The Italian education system is largely dominated by state schools, and Milan is no exception. Expats who don’t intend to stay for the long term usually opt for private international schools, but these are expensive and competition for places is high.
The school year runs from around mid-September to the following June. There is a two-week winter break towards the end of December, with shorter breaks in February and April. The summer break at the end of the academic year lasts about 12 weeks.
Public schools in Milan
Public schools in Italy are excellent and are free for Italian residents, although the language of instruction is in Italian, so enrolling their children in public schools isn't an option for many expats.
According to national law, Italian schools have to provide Catholic religious education, but children are allowed to attend non-religious alternativa classes, which cover subjects such as human rights and mythology.
In line with the national curriculum, schools in Milan are divided into four levels. Scuola dell’infanzia is equivalent to kindergarten and is for children from three to five years old. Primary school (scuola primaria) is compulsory and caters to children between six and 11 years old. Secondary school is split between scuola media (11 to 14) and scuola superiore (14 to 19). School is compulsory for teens up to 16 years old.
What is important to note is that at 14 years old students must decide what subjects they wish to specialise in and go to a specific institution dedicated to it. This is an important decision to make and can have implications for future tertiary education and career paths.
Private schools in Milan
There is often not much difference between public and private schools throughout Italy as both receive state funding. This funding means that private schools have to adhere to certain curriculum and educational standards set by the government. However, unlike public schools, private schools tend to operate under a specific religious or pedagogic philosophy, like Catholicism or the Montessori method.
International schools in Milan
Milan has various international schools that teach a range of programmes, including the International Baccalaureate as well as American, British, French and German curricula. These schools can be expensive but are a good way to get around language differences. Many Italians who can afford it send their kids to international schools as this could expose them to broader future career and educational opportunities.
Nurseries in Milan
There are nurseries and daycare centres that focus on early childhood development in Milan and these can support children of expats and locals. There are various options, including bilingual nurseries. This is a great option as children can easily pick up another language at a young age and can help better integrate families planning on staying in Italy for a long period. Expat parents can also meet other families at these nurseries to make connections and meet people going through similar experiences to them.
Special needs in Milan
Italy has a progressive take on special needs and the rights for citizens in that education must be inclusive. Students with disabilities are entitled to receive a comprehensive range of services to ensure they still get their full education. In Milan, being a big city, expats are likely to find services to support children with disabilities. Support for students with special needs can be received across all types of institutions, public, international and private, including Montessori schools.
Tutors in Milan
Expat parents in Milan who are looking for their children to get extra one-on-one help with their schoolwork can find tutors with ease. There are many platforms, including TutorYou, Apprentus and Preply, that parents can search through to find a tutor for a specific subject or a range of them, for example in the sciences, maths or languages. Parents can also look for a tutor by contacting their school directly as older students may be offering tuition.
►Not sure which school is right for your child? Read International Schools in Milan for a list of reputable international schools
►Get more information on special needs education in Italy
►Read Kids and Family in Milan for ideas about family outings in the city
"The Italian schools are excellent. They do not have extra-curricular activities though. It is all about the books." To get insights into education in Milan, read Diana's interview.
"Many expats prefer to put their children through an international, fee-paying school like The British School of Milan, that use a British curriculum." Tim shares his thoughts on schooling in Milan. Read more in his expat interview.
Are you an expat living in Milan?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Milan. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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