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National system overviews on education systems in Europe and ongoing reforms

2010 Edition

European Commission

National system overviews on education systems in Europe and ongoing reforms



Education population and language of instruction

On 31 January 2008, the Italian population was 60 045 068. In the school year 2009/10, children enrolled in pre-primary schools were 1 007 108 Students enrolled in school education were 7 804 711. Of them, 2 578 650 were in primary school, 1 670 117 in lower secondary school and 2 548 836 in upper secondary school (all data refer to participation in State schools). The language 1

of instruction is Italian, although in some areas the use of the local language ( ) is officially authorised for education.

2. Administrative control and extent of public-sector funded education Overall responsibility for school education lies within the Ministry of Education, University and Research (Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'UniversitĂ e della Ricerca), which works at central level, while regional and provincial education offices work at local level. Regions may delegate certain responsibilities to the provinces and municipalities. According to Law no. 59 of 15 March 1997 and subsequent implementation decree (DPR 275/1999), all schools are granted teaching autonomy, organizing autonomy and research, experimentation and development autonomy. The Constitution establishes that the State has to provide for a state-owned education system, but it also establishes that also non-state school may exist. These can be of two different kinds: schools with equal status (paritarie) and schools with non-equal status (non paritarie) (law 27/2006). The former, are the schools managed by private subjects or public bodies. They have been granted equal status, as they have met specific requirements such as: carrying out an educational plan in coherence with the principles included in the Constitution and in the legislation, 1

( ) Protection of minority languages and cultures is provided for in the Constitution and in the Law 482/1999. Minority languages are: Albanian, Catalan, German, Greek, Slovenian, Croatian, French, Provençal, Occitan, Friulan, Ladin, Sardinian.

National system overviews on education systems in Europe and ongoing reforms


Ita ly (Oc tob er 2 010) allowing everyone willing to be enrolled, hiring teaching staff holding a qualification to teach and according to the national contracts (law 62/2000). Schools with equal status are allowed to issue legally recognised certificates and are part of the national education and training system. Schools without equal status are those that did not present a request for obtaining the equal status or do not meet the specific requirements. They are not allowed to issue officially recognised certificates, they cannot be called 'school' and they are not institutions for the fulfilment of the right/duty (diritto/dovere) to education. In school year 2007/08, people enrolled in non-State school were the 5.5 % of the entire school population. In 2004, the National service for the evaluation of the education and training system was instituted. Its task is to improve the quality of the education system, through the evaluation of its efficiency also in relation with the international context. The National institute for the evaluation of the education and training system (Istituto nazionale di valutazione del sistema educativo di istruzione e formazione – INVALSI) is entrusted with the national service. Also the universities have gradually gained administrative, financial and accounting autonomy. The Ministry is responsible for the allocation of funds, for monitoring and the evaluation of the system. This latter is carried out by the National agency for the evaluation of the university and research system (Agenzia nazionale per la valutazione del sistema universitario e della ricerca – Anvur), 2 which has been set up in 2008 ( ). According to university autonomy (Regulation no. 509 of 3 November 1999), each university establishes its courses organisation in the respect of the qualifying formative objectives of the courses. Each university decides the teaching organisation and structure of its degree courses in the teaching regulations which are approved by the Ministry.

3. Pre-primary education Scuola dell’Infanzia (nursery schools)

Age 3-6

The scuola dell'infanzia is the first stage of the education and training system and it is not compulsory. Children who turn three within the 31st of December of the current school year can enrol in the scuole dell’infanzia. Upon parents' request, also children who turn three on the 30th of April are admitted to pre-primary education. Children enrolled in pre-primary education, considering both State and non-State schools, are about the 96-97 % of the entire population aged 3-5 years. Pre-primary education is offered free of charge. Families are asked to pay a sum for transport and canteen services. Families with low incomes are exempted. The amount of hours in one year is between 875 and 1 750 hours, corresponding at about a minimum of 25 and a maximum of 50 hours a week. Generally, children are organised in groups according to their age. Groups can be made up of a minimum of 18 and a maximum of 26 children.

(2) Anvur has replaced the already existing National committee for the evaluation of the university system and the Committee for the evaluation of research.


