Education System in Italy

Italy has a long history of over 3000 years. Modern Italy or the Italian Republic came into being in the year 1946, soon after World War II. Italy practices parliamentary democracy and is one of founding members of the European Union. Italy has about 150 cities and townships, out of which Rome, Milan, Naples, Turin and Venice are the major cities. While Italian is the official language of Italy and is widely used, there are pockets where French, German and Greek are predominant. Current population of Italy is about 60 million and the per capita income is pegged at about US$ 33,000. Education is given high prominence in Italy. It has a high literacy rate; of 99% amongst both men and women. The Government spends about approximately 9% of its total budget on education and a large percentage of this goes to secondary education. About 18 % of education budget is spent on higher / tertiary education.

Education System in Italy

The Italian Constitution under Article 34 establishes the principle of the right of individual citizens to education. All children between the ages of six to sixteen are offered free compulsory education. Education is offered by private as well as public bodies. The primary and secondary schools in Italy are of good repute. However, most of the primary education schools give priority to rote memorization and obedience rather than to creativity and innovation.

Stages of Education in Italy

  • Education system in Italy is divided into five stages
  • Kindergarten (scuola dell'infanzia) for three years from the age of 3 to 6 years
  • Primary school (scuola primaria) for 5five years from the ages  of 6 to 11 years
  • Lower secondary school (scuola secondaria di primo grado), for three years from the ages of 11 to 14 years
  • Upper secondary school (scuola secondaria di secondo grado) for five years from the ages of 14 to 19 years
  • University (universita)), which is the higher education component and includes Bachelor’s (3- to 4 years), Master’s (2 years) and Doctoral degrees.

Compulsory Education

In Italy, 10 years of education is compulsory i.e. from 6 to 16 years. All children in this age group must enroll and attend a recognised school. However, in the last two years (from 14 to 16 years of age), students have a choice to complete it their education in either state run upper secondary school or through a three -year vocational education and training course.

Primary to Secondary Schooling

In primary and secondary schools, students are taught Italian, English, history, geography, social studies, natural sciences, mathematics, visual and musical arts and physical education.

A typical higher secondary class will have about an average of 20 students. Some higher secondary schools charge for tuition, but eligible students who have lower family income get a waiver in fees.
At the end of higher secondary schooling, students must appear for a state examination. Only those students who have successfully cleared the state exam can take admission in a university or enrol for AFAM tertiary education.

Higher Education

Generally, higher education in Italy includes Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral courses which is provided by universities, technical universities, institutes, academies, and by a number of professional training institutions related to commerce, e-technologies, fashion etc. Most of the existing universities and institutions were established by the Government. Degree programs are structured in credits (crediti formativi universitari-CFU at universities and crediti formativi accademici-CFA at AFAM institutions).

Vocational Education

The Vocational Education Training (VET) system is organized into three-year courses, leading to the award of professional operator certificate (Attestato di Qualifica di Operatore Professionale), and four-year). courses leading to a professional technician diploma (Diploma Professionale di Tecnico). The first two years in VET provide general guidance and awareness to the students about various vocational specializations. In the third and fourth year , students have to undergo practical training in their respective fields.

AFAM System

The Institutes of High Training in Art and Music (AFAM), which is a group of 132 institutes, cover teaching, production and research activities in the field of visual arts, performing art and design.

The AFAM training system comprises of three levels:
  • The first level academic diploma, has three years of training in mastery of methods and art techniques.
  • The second level diploma has a duration of two years and covers higher artistic methods and techniques.
  • The third level academic diploma has a minimum duration of three years with training in planning and carrying out research activities.


In the 2009/2010 school year, there were approximately 10,155 schools in Italy with 366476 classes up to secondary level.

The following table indicates the number of teachers and students at different school levels in Italy:

 School LevelNumber of Students
 Teachers Employed
 Kindergarten 1,007,108 84,531 (99.4% female)
 Primary school 2,578,650 237,290 (96.1% female)
 Lower secondary school 1,670,117 156,023 (78.1% female)
 Secondary schools 2,548,836 223,802 (62.9% female)

There are about 89 major universities / higher education institutions in Italy including:
  • 58 State universities
  • 17 state universities (legally recognized by the State)
  • 2 universities for foreigners
  • 6 higher schools specialized in postgraduate university studies
  • 6 telematic universities
Italy recognises good education as requisite for healthy life and occupation; hence qualifications are given prime importance. Very few school pass-outs go directly for employment without acquiring a diploma, degree or professional qualification. Italians are proud about having the highest ratio of university students in the world (64% attend tertiary education). Italy is definitely one of the learning centres of the world.

For latest facts and figures follow official website of Ministry of Education, University & Research
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