K-12 Education System in Italy

The education system in Italy is organised according to the subsidiary principle and autonomy of schools. Schools are independent as for teaching, and research and development activities. Free State education is offered to all children in Italy regardless of nationality. 

Education is mandatory from the age of 6 to 16 years in Italy. Compulsory education lasts for 10 years, and covers the 8 years of first-cycle education, comprising  5 years of primary or elementary schools and 3 years of lower secondary school, and the first two years of the upper secondary schools. After completion of the first cycle of education, the last two years of compulsory education from 14 to 16 years of age can be achieved either in state upper secondary schools, like technical and vocational institutes, or through the three‐year vocational education and training courses.

Education Levels

The Italian Education system comprises:
  • Daycare Centres (asilo nido): It is for children in the age group 0-3 years old. This form of education is not mandatory. There are public as well as private daycare centres. Municipalities are in charge of public daycare centres through their Social work services.
  • Nursery School (scuola per l'infanzia): Also, referred to as Infant schools. It is for the children who fall in the age group of 3-5 years old. Attendance at public or state-run nursery schools is both gratuitous and not mandatory. Nursery schools give an opportunity to children to play and learn. 

Primary Education

Primary education includes primary or elementary schools.
  • Primary School or scuola primaria / elementare: Also, referred to as Elementary schools. It is a compulsory schooling and begins at the age of six and continues for five years. Primary schools are free in Italy. The municipality provides for the children’s textbooks. At primary school children learn to read and write and study a broad range of subjects including mathematics, history, geography, Italian, English, arts, science and physical education. They also have music lessons, computer studies or information technology and social studies. Religious education is optional. Class size is small, generally between 10 and 25 students. 

Secondary Education

Secondary Education comprises of the lower secondary schools and upper secondary schools.
  • First Level Secondary School or Lower Secondary School (scuola media): All pupils aged between 11-14 years old must attend the First Grade Secondary School. It is compulsory to attend this level of study. Students are required to attend at least thirty hours of formal sessions per week, although many schools offer additional activities in the afternoons such as information technology or computer studies, music sessions and sports activities. Formal sessions cover a broad range of subjects following a National Curriculum laid down by the Ministry of Public Education, MPI. At the conclusion of each term, students get a school report. At the conclusion of the third year, students have to sit for a written exam in the following subjects: Italian, foreign language, math, and science. Also, an oral examination is conducted for the other subjects.  After passing both the written as well as an oral examination, students are awarded the Licenza di Scuola Media. Students can then move on to the Second Grade Secondary School level (Scuola Secondaria di Secondo Grado).
  • High School or Upper Secondary School (scuola superiore): This school level is mandatory up to the age of 16.The secondary high school system is split by subject matter, and the curriculum varies according to the area of study selected. Different types of high schools in Italy are technical, teacher training, fine arts, artistic, scientific, professional and classical schools. Class size is generally between 25 to 28 students and tuition fees to be paid are predicted according to the household income. Students need to pass a final examination. A High School diploma (Diploma di Maturita) is awarded to the successful students. This qualification permits the students to opt for higher education, i.e. university admissions.

Admissions Procedure

By law, Italian schools have to accept all children under the age of 18 even if the compulsory documentation is not presented. In this case the admission is regarded as "a temporary admission", until the guardian has presented the compulsory documentation. Admission registration can be done at the School Registry Office (Anagrafe Scuole Stali).

Key Documentation

Following documents are compulsory: (All the documents must be translated in Italian)
  • Birth certificate
  • Residence Document (For EU citizens) 
  • Residence permit (Permesso di Soggiorno) (for non-EU citizens)
  • Immunization Requirements:  Evidence of immunization  for polio, DTap (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) and hepatitis B. It should include the student’s name and date of birth, the vaccine given and date of each immunization.
  • Identity Proof: It can be passport or an identity card 
  • Passport-size photos
  • Family Status Certificate: The certificate can be taken from the Local registry office if he/she is a resident or if an application has been prepared for residency.

K-12 Education at a Glance

Up to Age 3: Daycare Centre (Nidi d'infanzia)
Ages 3 to 6: Pre-primary School- Nursery school (Scuola materna)
Ages 6 to 10: Primary Education- Elementary school (Scuola elementare)
Ages 11 to 14: Lower Secondary School- Middle school (Scuola media)
Ages 15 to 19: High school or Secondary school (Scuola secondaria di II grado). High School or Secondary School includes classical, Teacher training, scientific, technical, and vocational courses of study.

Grading Mechanism at Primary and Secondary Schools

 Scale Grade Description
 9.00-10.00 Ottimo (Excellent)
 8.00 - 8.99  Distinto (With Distinction)
  7.00 - 7.99  Buono (Good) 
6.00 - 6.99  Sufficiente (Sufficient)
 0.00 - 5.99 Respinto (Fail)
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