Early Schooling in Italy
In Italy learning usually begins as non-compulsory, children under the age of five can be educated either at home or at nursery school, depending on the decision of their parents. And as Italy has also followed the trend across the world for mothers to re-enter employment, there has been a growth of government sponsored private nurseries and childcare facilities. Going back for almost twenty years, this system has accepted almost 96% of all children from three to five years old. All these children attended Scuola Materna, Scuola dell’Infanzia or Giardini d’Infanzia.
When the children reach the age of six they can progress into free, but compulsory, elementary schools which are called Scuola Elementare, and this then takes them to eleven years of age.
Italian Nursery Schools
Italian nursery schools tend to focus on children’s activity, so that the syllabus concentrates on autonomy, creativity, social attitudes all combined with how to learn, preparing the children for the next stage which is elementary school. The Italian education system at this stage tends to segregate the children not by age but ability. And all schools must have the capacity to teach students with special needs.
Classes at nursery level are large, with the average number of young students being around twenty-five. And it is up to the teachers to formulate the syllabus so that the children learn in sufficient allocated hours all that they are required to. In 2000, legislation let schools decide themselves on the curriculum and how they taught it, as long as they followed general guidelines of the national system of education. There is an instinctive similarity between the Italian and American young person’s education systems, they both have the goal to prepare children to be members of a democratic society.
The Reggio Emilia Schools
The now famous Reggio Emilia Schools are education establishments that are world renowned. These excellent seats of learning have defined modern day teaching practices the world over. The model of Reggio Emilia Schools is that pupils learn to respect other persons and different points of view, the child is encouraged to inquire and to ask critical and pertinent questions. One way of doing this is to build structural art that requires many complementary skills such as mathematics, language and working as a team.
Where the school is very different to state run establishments, is that the syllabus looks at long term goals. Such as the appreciation of culture and heritage and to foster close ties with the home and school.
Another giant in the world of childhood theorists was Maria Montessori, whose main thesis was that students could learn language and mathematics by applying knowledge. She focused her students on looking at the goals and processes of education, and not how it is taught. She believed that to educate the student comprehensively it was necessary that the self should be related to its environment and to understand the cultural implications that this delivered. Italian education thinking in this respect shows a deep respect for the global impact of the education. Not just to teach the ABC’s but to explain how the ABC’s impact society.