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The education system in Italy is organised according to the principles of subsidiarity and of autonomy of schools. The State has exclusive legislative competence on general issues on education, on minimum standards to be guaranteed throughout the country and on the fundamental principles that Regions should comply with within their competences. Regions share their legislative competences with the State on all education issues except for vocational education and training on which they have exclusive legislative competence. Schools are autonomous as for didactic, organisation and research and development activities.

ECEC for children aged less than 3 years, offered by nursery schools (nidi d'infanzia), is organised at local level and it is not part of the education system. ECEC for children aged from 3 to 6 years, offered by scuole dell'infanzia, is part of the education system and it is not compulsory.

Compulsory education lasts for 10 years (from 6 to 16 years of age). It covers 5 years of primary school, 3 years of lower secondary school and the first two years of upper secondary school. Compulsory education can be accomplished also by attending three and four-year courses offered within the regional vocational education and training system. The upper secondary level of education has a duration of 5 years (from 14 to 19 years of age) and it is offered in both general and vocational pathways (licei and technical and vocational institutes, respectively).

Higher education is offered by both universities (polytechnics included) and the High level arts and music education system (AFAM); higher technical education and training offered by the Higher Technical Institutes (ITS); education offered by the other higher institutions.

In general, adult education includes all activities aiming at cultural enrichment, requalification and professional mobility. Within the broader term ‘adult education’, the domain “School education for adults” (istruzione degli adulti) only refers to the educational activities aimed at the acquisition of a qualification and literacy and Italian language courses. A recent reform has re-organised the School Adult Education for adults sector by replacing the former Permanent territorial centres, the evening classes held in all upper secondary schools and the relevant prison divisions, with the new Provincial Centres for School Education for Adults (CPIA).

For further information, please consult the introduction article of Organisation and Governance, and of each educational level: Early Childhood Education and Care, Primary Education, Secondary and Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education, Higher Education and Adult Education and Training.

For a brief description of other main topics regarding the national education system, please read the introduction article of Funding in Education, Teachers and Education Staff, Management and Other Education Staff, Educational Support and Guidance, Quality Assurance, Mobility and Internationalisation.

For information on recently adopted or planned reforms and policy measures, please consult topic Ongoing Reforms and Policy Developments.

While Eurypedia provides comprehensive and comparable information on the Italian education system, further information may also be found on the websites of the following institutions:

  • Ministry of education, university and research (Miur),
  • National Institute for documentation, innovation and research in education (Indire),
  • National institute foe the evaluation of the education system (Invalsi),
  • Institute for the development of professional training of workers (Isfol),
  • National agency for evaluation of university and research (Anvur).

Structure of the national education system 2014/15

 Age of students                                                                                                                                                                                   Programme duration (years)

Diagram 2015 Italy.png

Key Notes.3.PNG

source: Eurydice

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