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Italy:Organisation of Vocational Upper Secondary Education

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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

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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

Vocational Upper Secondary Education

Vocational upper secondary education, which lasts 5 years, is provided by technical institutes and vocational institutes.

Technical institutes offer vocational education in economics and technology sectors. There are 2 economics-based programmes and 9 different technology-based programmes. These courses have 11 different options. Specific guidelines set out the target learning outcomes for each option and each subject and these are defined in terms of knowledge, skills and competencies.

Vocational institutes offer vocational education in areas of the service sector and the industry and crafts sector. There are 4 service sector programmes and 2 industry and crafts programmes. These courses include 10 different options and specific guidelines for targets as described above for technical institutes.

Regional Vocational Education and Training (IFP)

Three-year and four-year vocational education and training courses are available from vocational training agencies and upper secondary vocational institutes.

Training agencies are vocational training institutions that are accredited by the Regions according to specific criteria established in agreement with the State. Upper secondary vocational institutes follow the guidelines issued by their Regions for IFP courses.

The Regions accredit the training agencies that meet the following specific criteria:

a) they are part of a non-profit institution offering educational services to young people;
b) their educational plan involves offering young people the opportunity to acquire certain defined competencies and skills;
c) they implement the national labour contract for vocational training with all staff;
d) their teaching staff is qualified to teach at upper secondary level;
e) they create networks and relationships within the territory and with families;
f) they take joint decisions on the planning and management of teaching activities and guarantee periodic assessment and the final certification of learning;
g) they have suitable facilities and premises.

Training agencies are in the private sector (religious institutions or trade unions) and the public sector (regional, provincial and local institutions).

Vocational upper secondary institutes in the mainstream education system can also offer IFP courses. Vocational upper secondary institutes can provide, on a subsidiary basis and in keeping with the competences of the Regions, two types of IFP course:

a) integrated subsidiary courses for students attending mainstream 5-year upper secondary vocational courses to obtain an IFP qualification after three years of training;
b) complementary subsidiary courses organised in special classes at vocational institutes, preparing students for a three/four-year qualification within the IFP system. Thus, after the 2010 Agreement, vocational institutes can now issue IFP certificates.

So far, most Regions have opted for the first of the two types of offer.

Furthermore, guidelines include the possibility for those with a four-year IFP qualification to be admitted to universities, institutes of Higher Education in Music and Art (Alta formazione artistica e musicale - AFAM) and Higher Technical Institutes (Istituti tecnici superiori - ITS) courses, provided they have attended a one-year integration course offered by the Regions and organised by the vocational institutes and the training agencies themselves.

Geographical Accessibility

Vocational Upper Secondary Education

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.

Regional Vocational Education and Training (IFP)

The presence of training agencies and vocational upper secondary institutes offering courses within the regional vocational education and training system is not uniform throughout the country.

Admission Requirements and Choice of School

Vocational Upper Secondary Education

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 vocational upper secondary education.

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.

Regional Vocational Education and Training (IFP)

Candidates to IFP courses are required to have completed the first cycle of education. Enrolment in the first year is for students under the age of 15. Candidates from other education pathways must be under 18.

Age Levels and Grouping of Students

Vocational Upper Secondary Education

Courses at technical and vocational institutes are generally aimed at students aged from 14 to 19 and teaching is organised in two distinct periods: the first period lasts two years and the second lasts 3 years and is in turn split into another block of 2 years plus the final 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 subject or more subjects from the same subject area (e.g. maths and sciences). In the technical institutes with a technology bias, two teachers work together teaching theory and practice in laboratory classes.

Regional Vocational Education and Training (IFP)

The average number of learners per class is usually 20. Maximum limits are set at regional level and a minimum number of learners are usually required for administrative reasons (e.g. 12 learners). Each class-group corresponds to the grade of the course (i.e. first, second and third grade) and to the qualification issued at the end of the course (e.g. first grade 'catering worker').

Organisation of School Year

Vocational Upper Secondary Education

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 timetable (based on 33 weeks/year) for technical and vocational schools is set at central level (DPR 87/2010 and 88/2010 for vocational and technical institutes, respectively).

The annual timetables in these schools consist of a portion that is common to all branches and a portion that is specific to each branch of specialisation. The common timetable covers general activities and teaching and accounts for 660 hours (approximately 20 hours a week) in the first and second grades and 495 hours (approximately 15 hours a week) in the last three grades. The timetable for activities and teaching that are specific to each branch of specialisation accounts for 396 hours (approximately 12 hours a week) in the first and second grade and 561 hours (approximately 17 hours a week) in the last three grades. The overall compulsory teaching time is 1056 hours, corresponding to approximately 32 hours a week.

For technology courses at technical institutes, the annual teaching time also includes laboratory lessons taught by two teachers: 264 hours in the first and second grades, 561 hours in the third and fourth grade and 330 hours in the fifth grade.

Regional Vocational Education and Training (IFP)

The overall number of teaching hours on courses organised by training agencies ranges between 2 900 and 3 600 hours for the entire three-year period. Within these hours, the amount of time devoted to general knowledge and culture, specialist subject areas, work experience and integrated activities (guidance, catch-up, etc.) also varies. The average time devoted to the acquisition of cultural competencies ranges from 35 to 45% of the overall timetable; 45-50% is devoted to the technical-vocational specialist area and the remaining time goes towards work experience and integrated activities.

Courses organised by vocational upper secondary institutes generally follow the specialist branch structure of vocational institutes, devoting 15-30% of the technical-vocational portion of the timetable to integrated activities.

The year can be divided into two or three terms (periods of three of four months). At the end of each term, students are assessed and parents are informed of their learning outcomes.

Organisation of the School Day and Week

Vocational Upper Secondary Education

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 in a first grade class at a technical institute. The timetable includes breaks between lessons.

Out-of-hours provision 
Lessons    Lunch break Lessons Out-of-hours provision
Monday - 8.15-14.15 - - -
Tuesday - 8.15-13.15 - - -
Wednesday - 8.15-14.15 - - -
Thursday - 8.15-13.15 - - -
Friday - 8.15-14.15 - - -
Saturday - 8.15-12.15 - - -

Regional Vocational Education and Training (IFP)

Learners attend IFP courses for about 5-6 hours a day with a mid-morning break, 5 or 6 days a week. Lessons correspond to the school calendar, i.e. starting in September and ending in June-July. Calendars may vary locally depending on regional planning and the availability of funds annually allocated by the Ministry.

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)