Many Expats who have families in Italy can find it difficult to understand the schooling system in Italy. The system in Italy is very different from the United States and other parts of the Western world but the quality of education remains extremely high.
There’s a good choice of schools in Italy that offer a well-rounded overall education; so you’ll be able to find a good fit for you and your children while you’re living in the country.
Is School Mandatory For Expats In Italy?
It’s compulsory for all children between the ages of 6 and 16 to attend school in Italy, regardless of their nationality. This means that it’s a legal requirement for all Expats to send their children to a school while they are residents of the country.
A Brief Overview Of The Italian School System.
The following is an overview of the Italian school system.
Asilo is the Italian equivalent of Kindergarten and caters to children from the ages of 3 to 6. Attending the Asilo is not compulsory for children in Italy although the vast majority do attend.
Classes are very relaxed and taught by two teachers. The daily schedule is primarily focused on allowing young children to start socializing with plenty of time set aside for play! The children also start to learn the alphabet, numbers and basic writing skills.
Scuola Primaria (Primary School).
Scuola Primaria, or ‘Primary School’, is for children from the ages of 6 to 11. The curriculum includes classes in Italian, English, math, history, geography, social studies, physical education, art and music.
Each class has 3 teachers who teach several subjects each as well as a separate English language teacher. Classes are taught in Italian however if you’re children have already attended Kindergarten in Italy they will be well on their way to speaking fluently by the time they finish Primary School at 11.
Scuola Secondaria (Secondary School).
Scuola Secondaria, or ‘Secondary School’ is divided into 2 sections and lasts 8 years in total. The first part of Secondary School is called Scuola Secondaria di Primo Grado and takes students from 11 to 14 years old. It’s also known as Scuola Media, or ‘Middle School’ by local Italians. During Middle School students study a broad curriculum that includes all the basic subjects such as Italian, English, math and science.
Following this, students attend Scuola Secondaria di Secondo Grado, or ‘Upper Elementary School’, from the ages of 14 to 19. Students can choose between 3 types of Scuola Secondaria di Secondo Grado, depending on their aspirations and personal interests. The 3 types of schools that they can choose from are Liceo, Instituto Tecnico and Instituto Professionale.
In Liceo, students study an academic curriculum that is mainly theoretical during which they specialize in fields such as the humanities, the sciences and the arts. Most of the Liceo schools in Italy have a similar structure and teach common subjects such as Italian literature, math and history. However, some Liceo in Italy teach more unusual subjects. For example, the Liceo Classico teaches Ancient Greek while the Liceo Artistico teaches scenography.
An Instituto Tecnico, or ‘technical institute’, focuses on a narrow theoretical education in specialized fields such as economics, administration, technology, law and tourism.
The Instituto Professionale teaches vocational courses for students who want to follow a career in the trades. The schools offer 3 or 5 year diplomas after which students are well-positioned to take up jobs in their chosen sectors.
Any type of Scuola Secondaria that offers a 5 year program allows students to take a final exam called the Esame di Maturità, or the Esame di Stato. This takes place each year for the graduating classes in the summer between June and July. Students must pass this exam in order to be able to apply for a place at an Italian university.
Italy’s School Terms, Hours And Schedules.
The school year in Italy starts in mid-September and finishes in mid-June. There are some regional variations in the start and finish times of the school terms in some provinces; for instance, school terms tend to start a little earlier in the North and slightly later in the South of the country. Individual schools may also implement their own small changes to the start and finish times of their terms.
Italian students have short breaks for the Christmas and Easter holidays although their main break is during the summer when they get 3 months off school. All schools in Italy also close for any national holidays that coincide with regular school days.
The two terms of the school year are called ‘Quadrimestri’. The first term starts in September and finishes in the middle of January, with a break for Christmas. The second term starts in January and finishes in June.
At the end of each school term, students are given a report card that grades them from 10-1; 10 being excellent and 1 being very poor, with 6 being a satisfactory passing grade.
Most schools in Italy start classes at 8 or 8.30 in the morning. Classes last for 5 hours from Monday to Saturday. This means that after classes finish children come home for lunch. However, in recent years some schools have been using a shorter 5 day week with extra classes each day and Saturdays off for the students.
Kindergartens put on activities for children during the afternoon that run until either 4 or 4.30. Kindergartens also provide the children with lunch.
Iscrizione – Registering For Schools In Italy.
Iscrizione, or ‘registration’, takes place in January and February each year for the following academic year which starts in September. However, each school is slightly different so you should ask the staff exactly when the enrollment period is.
