State education in Italy is considered to be of an excellent standard from pre-school to university. The Italian school system is open and free for all, including expat children who are residents in Italy (up to the end of primary school, when a small fee is payable each year). Depending on the location, local children may be given priority for places at state schools in Italy.
Italy has both a public and private education system. However, unusually the quality of the public schools is considered to be higher than Italian private schools. Interestingly, the style of education in Italy tends to place more emphasis on oral tests than written ones. Many international families choose to send their children to state school as it is a fantastic way for them to learn the language and integrate into the local community and culture, studying school subjects in Italian.
Education in Italy is compulsory from 6 to 16 years of age, and is divided into five stages, according to age group, beginning with optional pre-school (scuola dell’infanzia) for ages 3-6. Primary school (scuola elementare or scuola primaria) is compulsory for children from the age of 6 years old, lasting 5 years until middle school known as lower secondary school (scuola secondaria di primo grado or scuola media inferiore). At the age of 14, middle school pupils sit the diploma di licenza media exam and graduate to upper secondary school or high school.
High school (scuola secondaria di secondo grado or scuola media superiore) is divided into two distinct categories; a liceo, providing more theoretical academic schooling in the humanities, sciences or arts, or an istituto, focusing on more vocational or technical subjects, such as business, hospitality and agriculture (often including an internship as part of the course). Within these two categories of high schools (and depending on geographical location) there are many individual institutions specialising in a variety of subjects, from languages to teacher training to tourism and more. 5 years of High School culminates in sitting a final exam, known as the esame di maturità or esame di stato (the Italian equivalent of the IB or English A-Levels).
With such a variety of options at a young age, it is important to carefully consider the curriculum in detail before deciding which specialism is right for your child, particularly if they are considering higher education abroad.
Many expats opt to send their children to private International Schools which follow the curriculum of their home nation, particularly for the final years of schooling if their children do wish to apply to universities abroad. Although much more expensive, with high annual fees, International Schools are a popular and practical option for families who may relocate again or wish to expose their child to different cultures and languages within the wider context of life in Italy.
MumAbroad.com have put together a step-by-step relocation guide to help expats moving to Italy get started, with information on paperwork and visas, the cost of living, healthcare in Italy and more. For more detailed information on international schools in Italy, as well as recommendations from expat parents please visit MumAbroad.com.