The Education System in Italy
Figure A-10. Levels of education in Italy, by age and year of schooling: 2013
NOTE: Education levels are defined according to the 1997 International Standard
Classification of Education (ISCED97). Ages represent the typical age at the beginning
of the school year.
Numbers in bold print indicate ages of universal enrollment (i.e., an enrollment
rate of over 90 percent). Numbers highlighted represent the age at which compulsory
enrollment begins through the age at which compulsory enrollment ends. No meaning
should be inferred from width of subdivisions. Duration of first university degree
program is generally 5 years in Italy.
SOURCE: Miller, D.C. and Warren L.K. (2011). Comparative Indicators of Education
in the United States and Other G-8 Countries: 2011 (NCES 2012-007). U.S.
Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC:
U.S. Government Printing Office.
- Common name: Scuola dell'infanzia
- Ages of attendance: As early as age 3 through age 5
- Number of years: 1 to 3
- Start of universal enrollment: Age 3
- Compulsory: No
- Common name: Scuola primaria
- Ages of attendance: 6 through 10
- Number of years: 5
- Universal enrollment: Yes
- Compulsory: Yes, begins at 6
- Common name: Scuola secondaria di primo grado
- ges of attendance: 11 through 13
- Number of years: 3
- Universal enrollment: Yes
- Compulsory: Yes
- Entrance/exit criteria: Students must pass a national exit examination to obtain
the diploma di esame di stato conclusivo del primo ciclo di istruzione
and enter upper secondary school.
- Common name: Scuola secondaria di secondo grado
- Liceo, including
- Liceo classico, scientifico, linguistico, delle scienze
umane—Academic upper secondary schools
- Istituti d'arte, liceo artistic, liceo musicale e coreutico—
Fine arts schools and institutes
- Istituti professionali—Vocational schools
- Istituti tecnici—Technical schools
- Istruzione e formazione professionale (IFP)—3-year vocational education
and training program
- Ages of attendance: 14 through 18 (graduation generally at
- Number of years: 5 (except for the 3-year IFP programs)
- Universal enrollment: Through age 16
- Compulsory: Through age 15
- Entrance/exit criteria: Students must possess the diploma di esame di stato
conclusivo del primo ciclo di istruzione from lower secondary school to enter
upper secondary school. At the end of 5 years of instruction, students must pass
a national examination in order to obtain a diploma di superamento dell'esame di
NOTE: Every student who has completed 5 years of upper secondary school and has
obtained a diploma di superamento dell'esame di stato may attend university
and other forms of higher education. Students are tracked in academic as well as
technical and vocational schools in Italy. Students in Italy may attend specialized
art schools, such as istituti d'arte and liceo artistico at the
upper secondary level. Students attending vocational schools may attend 3- or 5-year
training or apprenticeship programs in applied fields, after which they often enter
the labor force. Liceo linguistico focuses on modern foreign languages
and cultures. The liceo classico and scientifico prepare students
for university studies. Liceo classico focuses on literature, philosophy,
and Latin and Greek languages. Liceo scientifico focuses on mathematics
and science. Liceo socio-psico-pedagogico has a sociological, psychological,
and pedagogical orientation.
Postsecondary and tertiary:
- Common name: Accademia, scuola diretta a fini speciali, università
Alta formazione artistica e musicale—Arts and music
- Scuole superiori per la mediazione linguistica—School for interpreters
- Istruzione e formazione tecnica superiore—Technical education and
- Laurea, laurea specialistica, dottorato di ricerca, diploma di specializzione—Academic
higher education, university
- Ages of attendance: Varies
- Number of years: Varies according to degree program
- Universal enrollment: No
- Entrance criteria: In order to enter university, students must possess a diploma
di superamento dell'esame di stato, a second-ary school diploma obtained after
passing a national exam.
NOTE: The higher education system in Italy underwent a reform process to make it
more compatible with the higher education systems of other European countries. University
degree programs are now based on two main cycles—the 3-year foundation degree,
or laurea, followed by a 2 year specialist degree, or laurea specialistica/magistrale—with
third-cycle degree options (dottorato di ricerca and diploma di specializzazione),
which are similar to a doctorate in the United States. These changes were made to
increase educational exchange between Italy and other European Union countries.
Common degree programs:
- Accademia degrees: Fine arts, restoration, and music degrees.
Accademia degrees have been divided into two cycles according to the recent
reforms, the first one taking 3 years to complete and the second one taking 2 years
to complete. The diploma accademico di primo livello is awarded after the
first cycle, and the diploma accademico di secondo livello is awarded after
the second cycle.
- Laurea: A first-level university degree taking 3 years from university
entry to complete. It is characterized by both theoretical and applied studies,
similar to a bachelor's degree in the United States.
- Laurea specialistica/magistrale: Graduate specialized degree requiring
2 years of university study after a first-level degree, similar to a master's degree
in the United States.
- Master universitario di primo livello: A professional graduate
program requiring at least 1 year of study after obtaining a laurea.
- Master universitario di secondo livello: A professional graduate
program requiring at least 1 year of study after obtaining a laurea specialistica/magistrale.
- Dottorato di ricerca: Doctoral degree program focusing on research
and taken at a university. Typically requires 3 years of instruction after the laurea
- Diploma di specializzazione: Doctoral degree program for a specialized
professional degree, such as medicine or law. Typically requires 2–6 years
after the laurea specialistica/magistrale.
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