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Short description of the review process in the country

Education for all means, in the perspective of Unesco, the commitment of the 187 member countries to provide every human being with the real possibility of achieving at least that minimum educational attainment which allows a person to participate fully in the cultural, social, political and economical life of his/her country. The year 2000 assessment is then for Unesco a very important step in the way towards that fundamental objective. It gives every country the opportunity of reviewing its recent past in the light of the effort made so that basic education becomes a reality for all.

The review process in Italy has been carried out according to the guidelines suggested by the International Consultative Forum on Education for All. A number of experts as well as officials of the Ministry of Education have been involved in the review. Data collection and processing has been the job of the statistical services of the various Directorates of the Ministry of Education. Given the short time available for the review, some sets of data, in particular on the private sector, could not be collected. As for the recent educational research, it has not been possible to review the results of the relevant studies systematically.

The assessment itself is the result of a consultation of the various actors, as the representatives of the social partners, school inspectors, principals and teachers.

The report has been prepared, on behalf of the Education Committee of the Italian Unesco Commission, by the Directorate General for Cultural Exchange of the Ministry of Education under the responsibility of its Director-General Mr. Giuseppe Martinez.

Part I

Descriptive Sections

1. General goals and targets of Education for All

Education for all is one of the key principles stated by the Constitution of the Italian Republic. Article no. 30 stresses that "bringing up, instructing and educating their children is a duty and a right of parents". Article no. 33 says that "the Republic lays down the general rules for the education and establishes State-run schools at all levels".

Therefore, to the right on the part of the citizens corresponds a duty on the side of the State, i.e. of the government, to provide all the citizens with an appropriate educational service, regardless of individual means and without any distinction or discrimination, up to the highest educational level, as stressed in Article no. 34. Moreover, the Constitution states that education can be provided directly by the State as well as by other agencies, including private institutions and individuals. In this way the right of families to choose for their children either a State-run or a non-State-run school is explicitly recognized.

According to the Constitution, education is compulsory - and free of charge, in the State-run schools - for all the citizens for at least eight years, i.e. from the age of 6 to 14.

The recent history of Italy's school system shows that the formal recognition of the citizen's right and of the government's duty was just the legal reference point for a definition of the goals and the objectives of an "education for all" as well as for planning and timing the implementation of the process leading to the achievement of such goals and objectives.

In this framework the legislation defined step by step the vertical and horizontal structure of the education system, assigning to each level its goals and objectives. As for the basic education, the most significant steps have been the reform of the elementary school curricula in 1955, the reform of the middle (lower secondary) school - its attendance also became compulsory - in 1962, and the establishment of the State-run pre-primary schools (scuole materne) - not compulsory - in 1968.

If "basic education" means the attendance of an educational setting by the young population 3 to 14 years of age, by the year 1990, basic education was a reality for almost the totality of the Italian population. As a matter of fact, about 95 per cent of the young children at pre-primary school age attended some type of education and care setting, and 100% of the 6 to 14 year-olds attended formal education in primary and lower secondary schools. This generalization of basic education was the main result of the education policy during the past decades.

During the '90s the education policy has been focused - as the basic education is concerned - on three main objectives: combatting school failure, in particular drop-out, providing a basic education to the adults who did not achieve it during their school age, and improving the quality of education at all levels. By the year 2000, about all the 3-5 year old children are expected to attend a pre-primary education and care setting (the proportion was 95.1 per cent in 1998), and the drop-out proportion at primary and lower secondary school level should be almost completely overcome. As for the adult illiterates or with serious deficits in their basic education, a national programme called Centri Territoriali Permanenti (Permanent Territorial Centres), started in 1998, is aimed at giving them the opportunity to achieve a fundamental education as well as to improve their basic knowledge, skills and competences. The third of the mentioned priorities - improving the quality of education at all levels - is pursued through a number of initiatives, like the thorough reform of the school structure and the curricula, a new scheme of teacher training, the establishment of the National Institute for the Evaluation of the Education System and the National Documentation Institute for Educational Innovation and Research.

