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OPINION: Italian schools need to make parents' lives easier, not harder

Silvia Marchetti
Silvia Marchetti - [email protected]
OPINION: Italian schools need to make parents' lives easier, not harder
International parents in Italy are often struck by the amount of homework children get - and the amount of time parents are expected to spend supervising it. Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

Italy's school schedules are very different to those in many other countries - and this puts working parents at a disadvantage, writes Silvia Marchetti.


Most of my expat friends are baffled by the Italian school schedule: generally speaking, kids at public schools attend from 8.30am to 1.30pm, returning home for lunch.

This means parents who have full-time jobs must send the grandparents, or the nanny (at exorbitant cost), to fetch the children and take them home, feed them and make sure they do their homework, which there is often too much of - and looks to me like an attempt to compensate for the little time spent in class.

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Between the short days, the long holidays and the ponti, it’s a nightmare for working couples who are only able to manage if they can rely on two sets of grandparents (even though, for some, it isn’t always a joy looking after grandchildren), or aunts and uncles who most likely have also their own children to take care of.

I know many couples who regularly fight on Sundays over whose turn it is to ask friends or relatives for help with school logistics.

Also, in some areas of Italy, children still go to school on Saturday mornings and this just increases the difficulties for families having to also deal with a short weekend and little time to relax.

(Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP)

The schedule means parents need to come up with after-school plans so kids don’t get bored. Those who have a part-time job often go mad driving kids across the city for basketball or swimming lessons, when the school could have organised these. Private sports tuition in Italy is also very expensive for families with several children and a low income.

I’ve always been surprised myself by the lack of extra-curricular activities, like sports, pottery classes, arts and music labs, computer lessons, or anything that involves some kind of physical activity instead of sitting at a desk chair.

Traffic jams in Rome usually form at 1.30pm because cars line up outside schools the Italian way - practically in the middle of the street - to pick up hordes of screaming, hungry kids.


I grew up in American and British schools in Italy and abroad, and I never came home before 5pm. There was either some movie to watch for our English literature essay, painting lessons, or foreign language courses. Lunch was at school cafeteria, and it was the best part of the day.

These were all of course private schools, but I believe the Italian state could charge a minimum extra fee (certainly costing less than a nanny) for school meals and parents would be more than happy to pay it.

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When I lived in Jakarta in the afternoons we had swimming, volleyball, theatre, baseball and piano lessons. We had to attain a certain hours of social services, I chose to go to the local orphanages to bring toys and clothes and play with the little orphans. I also had very little homework, often none, or spread across the whole week given there was little time left to do it at home before dinner.

Some may argue the Anglo-American model drains family quality time, but actually it enhances it, because the end of the school day coincides with that of the parents' working day.


There is also no such thing in Italy as using extra school hours, bar perhaps a few exceptions, to do social work which may benefit the community - like visiting orphanages, volunteering to help the poor and homeless, or doing something as fun as going to shelters to play with dogs, and ‘adopting’ one, while learning.

I have friends in Holland who are happy that their kids stay at school until 5pm, actively engaging in interesting activities (once they were even given lessons on how to build a snowman without slipping or getting hurt.) The public system in Holland takes of everything, even ensuring that the school-family balance is sustainable.

If only Italy could look abroad for some examples and implement them, Italian families could be much happier.

Unfortunately, the only debate going on about this is happening in homes or at the school gates, between mothers or grandparents or friends.

Italy's politicians, even though they may have school-aged kids, have never so far addressed these challenges in parliament. Most likely because they can afford a nanny.

Do you agree or disagree with the opinions expressed in this article? Please leave a comment below to let us know your thoughts.


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