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School System in Italy

Italian School System
Italian School System

What you Need to Know

The Italian school system is offered free to all children in Italy regardless of nationality. All children are required to attend school from age six through sixteen. Even the public nursery schools are free with reasonable sized classes and motivated teachers. The school system has a good reputation but tends to focus on rote memorization and obedience over creativity.


Scuola primaria (formerly "elementare"), or primary school, begins at age six and continues for five years. Class sizes generally run about twenty five children per class with a minimum of ten students. Pluriclassi, or mixed-level classes, have between six and twelve students. Schooling and textbooks are free. Municipalities manage transportation and school meals, most often asking for contributions but making exceptions for needy families. The curriculum includes: Italian, English, Geography, History, Math, Science, Technology, Music, Art, Physical Education, Information Technology and Catholicism.


The next level formerly known as scuola media is now known as scuola secondaria di 1 grado, secondary school level one, where students study until they turn fourteen years old. Formerly at age fourteen, compulsory education was considered complete. Now this limit has been raised to sixteen. While the schooling is free, books must be purchased at the secondary level. Class size is about 21 students per class. The curriculum includes: religion, Italian, English, an alternate foreign language, history, geography, science, math, technology, information technology, art, music and physical education.


Students must take and pass an exam before moving up to scuola secondaria superiore or liceo, higher secondary school. Higher secondary school lasts five years until the student is eighteen or nineteen years old. The higher secondary schools are voluntary. Students must make a choice about their education at an early age and choose the higher secondary school they will attend. Each higher secondary school is broken down by subject matter such as:


  • liceo scientifico (scientific)
  • liceo classico (classic)
  • liceo linguistico (languageS)
  • liceo delle scienze umane (formerly istituto magistrale - school for teachers)
  • istituto tecnico (technical school)
  • istituto professionale (professional school)


The art schools are further divided into:


  • liceo artistico (artistic high school)
  • liceo musicale (music)
  • istituto d'arte (art school)
  • accademia di danza (dance academy)
  • conservatorio di musica (conservatory of music)
  • accademia nazionale d'arte drammatica (national academy of dramatic arts). Once the student has chosen his or her field of study, they are rarely allowed to change their minds.


Class sizes are between twenty five to twenty eight students in higher secondary school. Higher secondary schools do charge tuition. However, based on family income, some students may qualify for exemptions or assistance. Curriculum varies depending on the course of study chosen.


After completing the higher secondary school, students must pass another exam in order to receive their Diploma di Maturità. Once they have their diplomas, they either begin their careers in their professions or move on to the University.


Italy has forty two state universities, six private universities, three technical universities and twelve specialized university institutes. Each university offers four main courses: diploma universitario (university diploma), Diploma di Laurea (Bachelor of Arts/Science), Dottorato di Ricerca (research doctorate), and Diploma di Specializzazione (diploma of specialization).


By Celeste Stewart

For More Information on University and Schooling:

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