Unlike in other parts of Europe, in Italy, you can enroll in any school, even if you’re not in its catchment area. Places at schools are allocated on a first come first serve basis so it’s important to enroll as soon as you can after the registration for the following year opens to parents. If a place is available in the school your child will be accepted but if places are limited parents who live locally will usually be given priority.
Dopscuola – After School Activities.
Many schools in Italy provide the opportunity for students to take part in after-school activities which are known as ‘Doposcuola’. During the afternoon students can get extra help with any homework or subjects that they are struggling with. In other cases, depending on the school’s facilities, there may also be music, art, photography classes, or other extracurricular activities available to students.
Do Children Need To Wear A Uniform In Italy?
Children in Kindergartens usually wear a school smock or apron, known as a ‘Grembiule’ in Italian. For boys, the smock is blue and white and for girls, it’s either pink or red and white. In primary schools, the standard uniform is a deep blue. These items are widely available in supermarkets and other stores throughout the country so it’s no problem to get them for your children.
Once students get to secondary school they can wear whatever they like although most students just wear jeans and a t-shirt, with a jumper or jacket in the colder winter months.
What Do Students In Italy Take To School – The Kit.
Children attending Kindergarten only need to take a small school bag with them that contains a bottle of water or juice, and some tissues. Everything else will be provided for them by the school, including lunch.
All other students need to take a school bag, the relevant textbooks, notebooks and personal stationery.
Once your children start Primary School they will need to have their own textbooks. This applies to students in Secondary School as well. You will need to order the textbooks during the summer holidays from a local bookshop so they will be ready for collection before the school term starts in September.
The teachers from your child’s school will give you a complete list of the textbooks that you’ll need to get for the following year. The cost of new textbooks can quickly spiral though! This means that it’s a great idea to try to buy second textbooks if you can.
You can find local websites in Italy that specialize in selling second-hand school textbooks or you can ask other parents at the school who have older children that don’t need their textbooks anymore. In some schools, the textbooks at Primary School are refundable with the school but this isn’t the case in all locations.
Stationery And Notebooks.
You will need to provide all the necessary stationery and notebooks for your children in Primary and Secondary School. It’s worth being aware that some schools require notebooks that are ruled in a special way! So always check with the teachers before you spend money on notebooks that might be the wrong kind.
Known as a ‘Diario’, every student should have a school diary. This is used to write down what homework they need to do each night as well as to list the lessons they have throughout the day. The diary is used as a planner and helps to keep students organized throughout the week.
Do Students Learn Cursive Writing At School In Italy?
Yes, Italy is one of the very few countries in the Western world that teaches all students how to write in cursive font. Cursive font is writing that is ‘joined-up’. However, students are also taught how to write standard print font as well. This is one of the many unusual features of the Italian schooling system.
Do Schools In Italy Teach Religion?
All schools in Italy provide an opportunity to study the Catholic religion for one hour each week. These classes are not compulsory though; so when you register at the school you will be asked if you want your child to attend these classes or not.
If you would prefer your child not to attend the religion classes then you can either select another educational activity for them to do or ask for your child to be let home early.
Relationship Between The Parents And Teachers In Italy.
Parents and teachers in Italy tend to have a close working relationship in regard to the students at school.
Each year, parents elect one parent who will be their representative and act as their intermediary with the school. They handle a whole range of tasks including talking with teachers about issues that the parents have as well as reporting complaints. They also help to coordinate special events, fundraisers and one-off school trips.
Schools also have a Consiglio di Istituto, which is the equivalent of a School Board in the United States. Parents are represented in the Consiglio di Instituto which is convened to make decisions about the school’s budget and other important matters.
Teachers in Italy also set aside an ‘Ora di Ricevimento’, or ‘office hour’, each week. This is an informal opportunity for parents to raise any concerns they may have or ask questions about their child, as well as talk about anything else concerning the school.
Parents are also invited to meet the teachers at the end of each term. This is a chance to go over the progress that your child has been making during the year so far.
This means that parents and teachers in Italy tend to have a very amicable relationship with plenty of opportunities to raise concerns and work together in the best interests of the students at the school. The teachers in Italy are very approachable so you should never worry about dropping in during the weekly office hour to have a quick talk about anything that’s on your mind.
Italy Has An Excellent School System That Caters Well To Expats.
Many Expats feel that they have to send their children to private, fee-paying International Schools; and although this is an option, the free, state-run school system provides an excellent education for children of all nationalities.
The school system in Italy provides a broad initial education in Primary School and then the opportunity to specialize in the latter half of Secondary School. If your child is young when you first arrive in Italy they will soon pick up Italian and be able to keep up with the lessons and their classmates.
Of course, being able to speak English and Italian to a fluent standard is a fantastic skill to have so many Expat children leave the school system in Italy with a major advantage over their peers back in the US!