During the '90s an intensive debate lead, in 1999, to an extension of the compulsory school age up to 15 years, i.e. for a 9 years period. The ongoing reforms are expected to change deeply the structure of the school system, by introducing a 7-year basic education cycle followed by a 5-year secondary school, so that the nine years of compulsory schooling should cover the basic education cycle and the first two years of the secondary school. In the same time a compulsory part-time school attendance until 18 years of age should be introduced for those who will not continue formal schooling after concluding their compulsory education. This reform process should be concluded by the year 2000. It is obvious that in this way the concept itself of basic education has changed, including not only pre-primary, primary and lower secondary education, but also the first cycle of the upper secondary school and the vocational initiation, and this with the meaning that basic education should provide all the young people with the knowledge, the skills and the competences needed in order to develop successfully their personalities in all directions (moral, social, intellectual, practical and creative), to participate effectively in the social and cultural life, and to respond positively to the demands of the labour market.

2. Strategy and action plan for the Education for All

The strategy of the Italian government aimed at achieving the objective of a generalization and optimization of the basic education has been outlined in 1990 during the National Conference on Education (Conferenza Nazionale sulla Scuola, Rome, 30 January-1 February, 1990). The main results of that Conference can be outlined as the realization that some new ideas about the education are universally shared in the country, in particular that:

Following the strategy outlined by the National Conference on Education, some significant innovations have been introduced.

3. Decision-making and management of Education for All

According to the recommendations of the 1990 National Conference on Education, one of the leading principles of the education policy has been that of the "social management" of education, which means that management and decisions as well are the responsibility not only of the government and the school authorities, but also of teachers, social partners, parents and students.

In this framework major EFA policy matters are decided by different agencies according to the different operational levels:

4. Co-operation in EFA

Basic education services are provided primarily by the State-run schools, which serve more than 90 per cent of the population 6 to 16 years of age and most of the adults re-entering the formal education system. For the remaining population, i.e. about 7 per cent in the elementary schools, 4 per cent in the middle schools, and 7 per cent in the upper secondary schools, education is provided by local authorities and community institutions (in some autonomous regions), by commercial organizations and religious institutions.

State-run primary and lower secondary schools, i.e. at compulsory education level, are financed fully by the State either directly, as regards capital expenses and staff salaries, or indirectly through money transfers to the Regions, the Provinces, the Municipalities and the individual schools. Since compulsory schooling is cost-free for the pupils' families, no enrolment and tuition fees are paid by the families, which contribute just to the expenses for the so-called extra-curricular activities.

So far as non-State-run primary and lower secondary schools sponsored by commercial organizations and religious institutions, financial resources come primarily from the enrolment and tuition fees paid by the families and, particularly for the schools sponsored by religious institutions, from money-saving due to the fact that a number of teachers are religious people and are not paid regular salaries. At present no direct financial support comes for these schools from the State, even in the form of tax reduction. But a bill recently passed by the Senate (17 July, 1999) states the principle that the "priority objective of the Republic is the extension of the educational provision and the consequent generalization of the demand for education from the early childhood throughout the lifetime" (Art. 1). According to this principle, all the non-State-run schools which are consistent whith the educational demand of the families and in the same time meet certain quality and effectiveness requirements, are defined as "equal" (paritarie), benefit of special fiscal treatment, and share with the State-run schools the right of their pupils' families to receive from the Regions special grants to cover the expenses for the education. To that end a sum of L.it 250 bln (about US$ 137 mln) should be allocated for year 2000, and L.it 300 bln (about US$ 165 mln) for each of the subsequent years. Moreover, the same law should allocate L.it 60 bln (about US$ 33 mln) per year for maintainance of non-State-run "equalized" primary schools and L.it 280 bln (about US$ 154 mln) for participation in the implementation of an "integrated pre-school system".

Non-State-run school managers co-operate actively with the Government, especially through the various advisory and consultative committees and groups at national and local level, both in defining the national strategy for education for all and in developing methods and instruments for its implementation. Most of them join one of the various associations, like the Federazione Istituti di Attivitą Educative (FIDAE) which represents the school institutions sponsored by religious - roman-catholic - institutions.

The Government's strategy for education for all is influenced deeply, especially as regards designing and planning reform plans, by some external agencies. Among them the European Commission has to be mentioned because its European Programmes like Socrates and Leonardo da Vinci provide the national school authorities with the guidelines and very important expert and financial support for the achievement and the optimization of the goal of EDA. But also other agencies contribute in a significant way to this goal. Unesco, for instance, with the famous World Declaration on Education for All (Jomtien, Thailand, 1990), and the various initiatives following that Conference, stressed the need of providing a basic education not only to young people during their school age, but to everyone, even to the adults who could not achieve it previously. The OECD, then, which is involved in a very large and committing programme of research and systematic review of the school provision and in producing international indicators of the education systems: all these initiatives are suggested and sponsored by the governments, including the Italian one, in order to acquire useful information and guidelines for planning, monitoring and regularly adjusting the initiatives and measures. Another agency to be mentioned is the Council of Europe with its projects aimed at improving the quality of teacher training and of the school curricula. But there are obviously other agencies, like the national associations of various professional categories, which also contribute significantly to the definition and the implementation of the Government's strategy for EFA.