National system overviews on education systems in Europe and ongoing reforms

Ita ly (Oc tob er 2 010)

4. Compulsory education (i)

Phases Primo ciclo di istruzione (first cycle of education) Scuola primaria (primary school)

Age 6-11

Scuola secondaria di primo grado (lower secondary school)

Age 11-14

Secondo ciclo di istruzione (second cycle of education)

Age 14-16

For information on programmes, see section 5. 3

Education is compulsory from 6 up to 16 years of age ( ) The right/duty to education and training for at least 12 years is fulfilled within the education system or up to the obtainment of a three-year vocational qualification (either at school or in the initial vocational training system) before reaching 18 years of age. Compulsory education covers the first cycle of education (8 years) and the first two years of the second cycle (upper secondary education).


Admissions criteria

Enrolment to the first class of primary school is compulsory for all children who have turned 6 within the 31st December of the current school year or, earlier, within the 31st April of the current school year. Enrolment to the first year of lower secondary school is compulsory for all pupils who have successfully completed the primary school. Enrolment and attendance are offered free of charge for the whole first cycle of education. Families are free to choose the school, within the limits of available posts.


Length of school day/week/year

The school year comprises at least 200 days between the 1st of September and the 30th of June. Schools open five or six days a week. Compulsory annual teaching hours are 891 in primary school and 957 in lower secondary school; this amount is subdivided into 33 teaching weeks with an average amount of, respectively, 27 and 29 weekly hours. According to school autonomy, each educational institution is responsible for the organisation of its annual teaching time. At primary level schools can also organize the teaching time on an average of 30 or 40 weekly hours. In the first year of primary schools also a weekly timetable of 24 hours has been introduced. At lower secondary level, the compulsory annual amount of teaching hours is 990 (30 hours a week).


Class size/student grouping

Pupils are usually grouped according to their age. According to their organisational autonomy, schools can also organise groups with pupils of different ages. Each class is generally made up of maximum 26 and minimum 15 pupils, at primary level, and of maximum 27 and minimum 18 in the first classes at lower secondary level. At primary level teachers are generalist. At lower secondary level, teachers are specialist in one or more subjects. (3) The Constitution establishes that education is compulsory up to 14 years of age. The length of compulsory education has been prolonged up to 16 years of age in school year 2007/08, according to the Financial law for the year 2007.

National system overviews on education systems in Europe and ongoing reforms


Ita ly (Oc tob er 2 010)


Curriculum control and content

Schools of the first cycle of education (primary school and lower secondary school) adopt National Guidelines (Indicazioni nazionali per i piani personalizzati delle attività educative) of 2004 together with Guidelines for the Curriculum (Indicazioni per il curricolo per la scuola dell’infanzia e per il primo ciclo di istruzione), issued in 2007 and introduced on an experimental basis in school year 2007/08 and school year 2008/09. In the next three school years (until 2011/12) the activities carried out by the schools will be monitored. The outcomes are likely to be used to amend the Guidelines. Such guidelines define the essential performance levels that should be ensured by each school. The guidelines are nationally determined and adapted to local needs by each school according to school autonomy. Knowledge and skills are indicated for each subject; the school will help pupils to transform them into personal competencies. Specific learning objectives at primary school level have been defined for the following subjects: Catholic religion, Italian, English language, history, geography, mathematics, science, technical education and ICT, music, art and drawing, sport and motory sciences. As for the lower secondary school, the specific learning objectives have been defined for the following subjects: Catholic religion, Italian, English language, a second foreign language, history, geography, mathematics, science, technical education, information and communication technology, music, art and drawing, sport and motory sciences. Teachers are free to choose textbooks and teaching methods. All textbooks should be downloadable from internet within 2012.


Assessment, progression and qualifications

At both educational levels, periodical and annual assessment of pupils’ learning is carried out by teachers by assigning a mark from 0 to 10. At primary school level, also an analytic justified assessment is given together with the mark. Non-admission to the next class is used only “in exceptional and suitably motivated cases” and the decision is taken unanimously by teachers. Progression from primary to lower secondary school takes place upon pupil's positive assessment obtained at the end of primary school. At lower secondary level, pupils progress to the next grade upon obtainment of a minimum mark of six in each subject. Pupils' behaviour is also assessed by assigning a mark from 0 to 10. Pupils obtaining a mark lower than 6, assigned by all class teachers, cannot progress to the next grade and they are not admitted to the final state examination. On completion of the first cycle of education, students take a state examination. The minimum mark required to obtain the first cycle leaving certificate is 6. The certificate is required to be admitted to the upper secondary education level.


