#DolceVitaBloggers (September) – Education in Italy

#DolceVitaBloggers (September) – Education in Italy

When thinking of the term education, in Italy there is a particular image which comes to our mind: the polite manners we should all have when talking to other people.


It’s not that we are crazy, it’s just that education is a false friend in Italian. We easily confuse it with the word educazione, which refers to the polite manners we use with other people.


The Italian word for education is istruzione. It sounds a bit formal, but it’s the word we find in expressions like:


istruzione pubblica (public education)

istruzione privata (private education)


All clear now, but how does education work in Italy?


The istruzione obbligatoria (compulsory education) begins when a child is six years old. At that age, he or she begins the scuola elementare (Primary School). Before the scuola elementare, children can go to the scuola materna, which is optional.


During the scuola elementare, whether they go to a scuola pubblica (state school) or a scuola privata (private school) children study the same materie (subjects):


italiano (Italian) Education in Italy

inglese (English)

matematica (Math)

scienze (Science)

storia (History)

geografia (Geography)

informatica (IT)

musica (Music)

arte (Art)

educazione fisica (Physical Education)


Besides, they can also study religione cattolica (Catholic religion). Yet, that is not compulsory and they can replace it with an attività alternativa (alternative activity).


The scuola elementare lasts five years. There used to be an exam at the end of it, but from 2004, children don’t have to take it anymore.





After completing the scuola elementare, children go to the scuola media (Middle School). The scuola media lasts three years and the materie are like the ones of the scuola elementare. Yet, pupils can also learn a second foreign language, apart from English.


Once they have completed their three years of scuola media, students have to take an exam to go to the scuola superiore (Secondary School).


Secondary education in Italy is quite varied, and students can choose between three types of scuole:



istituto tecnico (technical institute)

istituto professionale (professional institute)


In the liceo students get ready to go to the Università (University). In the istituto tecnico and professionale students learn a practical job.


If students choose a liceo they can choose between these types:


Classico > focused on Italian literature and classical languages, such as Greek and LatinEducation in Italy

Linguistico > focused on foreign languages, Italian literature and foreign literatures

Scientifico > focused on maths and scientific subject

Musicale > focused on practical and theoretical music

Delle scienze umane > focused on pedagogy, psychology and sociology


If they want to choose an istituto tecnico, students can choose between the settore economico (economic sector) and the settore tecnologico (technological sector).

Each of these settori has a wide range of indirizzi (orientations). It all depends on what students want to do da grande (as a grown up).


Da grande” is a common Italian expression. You often hear adults asking children


cosa vuoi fare da grande?

(“what do you want to do as a grown up?”)


Education in Italy

Education in Italy is compulsory until students are sixteen. After that, they can decide to quit school and begin to work, if they want. Nevertheless, quitting school is never recommended, as il diploma is often necessary.


After finishing the five years of scuola superiore, students have to take a final exam called esame di maturità to officially complete their path.


Finally, when the scuola superiore is over, they have two options:


andare all’università (go to University)

iniziare a lavorare (begin to work).


If they choose the univeristà, they choose a facoltà (faculty) and a corso di laurea (degree course) under that facoltà.


Some courses only take three years to complete, but most of them have two phases:


the laurea triennale (Bachelor’s Degree)

the laurea magistrale (Master’s Degree)


At the end of their laurea magistrale, students can choose between:


fare un maser (do a Master course)

cercare un lavoro (look for a job)

fare il dottorato (do a Phd).


In conclusion, understanding education in Italy can be tough at first. But, once you move your first steps, everything gets easier and easier.




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Gloria Spagnoli
Gloria Spagnoli
I help beginners of Italian take their first steps, speak from day one and learn Italian at their pace and by having fun.