Education system in Italy

Today we’re going to talk about the Italian education system and how it works.


Education in Italy

Firstly, it must be said that a free state education is available to children of all nationalities who are resident in Italy.

Children attending the Italian education system can start with the Scuola dell’Infanzia also known as Scuola Materna (nursery school), which is non-compulsory, from the age of three.


Compulsory school is tax free in Italy, which means you do not need to pay any registration fee. It starts at the age of 6 (with the possibility to be anticipated to 5 1/2) and lasts until the age of 16. Schools in Italy are mainly public, although some private institutions exist.

Before going to compulsory schools, children are usually introduced to non-compulsory nidi d’infanzia, the equivalent of crèches. These sections usually are for children of one to three years old. They then enter in la scuola dell’infanzia (usually called scuola materna), the equivalent of kindergarten. Here, children begin with classes, classmates and little learning sections with tasks. Often, they also eat at school and spend part of the afternoon there.

La scuola primaria (primary school)

Scuola primaria (formerly called “scuola elementare”), or primary school, begins at age six and continues for five years. Class sizes generally run about 25 children per class with a minimum of 10 students. The main subjects studied are: Italian, English, Geography, History, Math, Science, Technology, Music, Art, Physical Education, Information Technology and Catholicism.

La scuola secondaria di primo grado (middle school)

Scuola secondaria di primo grado (formerly known as scuola media)Pupils attend it until they turn 14 years old. Formerly at age fourteen, compulsory education was considered complete. Now this limit has been raised to 16 years old. Class size is about 20 students per class. The main subjects studied are: religion, Italian, English, an alternate foreign language, history, geography, science, math, technology, information technology, art, music and physical education.

At the end of the three years of scuola secondaria di primo grado there is a State exam, similar to the one students will have to take at the end of high school.

La scuola secondaria di secondo grado or “scuola superiore” (high school)

When students start going to high school, things change dramatically. Italy is known to be one of the few countries in the world where a distinct, well defined choice about a pupil’s future professional career needs to be taken as early as 14 years old.

Italian high schools are of different types, depending on the main focus of their teachings. In all high schools class sizes are between 25 to 30 students. They must be chosen during the final year of scuola secondaria di primo grado and the pupil must attend it until his/her 16th year of age.

Types of Italian High Schools:

Liceo Classico (Classical High School)
This lasts for five years and prepares the student for university level studies. Latin, Greek and Italian literature form an important part of the curriculum. During the last three years philosophy and history of art are also studied.

Liceo Scientifico (Scientific High School)
Lasts for five years with an emphasis on physics, chemistry and natural sciences. The student also continues to study Latin and one modern language.

Liceo Artistico (Fine Arts High School)
Studies can last four to five years and prepare for university studies in painting, sculpture or architecture.

Istituto Magistrale (Teacher Training School)
Studies last for five years and prepare future primary school teachers. There is also a three year training course for nursery school teachers, but this diploma does not entitle students to then enrol at a university.

Istituto d’Arte (Artistic Schools)
Studies last three years and prepare for work within an artistic field and leading to an arts qualification (diploma di Maestro d’Arte)

Istituti Tecnici (Technical Institutes)
Studies last five years and prepare for both university studies and for a vocation. There is a majority of students in technical schools that prepare students to work in a technical or administrative capacity in agriculture, industry or commerce.

After completing the higher secondary school, students must pass another exam  order to receive their Diploma di Maturità. Once they have their diplomas, they either begin their careers in their professions or move on to the University.


In Italy there are 61 public universities and 15 private. They follow the European model: a primary course of three years to obtain a bachelor degree (diploma di laurea), a further two years to specialize with a Master’s degree (laurea magistrale) and, finally, the possibility to obtain  a PhD (dottorato di ricerca). This is valid for very most of the faculties, except some faculties such as: Medicine (6 years),  Law (5 years), Architecture…


-Private universities:

Università del Sacro Cuore and Università Bocconi, both in Milan, are renowned a bit everywhere in the world.

-Public universities:

The eldest university in Italy is in Bologna. This is one of the best public universities, after La Sapienza in Rome.

The universities fees are usually calculated on the basis of the student’s (or his/her family, if dependent) income. Public universities fees are, however, usually never superior to 2500 euro per year. Private universities may charge more, but never as much as an American University!

Now it’s your turn to tell us how is your education system, is it similar to the Italian system?


There is no comment on this post. Be the first one.

Leave a comment