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Education in Italy

A Comprehensive Guide About the Education System and International Schools

Here is everything you need to know about education and international schools in Italy. Whether you want public or private schools, daycare, universities, or language classes, get to know the education system in Italy, so you are sure to choose the best options.

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Whether you want options for you or your kids, we can help you choose some of the best schools and higher education institutions. In this section, you can find out how the Italian education system works, from kindergarten to university, and decide for yourself whether you want private or public schools.

Schools are generally very high quality, with public schools doing better than private schools in some cases. There are, of course, many options to choose from if you don’t wish to go with the public education system. You can opt for one of the many Catholic schools in the country, or go for a standard international curriculum with any of Italy’s international schools.

The Education System in Italy

The education system in Italy is divided into five main levels: preschool, primary school, lower secondary school, upper secondary school, and university. In this section, we include some facts about the Italian education system you should know if you are looking for schooling options for your children or for yourself.

Education in Italy: Facts

  • Italy has both public and private schooling.
  • Public education is free for all children who are resident in Italy regardless of nationality.
  • Public school is high quality, equivalent or even higher than private schools.
  • School is mandatory from ages six to 16.
  • Mandatory schooling is divided into three levels: primary, lower secondary, and upper secondary.

Below is a table of school levels in Italy and their corresponding ages.

School Level Italian Term
Preschool or nursery Scuola dell’infanzia
Primary education Scuola primaria
Lower secondary education Scuola secondaria di primo grado
Upper secondary education Scuola secondaria di secondo grado
Bachelor’s degree Laurea
Master’s degree Laurea magistrale
PhD Dottorato di ricerca

School Ages in Italy

  • Preschool or nursery: 3-6
  • Primary education: 6-11
  • Lower secondary education: 11-14
  • Upper secondary education: 14-19

In some regions of Italy, you may find comprehensive schools, known as istituto comprensivo, teaching all levels, from pre-school to secondary education.

Grading System in Italy

In both primary and secondary schools, a 10-point scale is typically used, 6 being the minimum passing grade.

Scale Grade Description
9—10 Ottimo (Excellent)
8—8.99 Distinto (Very Good)
7—7.99 Buono (Good)
6—6.99 Sufficiente (Sufficient)
0—5.99 Respinto (Fail)

Even though this scale is used throughout the country, grading is not always standardized. Some teachers apply variations of these grades to their own accord, such as 5+, 5++, 5½, or 5-. Some teachers may not attribute grades over 8, especially in more prestigious schools, which may result in skewed evaluations.

School Hours in Italy

School hours may vary from school to school. For most primary and lower secondary schools, classes tend to be from 8:00 and 13:00, Monday through Saturday. Other schools may only run from Monday to Friday, in which case, students would have a one-hour lunch break and classes until around 16:00.

Public and Private Schools: What are the Main Differences?

The majority of students in Italy attend public schools, with private schools taking in as little as 10% of students in the country. If you opt for a public school in Italy, you should expect your child to learn all subjects in Italian. If you want your child to take classes in English or in another language, you should look for international schools or other private schools instead. Alternatively, you can opt for Catholic schools, but expect Catholicism to play a part in your child’s education.

When it comes to the quality of education, public schools are perceived as having equal or even better performance than private schools. One study even shows public schools in Italy do better in terms of educational and labor market outcomes than private ones.

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Daycare and Kindergarten

Schooling for young ones, whether you need daycare, preschool, or kindergarten, go by different names than what you may be accustomed to.

Nurseries

Nurseries, or asilo nido, are for children as young as three months and up to three years of age. These are run by local councils. To enroll in one of these, you should go to the nursery directly and fill out the form they hand you. You are not guaranteed a place in these institutions.

Daycare and Kindergarten Fees

The fee you pay for public nurseries will depend on the institution but also on your family’s income, since priority is given to families with lower income. Overall, municipal nurseries can cost between 170 and 440 EUR a month (190 and 485 USD), depending on the region. Private nurseries can cost up to 600 or 700 EUR (660 or 770 USD) monthly in expensive cities like Milan.

