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TELL US: Are standards at Italian schools really ‘poor’?

After one international family caused a stir by saying they had to leave Italy due to the dire state of the education system, we'd like to hear your thoughts: are the schools in Italy really all that bad?

TELL US: Are standards at Italian schools really 'poor'?
International families may find Italian schools are very different to those back home - but are they really worse? (Photo by Marco Bertorello / AFP)

A Finnish family who moved to Sicily triggered an online debate in Italy after writing an open letter to a local newspaper saying they left the island for Spain after just two months due to the standard of the schools.

In the letter, Elin Mattsson, a painter and mother of four from Finland, slammed the “poor” Italian education system and described a catalogue of issues from out-of-control classrooms and a lack of outdoor time to English teachers with a less-than-stellar command of the English language.

READ ALSO: ‘Not worth it’: Why one Finnish family left Italy over ‘poor’ schools

Italy’s education minister reacted by defending the work of Italian teachers and school managers – while some Italian teachers told local media they agreed with Mattsson’s opinions.

Online reactions to the letter ranged from some Italian parents agreeing that standards were inadequate, to international parents criticising the family’s decision to move to Sicily – a region with relatively few financial resources known to rank badly for educational attainment levels compared to many other parts of the country.

While schools vary around Italy, statistics show that educational standards in the country overall are consistently below the EU average.

But is it fair to say Italian schools are ‘poor’? Does the Italian system have any good points that perhaps aren’t reflected in statistics? Were the family just particularly unlucky – or do you agree that there are serious issues which must be addressed?

If your children have attended public schools in Italy, or if you have direct experience of working within the Italian public school system, please take the time to let us know your thoughts on this issue by completing our short survey. Answers may be used in a future article.

Member comments

  1. As a retired teacher living in Italy, (and loving it), the difference here is that in the States there is a recognition that students learn differently. Therefore you are teaching to maybe 30 or so students in different modalities. Not easy but doable.
    In Italy it’s one size fits all. If you can’t access the curriculum you’re out of luck.
    HOWEVER….I know of several students who have been accepted to some of the best universities in the world including Harvard, Williams and Bologna. Overall I find Italian students to be very intelligent overall. I credit that to their upbringing.

  2. We don’t have children of school age here in Italy, but we have many Italian friends who have children learning English at school. My wife is a qualified TEFL teacher and we have offered our time, free of charge, to help their children with English – a subject with which they are all struggling. Not one of these teenagers is capable of holding even the most basic of conversations in English. Yet our proffered help has been refused. Apparently the teachers have told the students and parents that learning the language with native speakers would distract them from the curriculum. I more suspect that it would expose the ineptitude of the teachers. In a recent court case we had cause to employ a court-appointed translator. He is an English language teacher at a prestigious high school. His capacity for the language seemed to be limited to stringing together phrases and colloquial sayings. Utterly useless.

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