National system overviews on education systems in Europe and ongoing reforms

Ita ly (Oc tob er 2 010)

5. Post-compulsory education/upper secondary and post-secondary level (i)

Types of education

Secondo ciclo di istruzione (second cycle of education) within post-compulsory education Liceo classico (general upper secondary school specialising in classical studies) Liceo scientifico (general upper secondary school specialising in scientific studiesl) Liceo linguistico (general upper secondary school specialising in foreign languages) Liceo delle scienze umane (general upper secondary school specialising in human Age (14) 16-19 sciences) Liceo musicale e coreutico (general upper secondary school specialising in music and dance) Liceo artistico (general upper secondary school specialising in arts subjects) Istituto tecnico (technical school)

Age (14) 16-19

Istituto professionale (vocational school)

Age (14) 16-19

Formazione professionale di base (Initial vocational training)

Age (14) 16-17

Istruzione e formazione tecnica superiore (higher technical education and Age 19-21 training system)

The upper secondary level of education is called 'second cycle of education' (secondo ciclo di istruzione) and it is made up of the upper secondary school (called scuola secondaria di secondo grado) falling under the responsibility of the State and offered by the licei, the technical institutes and the vocational institutes, and the vocational and training system falling under the responsibility of the Regions and offered by the recognized formative agencies operating nationwide. Starting from school year 2010/11, the application of the reform of the upper secondary level of education is foreseen. As indicated in the table, the current licei system foresees 6 licei. Further innovations introduced are the following: the introduction of Latin as a compulsory subject in all licei except for the arts and the music liceo, where it is an optional subject; a foreign language as a compulsory subject for 5 years in all licei; more teaching hours for mathematics, physics and sciences; the introduction of CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) in the fifth grade which foresees the teaching of a subject through a foreign language. As for technical and vocational institutes are concerned, the reform foresees what follows: technical institutes offer studies referred to 2 sectors, economic sector (2 branches) and technological sector (9 branches); vocational institutes offer studies in 2 sectors, service sector (4 branches) and industry and handicraft (2 branches). For both technical and vocational institutes some changes occurred are the following: a weekly timetable of 32 teaching hours plus some hours dedicated to labs activities; increased teaching time for English language (technical institutes); more stages, apprenticeships and alternance training (vocational institutes). The offer at higher technical education and training level has been reorganised in 2008; according to this reorganisation the offer at this level is the following: courses provided by the Higher Technical Institutes (Istituti Tecnici Superiori – ITS) and pathways offered by the Higher technical education and training institutes (Istruzione e formazione tecnica superiore – IFTS).


Admissions criteria

Holders of the certificate of the first cycle of education, obtained after having successfully passed the first cycle leaving examination, may enter the second cycle of education. Enrolment and

National system overviews on education systems in Europe and ongoing reforms


Ita ly (Oc tob er 2 010) attendance are not free of charge. However, fees are modest and the amount is fixed at central level. Students enrolled at the first, second and third year of the second cycle are exempted from paying, as they are still fulfilling the right/duty to education Students are free to choose the school, within the limits of available posts. Three-year vocational training courses (Initial vocational training) are offered by the Regions. Compulsory education can be accomplished also within these vocational pathways. Anyone (adults included) holding an upper secondary education leaving certificate, has access to courses offered by the High Technical Institutes (ITS) and to IFTS pathways. Access to IFTS pathways is also allowed to those in possession of a three-year vocational diploma, to those who have been admitted to the fifth year of the liceo, as well as to those who do not hold any upper secondary certification. These latter are required to hold a certification of competences acquired through previous training and working experiences undertaken after the fulfilment of compulsory education.


Curriculum control and content

Central government determines basic curricula for each branch of general, vocational and technical upper secondary education and gives guidance on teaching methods. Core subjects common to all institutions are Italian, history, a modern foreign language, mathematics and physical education. The Higher technical education and training system (ITS courses and IFTS pathways) offer courses aiming mainly to develop professional specialisations at post-secondary level which meet the requirements of the labour market, both in the public and private sectors.