5. Investment in EFA since 1990

During the 90s, the Italian education system has been deeply affected by a number of factors, among which the demographic and the economic development influenced remarkably the education policy.

The birthrate decrease was apparent since the 80s, when the fertility index sunk from 2.20 (1980) to 1.72 (1989), but its impact on the school system became clear during the 90s with a conspicuous decrease of the young population, in particular at pre-primary, primary and lower secondary school age. This trend is not yet concluded, since the fertility index is decreasing even during this decade, arriving to 1.19 in 1998. The decrease of the school population is significant at all levels of education, but particularly in compulsory - basic - education, i.e. primary (-8.3% from school year 1990-91 to 1997-98) and lower secondary school (-20.1% for the same period) (see Figure 1). Parallel to the decrease of the school population, also the number of schools, classes and teachers has been reduced remarkably. Excluding preprimary schools (see Figure 2), whose educational provision does not cover yet the total target population, but including the upper secondary schools, the number of schools decreased of 14.7 per cent from 1990-91 to 1997-98, while the number of classes decreased of 16 per cent, and the number of teachers of 6.6 per cent (see Figure 3). As for schools, classes and teachers, the gradual decrease of their numbers is also to be connected with the current policy, defined by the Ministerial Decree of 24 July, 1998, that aims at "rationalizing" the school network by grouping small schools, allowing for a higher classroom/pupils ratio, and reducing the number of teachers accordingly.

All these elements contributed to the slight reduction of the public expenditure for education: in 1990 the direct public expenditure for the educational institutes as a percentage of GDP (for all levels of education) was 4.9, while it was 4.6 in 1997, and this reduction is due primarily to the decrease of the direct public expenditure for primary and secondary education (see Figures 4 and 5).

Another factor has to be added to those mentioned above: the strong impact of the public debt on the allocation of financial resources to the education system. The public debt is, particularly during this decade, one of the main challenges for the Italian economy at large, since its huge proportion (about 120 per cent of the NDP in 1998) takes off a significant amount of financial resources otherways available for education and other welfare services.

Basic education benefits, even from a financial point of view, of the country's systematic participation in the EU programmes, particularly Socrates, and on the initiatives of Concil of Europe, the objectives of which regard chiefly in-service training and professional development of teachers. But primary and secondary education benefits of the EU programmes also as the introduction and the use of the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are concerned. The positive trend in this sector is noticeable, especially in the last few years, due to a targeted programme launched by the Ministry of Education: the Educational Technologies Development Programme 1997-2000. This is a wide-range programme involving the whole Italian school system and is based on a strong public investment as well as on the participation of industries and private services. The programme focuses on three main categories of objectives: (a) promoting students' expertise on multimedia, both as acquisition of instrumental skills and of new cognitive styles in learning, enquiring, communicating and planning; (b) improving the teaching/learning processes and the didactic organization, as far as both subject matters and cross-disciplinary strategies and skills are concerned; (c) improving teachers' professional status not only through in-service training, but mainly through the availability of instruments and services for their everyday didactic activities. The programme has been divided into two subprogrammes: A. Operative unitis for teachers, and B. Multimedia in the classroom. In 1999, more than 5,000 schools participate in the programme (see Table 2).

The public expenditure for education has been changing its structure during the current decade following the above mentioned changes observed in the school population. School building, for instance, is one of the entries which virtually desappeared from the budget, replaced by restructuring and adjusting the existent buildings, renewing furniture and school equipment, providing ICT, enriching school libraries, etc. Another initiative to be stressed here is the literacy campaign aimed at encouraging young and older illiterate adults, but also those lacking a basic education, to attend special courses planned for them in the framework of the so called Centri Territoriali Permanenti (Permanent Territorial Centres). Finally, a significant change is taking place in the proportion of the expenditure for teaching and non-teaching staff and that for other current expenditure at primary and secondary school level: it was 94.6 % for staff in 1992 against 5.4 for other current expenditure, while in 1995 it was 89 % and 11 % respectively. It means that more resources have been allocated for non curricular activities, like in service training of teachers, experimentation, educational materials and equipment, etc.

