*** school uniform: Italian school system

Italian School System

Figure 1.--This is a class at the Liceo Foscarini in 1949. This was class 3C at the ginnasio inferiore or primary level. We are still somewhat confused about the terms ginasio and liceo. For example this school was called a liceo, but this is a ginasio class. Other schools were called ginasios.

A basic concept of the Italian school system is needed to undrstand how clothing differed at the various schools.Italy did not emerge as a unified country until the 1860s. As a result we can only befin talking about an Itlalian school systen until the 1860s. Modern schools are similar to the educational system that has developed in other European countries. We have some information on the current system, but still little information on the Italian school system before the modern era. Italy has undergone a series of dramatic political transformations which have also affected the school system.

Education in the Italian States ( -1860)

Italian education before unification was complicated. Italy was divided into several separate states. This included Austrian dimination of the Triesre and Venice and the Vatican's control of central Italy. The Catholic Church played an important role. Educational opportunity was very limited. Many children in southern Italy received very little, if any, a schooling. Italy at the time ws very poor, a backwater of Europe. There was very little industry, except in the north. The south was mostly agricultural and mamy Italians existed at near subsistence levels.

Early Italian System (1860-1923/25)

We have no information on how Italian schools were set up in the late-19th and early 20th century before Musollini. The Vatican resisted unification and even refused to recognize the new Itlian Kingdom. Thus the Church's direct role was limited. We noticed divisions at one school of gimnasio inferiore or primary school and gimnasio superiore or secondary school. These were both 6 year programs. There were also liceo classico and liceo moderno. I am not entirely sure, but I think these were alternative secondary programs. Hopefully our Italian readers will provide us some insights into precisely what these different orograms meant. One reader writes, "I believe "Ginnasio inferiore" was a three year primary program. "Ginnasio superiore" was a 2-year more advanced primary program. "Liceo" was a 3-year secondary program. Major reforms of Italian education occurred in 1923 and were referred to as the Riforma Gentile. I'm not precisely sure what Gentile refers to as a description of reform. This occurred at about the same time that Mussolini and his Fascists seized power in Italy. I'm not yet sure, however, about the nature of these reforms and the influence of the Fascists.

Fascist Era (1925-43/44)

Italian Fascism was unique among the radical forces produced by the early Twentieth century. It developing out of economic problems which followed Italy's costly involvement in World War I. Strangely it had no clear predecessor in the 19th entury. The Italain Fascist movement emerged in 1919, catapulting its leader, the journalist Benito Mussolini, into the premiership 3 years later in 1922 and then to the creation of a new political dictatorship beginning in 1925. We believe that the Italian Fascists exercised control over all schools in Italy, although they did not close down Catholic and private schools. We have, however, little information at this time on Fascist school policies. The Fascists were very critical of earlier educational systems. The Fascists prescribed both content and general methods of teaching, as part of Mussolini's pedagogical "reforms."

Post War System (1945-68)

Major changes occurred in Italian education after World War II. Several factors were involved here. First was the election of socialist (but non-Communist) governments permitted to expanding social justice. Second was the economic expansion associated with European integration and the Common Market. Incomes levels in italy rose drmatically. This meant that families had the economic ability to take advantage of the educational opportinities being made available by the Government. As in many other European countries, both secondary- and university-level eduction was made widely availab;e to students, especially working-class students, for the first time. It looks like somewhere after 1950 "Ginnasio inferiore" became "Scuola media". We also note the term "Scoula Mezzo". We believe that the terms were inter-changeable, schools between primary and secondaty for children about 11-13 years old. We still see the term liceo being used, but are not sure just what it meant.

Modern Era (1968- to date)

The basic principles relating to education, laid down in the Italian Constitution, include: freedom of education; the State's duty to provide a network of education establishments of every type and level, open to everyone without distinction; the right of private individuals to set up schools at no cost to the State; and the duty of parents to educate their children for at least eight years (corresponding to primary and lower secondary education, which is free of charge in state schools). Appropriate measures have to be taken to enable capable and deserving students to enter higher levels of education even if they lack financial resources. As is common, the basic educational system is divided in to primary and secondary schools

Italy has a centralized educational systen. In each of the 20 regions, there is a Regional Education Superintendency (Sovrintendenza Scolastica Regionale) managed by a Superintendent; and in the provinces there is a Provincial Directorate of Education (Provveditorato agli Studi) managed by a Provincial Director of Education. The regional Superintendencies were created in 1963 when local authorities at regional level began to operate, and at first were almost exclusively involved in the development and rationalization of school buildings and the establishment of new primary and secondary schools in cooperation with the regional authorities. They are now above all involved in upper secondary school teacher recruitment, through the organization and administration of competitions for teaching posts (concorsi), and the determination of the school year. They also act as a forum for the Provincial School Offices.

Compulsory education begins at the age of six years and continues up to the age of 14, including five years of primary and three years of lower secondary education. There is a longstanding proposal by the Government to extend compulsory education from 8 to 10 years, that is, until 16 years of age. Compulsory education may be completed by attending state or non-state schools or through education at home.

