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Italian educational system

Stages of the education system

The Italian education and training system includes ECEC (0-3 and 3-6), primary, secondary, post- secondary and higher education.

Early childhood education and care (ECEC)

 ECEC for children aged less than 3 years is offered by educational services (servizi educativi per l’infanzia) ECEC for children aged from 3 to 6 years is available at preprimary schools (scuole dell’infanzia).

The two offers make up a single ECEC [12] system, called ‘integrated system’, which is part of the education system and is not compulsory. Although being part of the same system, the ECEC 0-3 is organised by the Regions according to the single regional legislations, while the 3-6 offer is under the responsibility of the Ministry of education.

Compulsory education

 Compulsory education [13] starts at 6 years of age and lasts for 10 years up to 16 years of age. It covers the whole first cycle of education and two years of the second cycle. The last two years of compulsory education can be attended either in an upper secondary school or within the regional vocational education and training system.

Compulsory education can be undertaken either at State school or at scuole paritarie [14] or, subject to certain conditions, at merely private schools or through home education.

In addition, everyone has a right and a duty (diritto/dovere) to receive education and training for at least 12 years within the education system or until they have obtained a three-year vocational qualification by the age of 18.

First cycle of education

 The first cycle of education is compulsory and is made up of primary [15] and lower secondary [16]

education

Primary education (scuola primaria) starts at 6 years of age and lasts 5 years.

Lower secondary education (scuola secondaria di I grado) starts at 11 years of age and lasts 3 years.

Within the first cycle, students pass from one level to the next one without exams. At the end of the first cycle of education, students who pass the final state examination progress directly to the second cycle of education, the first two years of which are compulsory.

Second cycle of education

The second cycle of education starts at the age of 14 and offers two different pathways: the upper secondary school education the regional vocational training system (IFP).

The first two years of the second cycle of education are compulsory.

The upper secondary [17] school education (scuola secondaria di II grado) offers both general (liceo) and vocational (technical and vocational) programmes. Courses last 5 years. At the end of the upper secondary school education, students who successfully pass the final exam, receive a certificate that gives them access to higher education.

The regional vocational training system (IFP [18]) offers three or four-year courses organised by accredited training agencies or by upper secondary schools. At the end of regional courses, learners receive a qualification that gives them access to second-level regional vocational courses or, under certain conditions, short-cycle courses at higher education level.

Higher education

The following institutes offer education at higher level [19]: Universities (polytechnics included);

High level arts, music and dance education institutes (Alta formazione artistica, musicale e coreutica – Afam);

Higher schools for language mediators (Scuole superiori per mediatori linguistici – SSML); Higher technical institutes (Istituti tecnici superiosi – ITS).

Access to university, Afam and SSML programmes is solely for students with an upper secondary school leaving certificate. The Ministry of education and individual institutions establish the specific conditions for admission.

Courses at ITSs are accessible to students with an upper secondary leaving certificate and to students who have attended a four-year regional vocational course followed by an additional one-year course in the Higher technical education and training system (IFTS). ITS offer short-cycle bachelor programmes, according to the Bologna structure.

Adult education

 Adult education [20] includes all activities aimed at the cultural enrichment, requalification and professional mobility of adults. Within the broader term ‘adult education’, the domain “school education for adults” (istruzione degli adulti) only refers to the educational activities aimed at the acquisition of a qualification as well as to literacy and Italian language courses. Adult education is provided by centres for school education for adults (Centri provinciali per l’istruzione degli adulti – CPIA)  and  by upper secondary school.

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