Are Kindergarten or Preschool Mandatory in Italy?

Kindergarten or preschool, known as scuola materna, is not compulsory in Italy. However, these schools are run on a state level, and you have a guaranteed place for your child in one for free. Alternatively, you can opt for private preschools.

Preschool in Italy is generally considered of very good quality. Their educational approach consists of a variety of activities to develop children’s affective, psychomotor, cognitive, moral, and social skills.

Preschools, or scuola materna, usually operate for 40 hours a week, but you can have your child attend only mornings if you wish.

Primary and Secondary Schools

You will find some of the best primary and secondary schools in Italy to be both public and international schools. In this section, we focus on public schools and cover international schools later in this section.

Primary School in Italy

Primary school is compulsory for all Italian or resident foreign children in Italy. Primary level starts at the age of six and lasts for five years, with children typically finishing primary school at the age of 11.

School hours for primary school may vary from school to school. Weekly school hours are typically 27 hours. Some may run for 24 or 30 hours a week, but this may depend on the number of children in class. Only a small number of schools operate during both mornings and afternoons, and some schools may choose to have classes on Saturdays, running for six days a week instead of five.

The following classes make up the mandatory curriculum: Italian, English, history, geography, mathematics, science, music, arts, physical education, and technology.

Secondary School and High School in Italy

Secondary school in Italy is divided into two main levels:

  • lower secondary education, or scuola secondaria di primo grado: between the ages of 11 and 14;
  • upper secondary education, scuola secondaria di secondo grado: between the ages of 14 and 19.
Lower Secondary School or Scuola Media

This school level is the closest to elementary school and falls under the mandatory school years for all Italian or foreign resident children in Italy. The curriculum is the same as primary education, with the addition of a second language of the European Union.

School hours vary greatly by school, but classes tend to make up 30 hours per week.

Upper Secondary Education or Scuola Superiore

This education level is the equivalent of high school. At this stage, students must choose a subject in which to specialize: arts, classical studies, languages, music and dance, sciences (applied sciences or physical education), humanities, and humanities as economic and social sciences. This is largely going to influence their course of studies at university.

Public secondary schools have no costs, unlike private institutions.

Technical and Professional Institutes

Alternatively, at this education level, you have the option to attend technical institutes or professional institutes. Technical schools teach specific skills applicable to the job market, from administrative work to agriculture, programming, engineering, etc.

Professional institutions, on the other hand, are teacher-training courses. In these schools, students train to become primary school teachers or nursery teachers.

For a list of schools in Italy, visit the website of the Ministry of Education. You can have InterNations GO! find a school for your children tailored to your needs. This includes considering curricula, school hours, fees, as well as assisting with entry requirements.

International Schools

Some of the best international schools in Italy can be found in bigger cities, like Rome, Milan, or Naples. These schools are ideal for international students looking to learn a universal curriculum in a language other than Italian. The most common international schools teach in English, specifically British curricula, but you can also find American, French, and German schools and even a Japanese school in the country.

If you wish to enroll your child in an Italian state school later on, some international schools offer bilingual programs so your child can take national exams.

International Schools Enrollment Requirements

Some international schools offer education levels from preschool to upper secondary education, between three and 19 years of age. Enrollment requirements will largely depend on the school, so you may need to contact them one by one.

However, it is a good idea to have a few documents on hand whenever enrolling your kid in a new school. This includes transfer papers from previous schools, vaccination bulletins with all the required vaccines in order, and any language test that may be needed to certify the child’s language skills.

Admissions are based on previous school reposts and sometimes require a personal interview.

International School Fees

Tuition fees for international schools can range from 4,000 to 12,000 EUR (4,400 to 13,200 USD) a year. You are normally also asked to pay admission fees, which can go from 300 to 500 EUR (330 to 550 USD).