Pre-School Education (Scuola Materna)

The present system of state nursery schools (Scuola materna) was established by legislation of 1968; this provided for funding for non-state (local or private) nursery schools. Before 1968, nursery schools were established and run by cities, communes and private or religious bodies. State pre-schools accept all children between the ages of 3 and 6, including those with adjustment and learning difficulties. Children attending pre-school are organised into groups with a minimum of 15 and a maximum of 25 children. If a handicapped pupil is integrated in the class the maximum is 20. The sections can be comprised of children of the same or of different ages. Attendance at the state schools is free of charge, but there are contributions being requested from families for transport and meal services provided by the Comune.

Until 1989 and the passage of Law 168, the entire Italian education system was under the control of the Ministry of Education. At that time the Ministry of Universities and Scientific Research was created to take over the responsibilities of university education and scientific and technological research. Until 2000 primary and secondary education was organized as follow: Primary: 5 years of schooling beginning at age 6. Secondary: 8 years of schooling divided into 3 years of lower secondary school followed by 5 years of upper secondary school. On completion of lower secondary school, students receive a "Diploma di Licenza di Scuola Media." The upper secondary schools are of various types: classical, scientific, linguistic, artistic, technical, vocational, and teacher training. The legislator (Law 30/2000) has provided that for the coming the "new" school is articulated in two cycles: Primary (or basic) cycle: 7 compulsory years of schooling beginning of age 6. Secondary cycle: 5 years (the first and the second years are compulsory). This cycle provides four areas of specialization: classical, scientific, technical and artistic. On completion of the 5-year course, students take the examination for the "Diploma di Maturit�" in the field of specialization they have chosen (that should be considered as an equivalent title of bachelor). This diploma grants admission to an Italian university.

Primary Education (Scuola Elementare)

Primary school attendance is compulsory for children aged between 6 and 11 years and may also be carried out in non-state schools or through eduction organised by families, although in the latter case the State reserves the right to control the levels of competence reached by pupils by means of a final examination. Between 1985 and 1990 primary education underwent a process of renewal with new programmes (curricula) and a new structure set out in legislation. The educational aims and programmes of primary schools (Scuola primaria) are defined and set out on a national basis. Under the terms of the legislation of February 1985, primary school education is aimed at promoting initial cultural literacy and the full development of the individual pupil, with an emphasis on interaction with families and the broader social community. The law of 1990 also indicates how educational activities at primary level should be linked with those at pre-school and lower secondary levels.

Lower Secondary Education (Scuola Media)

Lower secondary school attendance is compulsory for 4 years. The last three years of compulsory schooling, for pupils aged 11 to 14, take place in lower secondary schools (scuola media). Access is dependent on passing the primary school leaving certificate examinations. Pupils may remain longer than the compulsory three years if they have to repeat years; some drop out before taking the lower secondary school leaving certificate examination (5.6% in 1991). Lower secondary schools are fully comprehensive and provide free education (according to a common curriculum) to all children in the appropriate age range, regardless of their origin or social status. Their aim is as much to train pupils for adulthood and citizenship as for further study. They must be set up in communes with at least 3,000 inhabitants or wherever there is a need for such a school, according to the law of December 1962. No school may have more than 24 classes and no class may contain more than 25 pupils. Pupils are grouped according to age.

Upper secondary education

After finishing the period of lower secondary education students students may then leave school or continue for another 3 years at the end of which they may go onto to higher education or enter the job market. Upper secondary education is intended for young people between the ages of 14 and 19 years. After completing compulsory education (lower secondary school) they can follow courses lasting three, four or five years, after which they have the choice of entering higher education or employment at middle-management level or as specialized workers.All schools which offer post-compulsory instruction are part of upper secondary education which is comprised by the following categories: classical (liceo classico), scientific (liceo scientifico) and artistic (liceo artistico), technical education (istituti tecnici), vocational education (istituti professionali).
Liceo classico: The liceo classico offers a course of study in the humanities with a base of general culture with a classical bias. The liceso ckasico offers a 5-year course divided into an intial 2-year period followed by a final 3-year period with no intermediate examinations. Students passing the final examination (la maturit�) then have access to all types of university and higher education courses.
Liceo scientifico: The aim of the liceo scientifico is to develop and deepen the education of those students intending to follow university studies in the scientific area. The academic orogram is organized similar to that established for the liceo clasico.
Liceo artistico: The liceo artistico aims to give students a cultural training which is specifically oriented towards the sector of visual arts and related forms of expression. Studies normally last four years with study programmes providing for two sections: the first begins the study of painting,sculpture, decoration and scenographic arts; the second begins the study of architecture. Students take a state examination for the attainment of the maturit� artistica and depending on which section they studies during the last 2 years can either gain access to the Fine Arts Academy or register at a university's Faculty of Architecture.

Technical Education

Technical education is directed towards students aged between 15 and 19 years. The Istituti tecnici (Technical schools) prepare students to practise professions, technical or administrative services in the agricultural, industrial and commercial sectors, with the institutes being named according to their specialisation. The study programmes in the first 2-year period include general subjects which are common to all the sectors and specialisations, the only difference lies in the practical exercises which are carried out in workshops and firms pertaining to the sector to which the school belongs. In the following three-year period, while the teaching of subjects such as Italian literature, history, civics and physical education continues, the other subjects are all related to a specific sector and specialisation, with a significant part of the curriculum reserved for specifically oriented practical exercises. The final certificate is the diploma di maturit� tecnica giving the holder the right to be called Perito (expert) in his/her specialist subject. It also gives access to all university faculties.


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Created: September 1, 2001
Last updated: 11:47 PM 1/24/2009