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Italy:Organisation of General Upper Secondary Education

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Italy:Early Childhood Education and Care

Italy:Organisation of Programmes for Children under 2-3 years

Italy:Teaching and Learning in Programmes for Children under 2-3 years

Italy:Assessment in Programmes for Children under 2-3 years

Italy:Organisation of Programmes for Children over 2-3 years

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Italy:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Early Childhood Education and Care

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Italy:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Primary Education

Italy:Secondary and Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Italy:Organisation of General Lower Secondary Education

Italy:Teaching and Learning in General Lower Secondary Education

Italy:Assessment in General Lower Secondary Education

Italy:Organisation of General Upper Secondary Education

Italy:Teaching and Learning in General Upper Secondary Education

Italy:Assessment in General Upper Secondary Education

Italy:Organisation of Vocational Upper Secondary Education

Italy:Teaching and Learning in Vocational Upper Secondary Education

Italy:Assessment in Vocational Upper Secondary Education

Italy:Organisation of Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Italy:Teaching and Learning in Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Italy:Assessment in Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

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Italy:Conditions of Service for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Italy:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Italy:Initial Education for Academic Staff in Higher Education

Italy:Conditions of Service for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

Italy:Continuing Professional Development for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

Italy:Initial Education for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Italy:Conditions of Service for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Italy:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Italy:Management and Other Education Staff

Italy:Management Staff for Early Childhood and School Education

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Italy:Education Staff Responsible for Guidance in Early Childhood and School Education

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Italy:Quality Assurance

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Italy:Special Education Needs Provision within Mainstream Education

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Italy:Support Measures for Learners in Early Childhood and School Education

Italy:Guidance and Counselling in Early Childhood and School Education

Italy:Support Measures for Learners in Higher Education

Italy:Guidance and Counselling in Higher Education

Italy:Support Measures for Learners in Adult Education and Training

Italy:Guidance and Counselling in a Lifelong Learning Approach

Italy:Mobility and Internationalisation

Italy:Mobility in Early Childhood and School Education

Italy:Mobility in Higher Education

Italy:Mobility in Adult Education and Training

Italy:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Early Childhood and School Education

Italy:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Higher Education

Italy:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Adult Education and Training

Italy:Bilateral Agreements and Worldwide Cooperation

Italy:Ongoing Reforms and Policy Developments

Italy:National Reforms in Early Childhood Education and Care

Italy:National Reforms in School Education

Italy:National Reforms in Vocational Education and Training and Adult Learning

Italy:National Reforms in Higher Education

Italy:National Reforms related to Transversal Skills and Employability

Italy:European Perspective

Italy:Legislation

Italy:Glossary

Education and training is compulsory for 10 years and covers the first cycle of education (primary and lower secondary education) and the first two years of the second cycle of education.

Therefore, at completion of the first cycle of education, students must continue their studies in the second cycle, which offers two different options:

  • upper secondary education (scuola secondaria di secondo grado), falling under the responsibility of the State and organised into a general path offered by licei and a vocational path offered by technical and vocational institutes;
  • three and four-year courses offered by the regional system of vocational education and training (IFP).

The upper secondary education has been reformed in school year 2010/2011. In school year 2014/2015, the new organisation is applied to all grades. Descriptions included in the following sections refer to the new organisation of the second cycle of education.

Types of Institutions

General upper secondary education lasts five years and it is delivered by six types of liceo specializing in the following areas: arts (Liceo artistico), classical studies (Liceo classico), sciences (Liceo scientifico), languages (Liceo linguistico), music and dance (Liceo musicale e coreutico), human sciences (Liceo delle scienze umane).

The arts-based liceo  offers the following 6 branches of studies: figurative arts, architecture and environment, design, audiovisual and multimedia, graphics, set designing. The first two years are the same for all branches.

The science-based liceo offers an option in applied sciences and the human sciences liceo offers an option in social and economic studies.

Geographical Accessibility

The Constitution of the Italian Republic (art. 33 and 34) establishes that it is the duty of the State to provide access to education for all young people living in the country, regardless of the geographical condition of the area they live in and their individual social and economic situation. The central and branch administrations of the State, as well as regional, provincial and local administrations (municipalities) are responsible for achieving this goal.

The Regions are responsible for the general planning of the educational offer and the school network. In this way, resources can be used more rationally and the school system can be run more efficiently.

Admission Requirements and Choice of School

Compulsory education lasts 10 years and covers the first two years of the second cycle of education. Thus, students who have successfully completed the first cycle of education must enrol in State-run upper secondary schools (general and vocational) or in the vocational training courses (IFP) organised by the Regions.

Possession of a first-cycle leaving certificate is the only  admission requirement for a liceo.