Here is a list of some of the top schools in the country, by language:

British Schools in Italy

  • International School of Milan (ISM)
  • British Forces School (BFS), in Naples
  • English International School of Padua
  • George’s International School in Rome

French Schools in Italy

  • Lycée International Victor Hugo, in Florence
  • Lycée Stendhal, in Milan
  • École Alexandre Dumas de Naples
  • Lycée français Jean Giono, in Piedmont
  • Lycée Chateaubriand, in Rome

German Schools in Italy

You will find a German school in Milan which teaches in German and follows the German educational program—Scuola Germanica di Milano. The International School of Trieste also offers the possibility of having the curricula taught in German.

Catholic Schools in Italy

Catholic schools make up a big part of private schools in Italy. Parents may opt for these schools if they want their children to receive a more religious-centered education. Catholic schools may also offer extra subjects besides the national mandatory curricula, and longer school hours, which some parents may prefer. Some of these are also boarding schools.

  • Cicognini National Boarding School, in Prato
  • Istituto San Leone Magno, in Rome
  • Gonzaga Institute, in Palermo
  • House of the Savior, in Naples
  • Istituto Champagnat, in Genoa
  • Leo XIII Institute, in Milan
  • Social Institute, in Turin

If you need help finding schools for your children, have InterNations GO! do it for you by requesting our School Search services.

Higher Education

Some of the best universities in Italy made it to both European and Worldwide university rankings. If you are looking for the best universities for international students, you shouldn’t have to look elsewhere—these top institutions receive many international students.

Top Universities in Italy

Topping the ranking are the following universities:

  • Politecnico di Milano: 61st in Europe and 149th in the world
  • Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna Pisa­: shared 75th place in Europe and 177th in the world
  • University of Bologna (UNIBO): shared 75th place in Europe and 177th in the world
  • Sapienza University of Rome: 89th in Europe and 203rd in the world
  • Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa: 90th in Europe and 204th in the world

This list alone includes 34 Italian universities, so you know you have many options to choose from when it comes to good quality education in Italy. Overall, there are 97 recognized universities in the country, 67 of which are state universities.

How to Enroll in University as a Foreign Student in Italy

If you are from the European Union or a foreigner already residing in Italy, you can apply directly to your university of choice.

If you are not a resident of the EU, you must pre-enroll in the Italian diplomatic mission of your country of origin.

  • Present an original request, based on Form A (two copies);
  • A letter of eligibility for enrolment;
  • Original copy of your qualifications;
  • A passing grade on a required exam for entry in University in your country of origin;
  • Two photographs (one of which must be authenticated by the Italian Mission).

You may need certified translations for these documents, so check with your school or consular mission.

How Much does it Cost to Study in Italy for International Students?

The cost of attending university in Italy will depend on the school. University can cost anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 EUR (1,100 to 2,200 USD) a year. Keep in mind that prestige universities can have yearly tuition fees as high as 6,000 EUR (6,600 USD).

Private universities tend to cost even more than top-notch public universities. Prices for private institutions can start at 6,000 (6,600 USD) and go up to 20,000 EUR (22,000 USD) a year.

For the purpose of student visas, international students must have no less than 6,000 EUR (6,600 EUR), roughly equivalent to 500 EUR (550 USD) a month, to prove they are able to support their studies in the country.

You can look for scholarships to study in Italy on the website of the Ministry of Education.

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Language Schools

Having a look at language schools to learn Italian is your best bet to assimilate the local culture.

What Should I Look for with a Language School?

Some basic rules apply when first looking for a language school. Choosing a native teacher is essential, so check with your school of choice if their teachers are Italian before committing to one. Look for a school that is properly accredited. Language schools should be certified by the Italian Ministry of Education (MIUR).

CILS and CELI in Italy

The CILS is the Certificate of Italian as a Foreign Language and has three different levels: beginner, independent learner, and advanced learner. You can also test your language skills by taking the CELI. This is the Certificate of the Italian Language. If you wish to study at a university in Italy, the CELI is an accepted test to certify your Italian level.

Language School Fees

As for language school fees, these will largely depend on the number of hours you would like to study. A standard Italian language course would start at around 350 EUR (385 USD) and go up to 1,500 EUR (1650 USD).

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Updated on: May 06, 2020
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