Education and Schools in Italy
The education levels in Italy are known as:
- scuola materna (three to five years old)
- scuola primaria (six to ten years old)
- scuola media (eleven to fourteen years old)
- scuola superiore, liceo (from age fourteen onwards)
State schools in Italy
Expats will be ecstatic to learn that state schools are free, even for foreigners living in Italy who aren't formal residents. This wave of grace applies to primary schools, secondary schools and even universities; though enrolment taxes do become applicable after students reach the age of 15.
Italian state schools operate according to a centralised system, which controls school curricula and final examinations. But despite this attempt at uniformity, it is widely acknowledged that education in the northern region of Italy is of a higher standard than that in the southern region.
Furthermore, options and standards can be subject to decline in very rural areas; thus expats planning to live a large distance outside an urban centre should certainly take this into consideration when undertaking school selection.
Education in Italy is compulsory (scuola dell'obbligo) from the ages of six to 15, and locals place a high value on secondary schooling as well as university. Nearly 90 percent of 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 more focused attention of private schools.
State-sponsored schools always teach in Italian, a factor that often makes or breaks an expat parent's decision to take advantage of the system. Often, English is taught as a second language, but these brief learning experiences are a far cry from the type of instruction that would warrant adequate development for a first-language speaker.
Still, if planning on staying in Italy for more than a year, state schools should certainly not be overlooked. More effort is being made to integrate expat children through the use of intensive Italian language learning classes, cultural activities and remedial classes.
Furthermore, parents can initially enlist the help of tutors at home or arrange private Italian lessons - which still can prove more cost-effective than financing the tuition fees for an international school.
Families who decide to send their children, especially young children, to state schools in Italy will most likely be amazed at how quickly they adapt, but should also take measures to make sure their child has an equally proficient grasp of 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 private and state schools, but nonetheless, private schools do offer certain benefits that state schools do not. Namely, class sizes tend to be smaller, and there is a pointed emphasis on extra-curricular activities.
The international schools are obvious options for expat families planning to live in Italy for a short duration, or those who'd simply prefer that their children continue with the curriculum of their home country.
Some of these schools even offer bilingual options, where kids can eventually sit for Italy state exams as well as English and English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) exams.
Most large urban centres have at least a small smattering of these options, and expat kids have the benefit of attending class with others from varied backgrounds and nationalities; always a valuable experience.
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, ranging from €5,000 to €25,000 a year, depending on the age of the child and the school of choice. If possible, expats should try to arrange an allowance for an international school in their contract.