Until 1999 there were not any opportunities for teachers for a real professional career: the improvement of teacher salaries was due exclusively to the promotion by seniority, by which teachers reached the maximum salary after 35 years of experience (Law no. 438 of 1992, and National Contract signed the 21 July, 1995). The last public contract, better known as "Integrative Contract", signed the 31 August, 1999, laid the corner-stone for the recognition of a professional career, obviously still holding the above mentioned salary scale by seniority. The most significant feature of the new contract is the right of teachers to be payed additional bonuses in the following cases: (a) teachers responsible in their own schools for the so-called "target functions", like co-ordination of the activities included in the "plan of the educational supply" (Piano dell'offerta formativa), support to the activities of the teachers in the school, extra-curricular activities of the students, initiatives to help low achievers, etc.; (b) teachers who agree working for at least three years in one of the 32 provinces and metropolitan areas (Rome, Milan, Turin, Genua) considered at risk of social deviation or criminality; (c) teachers working in areas with large numbers of immigrates; (d) teachers who, after ten years of experience, apply for a review of their teaching competences and pass the examination.

As for the textbooks, a recent Decree of the President of the Council of Ministers (27 August, 1999) allocates 200 billion lire (about 109.000.000 US$), for the school year 1999-2000, as a subsidy to the poor families with an annual income less that 30.000.000 lire (about 16.300 US$). This subsidy, administered by the regional authorities, is aimed at helping poor families buying textbooks for their children attending compulsory school, in particular lower secondary school and the first year of upper secondary school, which is compulsory beginning this year (1999).

Table 1. The Italian School System, at present and according to the proposed reform (1999).

The school system at present

 

Pre-primary

Elementary school

Lower sec. school

Upper secondary school

Age

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

Grades

1

2

3

4

5

1

2

3

1

2

3

4

5

COMPULSORY EDUCATION

Proposed reform

 

Pre-primary

Basic school

Secondary school

Age

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

Grades

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

1

2

3

4

5

COMPULSORY EDUCATION

Vocational training

 

Table 2. Schools participating in the Educational Technologies Development Programme 1997-2000, by Regions. 1999.

Pre-primary Educ.

Elementary school

Lower sec. Educ.

Upper sec. school

Total

Region

Progr. A

Progr. B

Progr. A

Progr. B

Progr. A

Progr. B

Progr. A

Progr. B

Progr. A

Progr. B

Piemonte

3

9

61

51

116

70

50

29

230

159

Lombardia

10

11

53

93

213

145

81

55

357

304

Veneto

9

13

37

44

137

81

53

33

236

171

Friuli-Ven.G.

3

3

12

12

36

22

17

10

74

47

Liguria

4

16

42

26

12

13

78

55

Emilia-Rom.

6

6

35

36

91

51

40

20

172

113

Toscana

4

3

35

37

88

53

52

28

179

121

Umbria

2

2

11

10

23

17

11

8

47

37

Marche

2

9

14

39

26

23

11

71

53

Lazio

10

15

37

52

126

103

54

42

227

212

Abruzzo

3

16

20

37

29

27

16

80

68

Molise

1

5

7

3

10

9

2

17

20

Campania

24

13

107

67

211

126

84

34

426

240

Puglia

2

11

37

49

130

94

74

22

243

176

Basilicata

1

3

6

12

25

22

9

6

41

43

Calabria

14

7

37

39

126

72

29

13

206

131

Sicilia

6

19

42

73

155

124

76

28

279

244

Sardegna

3

4

14

21

58

51

28

13

103

89

ITALY

97

125

558

653

1656

1122

729

383

3040

2283

North-Central

47

64

294

365

911

594

393

249

1645

1272

South-Islands

50

61

264

288

745

528

336

134

1395

1011

 

Source: ISTAT, Annuario Statistico Italiano, 1991. 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998; Ministry of Education, SISTAN.

 

Source: Ministero Pubblica Istruzione, Servizio Statistico, 1999.

Source: Ministero Pubblica Istruzione, Servizio Statistico, 1999; CENSIS, Rapporto sulla situazione sociale del Paese, 1998.

Source: Ministero Pubblica Istruzione, Servizio Statistico, 1999.



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