state-supported.

There are also a number of École Normale Supérieure. These institutions are commonly referred to as "Schools of Excellence" (i.e. "Scuole di Eccellenza").[13][15]


Compulsory education is highlighted in yellow.
level name duration certificate awarded
Pre-school education Scuola dell'infanzia (nursery school) 3 years (age: 3 to 6)
Primary education Scuola primaria (primary school) 5 years (age: 6 to 11) Licenza di scuola elementare (until 2004)[16]
Lower secondary education Scuola secondaria di primo grado (first grade secondary school) 3 years (age: 11 to 14) Diploma di scuola secondaria di primo grado
Upper secondary education Scuola secondaria di secondo grado (second grade secondary school) 5 years (age: 14 to 19) Diploma di liceo
Diploma di istituto tecnico
Diploma di istituto professionale
Formazione professionale (vocational education) 3 or 5 years (age 14 to 17 or 14 to 19) Qualifica professionale (3 years), Licenza professionale (5 years)
Higher education Laurea (Bachelor's degree)
Diploma accademico di primo livello
3 years
4 years, only for "Scienze della formazione primaria" (Sciences of the primary education), necessary for teaching in nursery or primary schools
Laurea magistrale (Master's degree)
Diploma accademico di secondo livello
2 years
Laurea magistrale a ciclo unico (Bachelor's + Master's degree) 5 years only for:
"Farmacia" (pharmacy)
"Chimica e tecnologie farmaceutiche" (chemistry and technologies of pharmacy)
"Medicina veterinaria" (veterinary medicine)
"Giurisprudenza" (law)
"Architettura" (architecture)
"Ingegneria Edile-Architettura" (architectural engineering)
6 years, only for "Medicina e chirurgia" (Medicine and surgery)
"Odontoiatria e protesi dentaria" (dentistry)
Dottorato di ricerca (PhD)
Diploma accademico di formazione alla ricerca
Diploma di Perfezionamento – PhD (Superior Graduate Schools in Italy)
3, 4 or 5 years

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ comma 622
  3. ^
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ [2]
  6. ^ [3]
  7. ^ [4]
  8. ^ [5]
  9. ^ [6]
  10. ^ [7]
  11. ^ Kamp, Norbert. "Federico II di Svevia, Imperatore, Re di Sicilia e di Gerusalemme, Re dei Romani". Treccani. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  12. ^ "Cenni Storici". Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  13. ^ a b Ricerca Italiana – Scuole di Eccellenza
  14. ^ Ministry of Education, Universities and Research (MIUR) Decree
  15. ^ Scuole di Eccellenza
  16. ^ [8]

External links

  • Information on education in Italy, OECD - Contains indicators and information about Italy and how it compares to other OECD and non-OECD countries
  • Diagram of Italian education system, OECD - Using 1997 ISCED classification of programmes and typical ages. Also in Italian
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