Just Words / Politics

Italy, between progress and protest

Between progress and protests: new educational reform in Italy

A new educational reform was approved by both chambers of Parliament this month in Italy. In what appears to be a change of direction from the previous reforms, the law is adding or, rather, reassessing the spending for Education. The most prominent features of the law involve more welfare for students in terms of bursaries and subsidies, lower costs for school books, more support in helping students decide their high school path, a longer study visa for non-EU students, funds to establish WIFI connections in school and also to make them safer, the hiring of 69000 teachers and 200 researchers, and even a smoking ban extended to open-air areas and electronic cigarettes.

Yet, students took the streets on 15 November, the weekday closest to 17 November, the international day of students. The reoccurrence is traditionally celebrated with demonstrations all over Italy organised by students’ unions to remind the government of the importance of prioritising education rather than treating it as a marketable good. In a number of cities, the protests erupted in clashes with the police.

Students protesting in Rome handed a letter to the minister of Education with 10 points questioning the current approach to educational reforms. The letter asks questions related to a number of issues that the new law is not addressing, including: differences in educational standards between regions, a reform of the school cycles allowing more time before choosing the high school direction (a choice currently made at 13), reforming the evaluation system, more space for student representation, increasing the schooling age from 16 to 18 years old, a lowering of tuition fees, abolition of the fixed number for university courses, more answers on the future of Italian youth.

Yet, the current government is unlikely to attempt any more changes to the educational system during its term, so students’ questions will probably remain unanswered.

Photo credits:  Cau Napoli/Flickr

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