Assessment, progression and qualifications

Periodical and annual assessment of pupils’ learning and behaviour is carried out by teachers by assigning a mark from 0 to 10. Admission to the following grade requires marks equal to or higher than 6/10 in each subject and behaviour. Admission is suspended if a student obtains a mark lower than 6/10 in one or more subjects. In this case, students should fill in their gaps within the beginning of the following school year. The students’ learning outcomes are assessed before the beginning of the school year. Students who obtain at least 6/10 are admitted to the following grade. At the end of general and vocational upper secondary education, pupils take the State examination; those who successfully pass the examination obtain an upper secondary school leaving diploma which allows them to continue their studies at higher level. For the issue of the relevant certification, courses offered by Higher Technical Institutes (ITS) end up with final assessments of the competences acquired by students. For the issue of the relevant certification by Regions, also IFTS pathways end up with final assessments of competences acquired by students. Courses offered by Higher Technical Institutes (ITS) lead to the obtainment of a Diploma of high level technician, while IFTS pathways lead to the obtainment of a Certificate of high level technical specialisation. Both qualifications are accepted to apply for open competitions.

6. Higher education (i)

Types of institutions

Higher education is organised at university and non-university level. This latter is offered by the higher level arts and music education system (Sistema dell'Alta formazione artistica e musicale, Afam) and by other institutions. The institutions belonging to the Afam system are: Academies of


National system overviews on education systems in Europe and ongoing reforms

Ita ly (Oc tob er 2 010) Fine Arts, the National Academy of Drama, Higher Institutes for Artistic Industries (Istituti superiori per le industrie artistiche – ISIA), the National Dance Academy, Conservatoires. Only universities and Afam institutes issue officially recognised degrees. Higher education, both at universities and Afam institutes, is organised in three cycles: the first cycle lasting 3 years; the second cycle lasting 2 years and the third cycle has a variable length. Courses in medicine and surgery, veterinary science, and dentistry are still organised in one single cycle lasting 5-6 years.



Applicants must have the upper secondary school leaving certificate, or a foreign comparable qualification. Admission to the degree courses in medicine and surgery, dentistry, veterinary medicine, architecture is regulated by numerus clausus at national level. However, selection procedures are defined by each institution. To access the institutes belonging to the Afam system, adequate basic skills are also required. Skills required and assessment procedures may vary, as they are defined by single institutions.



Universities are autonomous for the planning of study courses, for which each university establishes the title, the objectives, the general framework of learning activities, credits attributed to each activity and the assessment procedures. Common objectives and general criteria are, however, defined at central level for all courses. Universities issue the following degrees: first level Laurea (L) obtained after a 3-year course (180 credits); second level Laurea magistrale obtained after a 2-year course (120 credits) and a third level Dottorato di ricerca after a course which duration varies depending on the field of study. Afam institutes issue the first level Diploma accademico di primo livello, obtained after a 3-year course (180 credits) and the second level Diploma accademico di secondo livello, obtained after a 2-year course (120 credits).

7. Special needs Students with special needs are integrated into mainstream education and specialist support is provided.

8. Teachers At present, teachers at pre-primary and primary level must hold a university Laurea in primary education sciences. Teachers at secondary level must hold a Laurea magistrale and, afterwards, until 2007/08 it was necessary to complete a 2-year specialisation course at the Specialisation school for teaching at secondary level (scuola di specializzazione per l’insegnamento secondario, SSIS). Access to SSIS courses has been suspended, but no alternative pathways have been defined in order to obtain the qualification to teach. Universities offer in service training to teachers for their professional development. Primary school teachers are generalist teachers, but are responsible for a specific subject area. Secondary school teachers are specialist teachers. All teachers are civil servants.

