Education and Schools in Italy

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education in italyMany expats are concerned about choosing a school in Italy that will best suit their children’s needs. The system of education in Italy has a large state sector backbone, and a smaller private sector that acts as an able supplement.
Foreign parents should take some time to evaluate their priorities and those of their children before choosing the institution they will attend.
There are three levels of education in Italy:
  • scuola materna (three to five years old)
  • scuola primaria (six to 10 years old)
  • scuola media (11 to 14 years old)
  • scuola superiore, liceo (from age 14 onwards)

Public schools in Italy

Expats will be happy to learn that state schools are free, even for foreigners living in Italy who aren't formal residents. This applies to primary schools, secondary schools and even universities; although enrolment taxes do become applicable after students reach the age of 16.

Italian state schools operate according to a centralised system, which controls school curricula and final examinations. Despite attempts at uniformity, however, it is widely acknowledged that education in northern Italy is of a higher standard than in the south.

Furthermore, options and standards can be subject to decline in rural areas. Expats planning to live outside urban centres should take this into consideration when choosing a school.

Education in Italy is compulsory from the ages of six to 16, and locals place a high value on secondary schooling as well as university. Most Italians send their children to state schools and those that don't, do so largely for religious motivations or because they prefer the smaller class sizes and focused attention of private schools.

State-sponsored schools always teach in Italian, which is often the deciding factor in whether or not expat parents take advantage of the public system. English is often taught as a second language, but these brief learning experiences are some distance from first-language instruction.

Still, expats planning to live in Italy for more than a year should not overlook state schools. A lot of effort is made to integrate expat children through the use of intensive Italian language classes, cultural activities and remedial classes.

Furthermore, parents can enlist the help of tutors at home or arrange private Italian lessons – which can still prove more cost-effective than paying tuition at an international school.

Families who decide to send their children to state schools in Italy are often amazed at how quickly they adapt. It is also important, however, to make sure that children are equally proficient in their home language.

Private and international schools in Italy

Private schools in Italy are generally either those institutions run by religious organisations, mandated by "unorthodox" teaching methods, or are foreign language or international schools.

For the most part, the standard of education does not vary greatly between state and private schools in Italy, but nonetheless, private schools do offer certain benefits that state schools do not. Classes tend to be smaller, there is more individual focus and there is more emphasis on extra-curricular activities.

An international school in Italy is the obvious option for expat families planning to live in the country for a short time or those who would prefer their children continue with the curriculum of their home country.

Some of these schools even offer bilingual options, where students can eventually sit for Italian state exams as well as English exams.

Most large urban centres will offer several options, where expat children will have the benefit of attending class with others from varied backgrounds and nationalities.

Admission requirements vary from institution to institution, but generally require previous school records and, in some cases, a personal interview.

Tuition fees can be expensive, costing as much as 25,000 EUR per year for Grade 12 at an elite institution. If possible, expats should try to arrange for an educational allowance in their contract.

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