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Italy Education Facts


In Italy, it is compulsory to attend school for ten years. Schooling is free of charge and starts at the age of six. A few percent of students attend private schools, many run by the Catholic Church. However, all schools are state-controlled, and the curricula are set by the Ministry of Education.

After the compulsory school years, students can continue their studies at the upper secondary school, the lycée, which offers both theoretical and vocational courses. To enter the university requires five years of upper secondary education and a passing degree.

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During the economic crisis of 2008, major cuts were made in education and Italy came to belong to the countries in Europe that devote the least resources to education in terms of GDP share. The fact that the classes are smaller and the teachers more per pupil than in other European countries has not led to high-performing students. In studies conducted by the economic cooperation organization OECD, Italian students are below average in all subjects compared to other Western countries. There are major regional differences. For pupils in southern Italy, it is worse than for those in the north.

Low attendance at the higher stages is a cause of the problems. Other explanations have been made that the school system is rigid and leaves too little room for teachers and pupils to design the teaching in a way that suits them and that decision makers in the school system are not held accountable for their decisions to a sufficient degree.

The current government has pushed through a school reform that, among other things, means that teachers should be paid for competence rather than number of years of service and that the principals should be given more freedom when it comes to recruiting staff.

University education has long been in crisis. In the 25-64 age group, only 14 percent have an academic degree, which is half the average in the OECD countries. The government has tried to reform the system and link funding to results-oriented research and students’ prospects of getting jobs, but the plans were partially curbed by student protests. Reductions in recent years have led to a sharp reduction in the number of teachers and researchers.

Italy has over 70 universities and a further number of colleges. The University of Sapienza in Rome and the University of Bologna are the largest. The University of Bologna was founded in 1088 and is considered the oldest in the western world.

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Proportion of children starting primary school

96.9 percent (2016)

Number of pupils per teacher in primary school

11 (2016)

Reading and writing skills

98.8 percent (2011)

Public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP

8.1 percent (2015)

Public expenditure on education as a percentage of the state budget

8.1 percent (2015)



Criticism of treatment of gays

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled in a ruling that the Italian government is violating human rights by not adequately protecting same-sex couples. The verdict applies to three gay couples who are denied marriage or have their partnership registered. In Italy, there is no legislation for same-sex marriage and no opportunity to register partnerships. Prime Minister Renzo has previously promised such legislation.


The government loses in local elections

May 31st

The results of the governor elections in seven regions and the mayoral elections in 700 municipalities will be largely negative for the Democratic Party and Prime Minister Renzi. Although the Democratic Party takes home five of seven governorships, the party’s support among voters has been halved.

Electoral reform approved

May 4th

Parliament finally approves the government’s reform of the electoral system by 334 votes to 61. Under the new law, the party / alliance that receives 40 percent of the vote is to be allocated 340 of the 640 seats in Parliament’s House of Commons. If no party / alliance gets 40 percent in the first round, a new round of elections shall be held between the two who became the largest in the first round. The party / alliance that wins then gets 340 seats (see also Political system). Opposition parties are boycotting the vote in Parliament, including Berlusconi’s Heja Italy, which previously supported the proposal.


Criticism of police torture

The European Court of Human Rights, in a ruling, considers that Italian police used torture in 2001 during demonstrations during a G8 meeting in Genoa. Human rights organizations in Italy demand that a new law be adopted that criminalizes torture – at present there is no such legislation in the country.


Bribery for construction contracts

Minister of Transport and Infrastructure Maurizio Lupi resigns following a corruption scandal. Bribes have been paid out by companies that wanted to get government construction contracts for large infrastructure projects.

HD freezes Berlusconi

Berlusconi is cleared by the Supreme Court of the suspicion of having had sex with a minor prostitute girl and for trying to hide it (see June 2013). He also recently completed a period of community service at an old age home to which he was sentenced after a tax break. Berlusconi now declares ready to return to politics.

Protest march against the government

Federation North organizes a protest demonstration in Rome against the government’s EU policy and handling the refugee crisis. Several thousand people participate in the protest march. A counter-demonstration is held at the same time by several leftist parties and anti-racist movements.


New President

January 14

President Giorgio Napolitano announces that he is leaving his post for health reasons. When the Electoral College (consisting of Parliament’s two chambers) later in January is to appoint a new president, the Democratic Party’s candidate wins Judge Sergio Mattarella. The judge has made himself known as one of Berlusconi’s harshest critics and Berlusconi is against Mattarella’s choice but loses the power struggle in this matter against Renzi.

Italy Best Colleges and Universities