National system overviews on education systems in Europe and ongoing reforms


Ita ly (Oc tob er 2 010)

9 . Ongoing reforms and policy initiatives A. Ongoing reforms and policy initiatives related to ‘ET 2020’ strategic framework 1. Making lifelong learning and mobility a reality – Lifelong learning strategies Specific information not available. – European Qualifications Framework In Italy, the process aiming at establishing a national qualifications and certification framework on the basis of the EQF has begun in 2003, and it is still ongoing. The responsibility for taking forward this initiative is shared between the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies and the Ministry of Education, University and Research. In 2006, the Ministry of Labour has set up the national committee (Tavolo nazionale) to develop the national qualifications framework; it is composed by representatives of its Ministry, by representatives of the Ministry of Education, University and Research, by representatives of the Regions, of the Autonomous Provinces and by social partners. A concrete result of the development processes of a NQF is represented by the recent reform in upper secondary education introducing new levels defined by learning outcomes and reflecting the EQF level descriptors. Levels structure of the NQF and levels descriptors has not yet been defined; the referencing report is expected to be prepared by the end of 2010. – Expanding learning mobility As far as the promotion of mobility is concerned, Italy, together with only twelve European countries, has decided to participate in individual mobility of students at upper secondary level, starting from school year 2010/11 within the LLP’s Comenius programme. The importance for students to experience a learning opportunity in Europe, to develop the knowledge of the existing cultural and linguistic differences at European level, and to acquire the competences necessary to their personal development, has been recognized at national level. For further details on the Individual mobility of students (Mobilità individuale degli alunni – MIA), please see:

2. Improving the quality and efficiency of education and training – Language learning The reform at upper secondary school level has foreseen the strengthening of foreign languages’ teaching. Particularly, general upper secondary education, represented by the licei, foresees the teaching of a compulsory foreign language within the five-year course of study, and eventually the teaching of a second foreign language according to school autonomy. Furthermore, the fifth year foresees the possibility to teach a subject of a non linguistic area in English language; at the liceo classico, the teaching of a foreign language for the whole course of study (five years) has been introduced. The liceo linguistico foresees the teaching of three foreign languages; starting from the third year, a subject not belonging to the linguistic area will be taught in a foreign language, and starting from the fourth year of studies it will be possible to teach a discipline not belonging to the linguistic area in a foreign language.


National system overviews on education systems in Europe and ongoing reforms

Ita ly (Oc tob er 2 010) At vocational upper secondary level, English lessons will be increased in the technical institutes and there will be the possibility to study other foreign languages. – Professional development of teachers and trainers Initial teacher training reformed through Regulation of 10 September 2010 will be introduced starting from school year 2011/12. It will be characterised by the following aspects: •

introduction of one-year practical training at school to be carried out after attainment of Laurea magistrale;

planning of the number of new teachers according to the requirements, in order to prevent teachers' temporary employment. In accordance, admission to degree courses for prospective teachers will take place upon a selection based on the requirements of the national education system;

specific degrees for teaching qualifications in the various subjects. Furthermore, initial teacher training won’t be only focused on subjects skills but also on cross-curricular competencies like better mastery of English (B2 certification is required to obtain the teaching qualification), ICT for teaching and a better qualification for integration of disabled students.

– Governance and funding Specific information not available – Basic skills in reading, mathematics and science According to the European Union indications, technical and vocational institutes are characterised by a strong scientific and technological cultural basis built through knowledge and skills provided within the general education area, as well as by the teaching area of each specific brunch of studies. In particular, the mastery of Italian, mathematic and foreign language are strengthened in the first two years. The reform of the second cycle foresees a strengthening of the mathematics-scientific area in the liceo classico; at the same time, mathematics and scientific subjects are reinforced through a new study brunch called ‘Applied sciences’ (Scienze applicate) introduced in the liceo scientifico. The mathematics-scientific area is actually strengthened through an increase in the number of teaching hours of mathematics and sciences. Students’ scientific preparation is also strengthened, in the new istituti tecnici, through the teaching of integrated sciences (earth sciences and biology, physics and chemistry) according to school autonomy. Legal documents of the reform (presidential decree no.87 of 15 March 2010 on the reorganisation of vocational institutes; presidential decree no.88 of 15 March 2010 on the reorganisation of technical institutes; presidential decree no. 89 of 15 March 2010 on the reorganisation of the licei system available at: – 'New Skills for New Jobs' The reform of the second cycle of education provides for a stronger relationship between general upper secondary schools and the labour market or the university; in the second two-year period of the licei, a part of the study pathway can be carried out through stages and apprenticeships or in connection with the world of higher education (universities, academies, conservatoires, higher technical institutes). As far as the istituti tecnici are concerned, besides the central importance of laboratory activities (laboratories are effective teaching instruments in all subject areas), a special attention is dedicated to increase and improve the connection with the labour market and the professions world.

