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The education system in Italy is organised according to the subsidiary principle and autonomy of schools. The State has exclusive competence on general issues on education, on minimum standards to be guaranteed throughout the country and on the fundamental principles that Regions should comply within their competences. Regions share their competences with the State on education issues while they have exclusive competence on vocational education and training. Schools are autonomous as for teaching, organization and research and development activities.

The Italian formal educational system is structured as follows:

  • Pre‐primary school (3 to 6 years)
  • First cycle of education lasting 8 years, made up of:

primary education (lasting 5 years; 6 to 11 years);
lower secondary school (lasting 3 years; 11 to 14).

  • Second cycle of education offering two different pathways:

upper secondary school (lasting 5 years; 14 to 19 years) It is offered by high school, technical institutes and vocational institutes;

– three and four‐year vocational training courses addressed to students who have completed the first cycle of education. It is organized by the Regions.

  • Post‐secondary non tertiary education offered through: post‐qualification and post‐ diploma vocational courses organized by the Regions; higher technical education and training courses.
  • Higher education offered by universities and the high level arts and music education system.

Italian is the official language of formal education. The school year is divided into terms for students in schools, and semesters for university students. Throughout the school year, students’ skills and knowledge are assessed through oral, written, practical exams and tests.

Pre-Primary Education:
Nurseries are available to take care of and educate children from three months to three years.

Children may attend day nurseries (asilo nido) fairly soon after birth, or pre-school (scuola maternal/scuola dell’infanzia) from the age of three.

Day nurseries accept children as young as three months of age and are generally used by working parents. Costs are based on the nursery and number of hours children attend, but generally state-run nurseries are less expensive than private ones. Places in these nurseries are therefore more in demand and often have waiting lists. Priority is usually given to working mothers, low-income parents and parents of handicapped children.

Nursery schools generally operate from 08:30 to 12:30, though parents may leave their children for extended hours.

Kindergarten/pre-school (Scuola materna): For ages three to five, the scuola materna provides optional education for children and every child is entitled to a place. It is not obligatory for a child to attend preschool but most parents enrol their children in a scuola materna. Preschool in Italy is free except in private schools.

Primary Education (Scuola primaria/elementare):
School in Italy is compulsory from the age of six onwards. According to recent legislation changes, children may start scuola primaria from the age of five and a half onwards (this is to bring Italian schools in line with European schools regarding school leaving ages). All children who will be six years old by 31 December after the start of the school year can register for primary school.

At primary school children learn to read and write and study mathematics, geography, Italian, English, science, music, computer studies, religion (optional) and social studies.

Primary school lasts five years. Classes have between 10 and 25 pupils each.