Growing up in Italy: The Italian School System

If you are moving to Italy with your family, or starting a family in Italy, it is important to understand the Italian school system. Education in Italy is compulsory for children aged six to sixteen and it is divided into three levels: primary school, middle school, and secondary school, known as Liceo. Before six years old there are a few different options for daycare and preschool. Let’s dive into the Italian School System!

It is important to note that the Italian school system is centralized, meaning that the Ministry of Education establishes the guidelines for the curriculum and the assessment methods. However, each region and school can adapt the guidelines to their specific needs.

Preschool & Daycare

Before they turn six, Italian children will often attend some sort of preschool, even if it is not mandatory in the Italian school system. There exist two versions, much like how we divide Daycare and Preschool, in Italy, there is Asilo Nido and Scuola Materna.

In Italy, “asilo nido” is an infant-toddler center for children aged three months to three years old, while “scuola materna” is a nursery school for children aged three to six years old. Another daycare option some parents take advantage of is “baby parking” – while Asilo Nido requires attendance every day, baby parking can be reserved for just a few hours once or twice a week, when necessary.

You might hear Asilo Nido also called Nido, Asilo, micro nido, and many other names, however, they are all the same thing. While many might offer to take children from 3 months old, due to the lack of spots available they take older kids first, and you’ll find that most children start closer to 1 year old. If you have just had a baby in Italy, you’ll already want to start contacting Asilo Nido in your area to lock down a spot as there is limited availability.

Remember, since these preschool options are not mandatory in the Italian school system, they will require a fee. However recently the government has been offering financial support to help cover the cost of these services.

Elementary School

Elementary school, known as “scuola primaria,” is for children aged six to eleven and it lasts five years. The curriculum includes Italian, English, Mathematics, Science, History, Geography, Physical Education, Music, and Art.

This school will most likely be located in your local town or general area of the city, so your child will attend with other local children. As this is compulsory schooling, there is no fee, however, you will need to purchase supplies and books for your child.

Middle School

Middle school, known as “scuola media” is for children aged eleven to fourteen and it lasts three years. The curriculum is more specialized and it includes Italian, English, Mathematics, Science, History, Geography, Physical Education, Music, Art, and a second foreign language. This school will also be a local school, either in your town or the local area of the city.

Secondary School

In the Italian school system secondary school, known as “scuola secondaria,” is for ages fourteen to nineteen and lasts five years. There are three types of secondary schools in Italy: “liceo,” “istituto tecnico,” and “istituto professionale.” The “liceo” prepares students for university studies, while the “istituto tecnico” and “istituto professionale” prepare students for vocational careers.

At this point, students are able to choose the direction they would like to follow and select a school based on that decision. This might mean they go to a school down the street or might mean they need to go to a town or city over. For this reason, there aren’t necessarily school buses, but teens will take public transport or be dropped off by their parents.

Students must keep attending until they are 16 years old, however after that, they may choose to leave school and start their careers.

Cultural Differences in the Italian School System

While in some countries there are many extracurricular activities connected to school, in Italy this might not be as common. Sports and other activities are available to children, but they are typically managed by associations outside of the school.

Parent-teacher conferences occur, but their frequency may vary depending on the school. However, overall, parents are not always as involved with school activities as they might be in other countries.

Something that personally surprised me was school hours. This is something that changed from school to school, but you might have noticed many schools get out a bit earlier. Elementary schools and many middle schools might go until 16:00, but high schools often finish earlier, closer to 13:00-14:00.

What about private schools?

In Italy, you can find private international schools based on many different education systems, such as American, Canadian, British, French, and German schooling, depending on where you are in Italy. The cost varies greatly, ranging from a few thousand euros per year.

If this is important to you, it is recommended that you research the best place to live in proximity to the schools you are interested in before moving to Italy.

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