Parents are free to choose which school to send their children to. However, there may be limitations may due a lack of available facilities or to the lack of school staff assigned to each school by the School administration. Schools establish their own enrolment criteria when applications exceed the number of places available. Applications to the chosen upper secondary school are submitted directly by the lower secondary school attended by the student.

At enrolment, students and their parents are required to sign a 'Joint responsibility agreement'. This document details the rights and duties (e.g. use of mobile telephones and electronic devices at school) of all the stakeholders involved in the school community, i.e. the school itself, the students and their parents.

Age Levels and Grouping of Students

Liceo courses are generally directed at students aged 14 to 19 and, for teaching purposes only, are organised into two periods of two years each and the final fifth year.

Classes at upper secondary level should generally have no fewer than 27 and no more than 30 students in the first grade. The minimum required number of students in the following grades of upper secondary school is 22. Usually, the maximum number of students per class lowers to 20, if there are students with special educational needs.

These figures can increase or decrease depending on the availability of school staff, as established by the Regional School Office.

Class teachers are specialists in one or more subjects from the same subject area (e.g. maths and sciences).

Organisation of the School Year

The Ministry of Education, University and Research (Miur) is responsible for defining the dates for the first and the second cycle leaving examinations and the calendar for national holidays. The Regions are responsible for defining the school calendar (start and end of school activities, length of breaks for national holidays, other holidays) so that it reflects the needs of their local area. Every year, the Ministry publishes a summary table, on its website, showing all regional school calendars.

The school year starts 1 September and finishes 31 August. Teaching activities, including end-of-term assessments, final assessments and examinations, as well as in-service training activities are carried out between 1 September and 30 June (upper secondary leaving examinations should end within July). There are a minimum of 200 teaching days in a year, distributed over 33 weeks. For student evaluation purposes, the school year can be divided into two or three terms (periods of three or four months, as decided by the Teachers assembly of each school).

The compulsory annual and weekly (based on 33 weeks/year) teaching time is established at central level (DPR 89/2010). The minimum annual and weekly teaching timetable varies according to the type of liceo and grades.

Liceo specialising in arts: the compulsory teaching time for all branches of study is 1122 hour/year (approx. 34 hours per week) in the first and second grades, 759 hours/year (approx. 23 hours per week) in the third and fourth grades and 693 hour (approx. 21 hours per week) in the fifth grade. In addition to the standard teaching time, 396 hours/year (approx. 12 hours/week) in the third and fourth grades and 462 hours/year (approx. 14 hours/week) in the fifth grade are devoted to studies specific to each branch of specialisation.

Liceo specialising in classical subjects: 891 hours/year (approx. 27 hours per week) in the first and second grade, 1023 hours (approx. 31 hours per week) in the third, fourth and fifth grade.

Liceo specialising in languages: 891 hours/year (approx. 27 hours per week) in the first and second grade and 990 hours/year (approx. 30 hours per week) in the third, fourth and fifth grade.

Liceo specialising in music and dance: 594 hours/year (approx. 18 hours per week) standard to both branches of study (music and dance), plus 462 hours/year (approx. 14 hours per week) specific to each branch of specialisation, for a total of 1056 hour/year.

Liceo specialising in sciences: 891 hours/year (approx. 27 hours per week) in the first and second grade and 990 hours/year (approx. 30 hours per week) in the third, fourth and fifth grade.

Liceo specialising in human sciences: 891 hours/year (approx. 27 hours per week) in the first and second grade and 990 hours/year (approx. 30 hours per week) in the third, fourth and fifth grade.

For each liceo, central regulations also provide tables with the annual teaching timetable for each subject.

Organisation of the School Day and Week

The school is responsible for defining the weekly and daily timetable and deciding how to distribute activities across the days of the week.

Lessons must be spread over no fewer than 5 days a week and are usually held on 6 days, including Saturday. Schools can set daily timetables autonomously.

The table below presents a sample school week. The timetable includes breaks between lessons.


Out-of hours provision Lessons Lunch break Lessons Out-of-hous provision
Monday - 8.15-14.15 - - -
Tuesday - 8.15-14.15 - - -
Wednesday - 8.15-14.15 - - -
Thursday - 8.15-14.15 - - -
Friday - 8.15-14.15 - - -
Saturday - 8.15-12.15 - - -


Legislative References 

DPR 15 March 2010, no. 89 (organisation of general upper secondary education)

DM 22 August 2007, no. 139 (length of compulsory education)

Law 6 August 2008, no. 133 (re-organisation of upper secondary education)

DPR 20 March 2009, no.81 (class sizes)

Legislative Decree 16 April 1994, no. 297 (general rules on the school year)

Legislative Decree 31 March 1998, no. 112 (regional competences on the organisation of the school year)