National system overviews on education systems in Europe and ongoing reforms


Ita ly (Oc tob er 2 010) The new regulations aim at creating a closer link with these two worlds as well as with the voluntary work and the private organisations in the social field, through stages, apprenticeships and alternance training. As far as the new istituti professional are concerned, besides the strengthening of laboratory activities, a central role is still ascribed to apprenticeships and alternance training in order to learn through a direct work experience.

3. Promoting equity, social cohesion and active citizenship – Early leavers from education and training In the second cycle of education, students have to accomplish the right-duty to education and training up to the attainment of a five-year study title or a three-year qualification within eighteen years of age. The organisation of the second cycle of education into upper secondary education pathways (licei, istituti tecnici, istituti proifessionali) and of the vocational education and training pathways under the Regions’ responsibility, aims to prevent exclusion. Furthermore, the national guidelines of specific learning objectives for the licei underline that the reform of the second cycle of education aims to go beyond the traditional organisation establishing a clear connection with the Guidelines for technical and vocational education The aim is to create a common core of knowledge and skills for licei, and all technical and vocational pathways. This amendments aim at establishing a closer collaboration between general and vocational education sectors as well as at enabling a smoother passage from one sector to the other. National guides available for licei, technical and vocational education at: i_nazionali.pdf and TUTI%20%20PROFESSIONALI_.pdf) – Pre-primary education According to the reorganisation of the scuola dell’infanzia and the first cycle of education, parents can choose to anticipate the enrolment of their children at two and a half years of age instead of three. It is also possible to enrol children who are turning three within the 30th of April of the relevant school year. – Migrants Specific information not available – Learners with special needs According to the reform, not yet in force, of initial teacher education and of the recruitment system, support teacher education will be provided by the universities also through agreements with specific sector organisations.

4. Enhancing creativity and innovation, including entrepreneurship, at all levels of education and training – Transversal key competences Specific information non available


National system overviews on education systems in Europe and ongoing reforms

Ita ly (Oc tob er 2 010) – Innovation-friendly institutions The Scuola Digitale plan, fostered by the Ministry of education, university and research and further boosted in the last two years, aims to develop and strengthen teaching through integration of technologies in the learning process. The plan is made up of two actions: Lavagne interattive multimediali – LIM (multimedia interactive boards) and Cl@ssi 2.0. LIM: the Ministry launched the LIM Plan in school year 2008/09; the plan aimed to distribute multimedia interactive boards in state schools, more specifically in lower secondary schools; starting from school year 2009/10 the LIM will also be supplied in primary schools and upper secondary schools. The plan also foresees a specific training for the teachers of the classes which will be assigned a LIM. The specific methodological training, focused on the use of technological equipment in the teaching of the various subjects, will be provided by the National agency for the development of school autonomy. Cl@ssi 2.0: the purpose of this action is to change the learning environments through a regular and widespread use of ICT in the daily teaching activities. Cl@ssi 2.0 was launched in school year 2009/10 in 156 classes of lower secondary schools. Schools were selected through a ministerial announcement. In school year 2010/11, Cl@ssi 2.0 has been extended to primary and upper secondary schools. Teachers and pupils will be provided with technological devices and multimedia tools and classrooms will be equipped with Internet connection. The National agency for the development of school autonomy, in collaboration with its regional units, has developed and is implementing a plan to support schools in their teaching planning. – Partnership Specific information not available

B. Other important ongoing reforms and policy initiatives at national level The main ongoing reforms are at present: •

the reform of the second cycle of education, which will be gradually phased in starting from school year 2010/11;

the reform of initial teacher training and teacher recruitment system, supposed to be implemented starting from school year 2011/12.

Further details regarding these two reforms are given in part A of section 9. Unrevised english

Information provided by the Italian Eurydice Unit. For more detailed information on education systems in Europe, you may consult the EURYDICE data base, EURYBASE (

National system overviews on education systems in Europe and ongoing reforms



Italian Educative System 2010

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