Secondary Education in Italy

Secondary education in Italy lasts eight years and is divided in two stages: scuola secondaria di primo grado (lower secondary school), also known as scuola media, which corresponds to the middle school grades, and scuola secondaria di secondo grado (upper secondary school), which corresponds to the high-school level.

Scuola secondaria di primo grado (middle school)
The Scuola secondaria di primo grado (lower secondary school, previously scuola media, middle school, by which it is still called) it is mandatory, lasts three years (roughly from age 11 to 14) and is the first stage in which different specialized professors teach different subjects. It provides further education on the subjects studied at the scuola primaria, with the addition of technology and a language other than English (typically French).

It has a common programme for all pupils, and covers all the classical subjects (Italian language and literature, history, geography, mathematics, natural sciences, English language, a second foreign Language, French, Latin, technology, arts, music, and physical education).

At the end of the third year, students take an examination which enables them to continue their education, which includes:
Four written tests prepared by each examining board: Italian, mathematics, and the two foreign languages
an experimental nationally assessed test for tracking progresses in reading comprehension, language knowledge, reasoning skills and basic mathematical skills
an overall oral examination on all subjects

The final grade is a number from 6 to 10 (the best).

Before the Moratti reform it was called "scuola media di primo grado" or "scuola media inferiore".

Scuola secondaria di secondo grado (high school)
The scuola secondaria di secondo grado - formerly known as "scuola media superiore" (high school) - lasts five years (even though some istituti professionali might offer a professional certificate after three years). Every tier involves an exam at the end of the final year, called esame di maturità, required to gain a degree and have access to further university education. Any type of secondary school that lasts five years grants access to the final exam, called esame di maturità or esame di stato; this exam takes place every year between June and July. It is designed to give students the skills to progress to any university or higher educational institution.

For historical reasons, there are three types of Scuola secondaria di secondo grado, subsequently divided into further specializations.
Liceo (lyceum)
Istituto tecnico (technical institute)
Istituto professionale (professional institute)

Programmes are generally decided at national level. Currently, all of the secondary schools, especially lyceums and technical institutes, have no significant differences between them, and mostly provide commons structure and subject (such as Italian language and literature, history, geography, philosophy, mathematics, physics, biology, chemistry, one or more foreign language and physical education), while other topics are peculiar to a particular type of course (i.e. Ancient Greek and Latin in the Liceo Classico; economy and law in the istituto tecnico economico; scenography and music in the liceo artistico).

In 2013, The Programme for International Student Assessment, coordinated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), ranks the Italian secondary education as the 21st in the world, above the United States and in the OECD average, and observes a gap between results in Northern Italian schools, which performed significantly better than the national average (among the best in the world in some subjects), and Southern Italian schools, that had, on average, somewhat poorer results. Moreover, students in state-owned schools perform better than students in private schools. A typical Italian student is age 19 when they enter university, while in other countries 18 is the more common age. The Italian school system also features the scuola serale (evening school), aimed at adults and working students.

The education received in a liceo (lyceum) is mostly theoretical, with a specialization in a specific field of studies (humanities, science, or art).

Types of liceo include:

Liceo classico (classic lyceum) - dedicated to humanistic studies, features Latin, Ancient Greek, Italian, history and philosophy as its most important subjects.

Liceo scientifico (scientific lyceum) - dedicated to scientific studies, shares a part of its program with liceo classico in teaching Italian, Latin, history and philosophy, but is more oriented towards mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, earth science and computer science.

Liceo linguistico (linguistic lyceum) - puts emphasis on modern foreign languages learning; the languages usually taught are English, French, Spanish and German - although recently Russian, Arabic and Chinese have been introduced as well.

Liceo artistico (artistic lyceum) - which is oriented toward arts teaching - both in a theoretical (i.e. art history) and practical (i.e. drawing sessions) way. Its subjects are painting, sculpture, decoration, graphics, design, audiovisual, multimedia, scenography and architecture.

Liceo delle scienze umane (human sciences lyceum) - where the emphasis is more on relational, behavioral and educational, such as pedagogy, anthropology, psychology, sociology, and social research. It replaces the previous istituto magistrale (which once educated elementary school teachers).

Liceo musicale e coreutico (music and dance lyceum) - often linked with a conservatory, which comprises two sectors:
musicale - which specializes in music and teaches students to play an instrument.
coreutico - which specializes in dance and choreography.

Istituto tecnico
The education given in an istituto tecnico (technical institute) offers both a wide theoretical education and a highly qualified technical specialization in a specific field of studies (e.g.: economy, humanities, administration, law, accountancy, tourism, information technology), often integrated with a three-six months internship in a company, association or university, during the fifth and last year of study.

Types of istituto tecnico include:

Istituto tecnico economico (economic institute) - dedicated to economics and management, offers a broad theoretical education oriented toward specific subjects, such as law, economy, politics, and accountancy; it comprises two sub-types:
Amministrazione, finanza e marketing (administration, finance and marketing) - which specialises in economy, law, accounting, political sciences, management and marketing
Sistemi Informativi Aziendali (IT) - which specialises in IT and Information Systems
Turismo (Tourism) - which specialises in tourism and related topics

Istituto tecnico tecnologico (technological institute) - specialized in: technology, informatics, electronics, chemical industry, biotechnology, construction management, geotechnics, fashion; it comprises nine sub-types:
Meccanica, meccatronica ed energia (mechanics, mechatronics and energy)
Trasporti e logistica (transport and logistics)
Elettronica ed elettrotecnica (electronics and electrical engineering)
Informatica e telecomunicazioni (IT and telecommunications)
Grafica e comunicazioni (graphics and communications)
Chimica, materiali e biotecnologie (chemistry, materials and biotechnology)
Sistema moda (fashion system)
Agraria, agroalimentare e agroindustria (agriculture, agro-food and agro-industry)
Costruzioni (building)

Istituto professionale
The istituto professionale (professional institute) is specifically structured for practical activities, with the aim to facilitate the direct entry of the pupil to the labor market (engineering, agriculture, gastronomy, technical assistance, handicrafts).

This type of school offers a form of secondary education oriented towards practical subjects and enables the students to start searching for a job as soon as they have completed their studies (sometimes sooner, as some schools offer a diploma after three years instead of five) and is strictly specific in terms of vocational course offerings.

The istituto d'arte was a particular form of istituto professionale, which offered an education focused on art history and drawing. Today it is part of the liceo artistico.

All kind of upper secondary schools end with an examination (esame di stato, state exam, but usually still called with the traditional name esame di maturità, maturity exam) whose score is on a 100-point scale:

up to 25 points for the general marks obtained through the last 3 years (students barely passing each year are awarded 10 points total)

up to 45 points (15 each) on three (or four for some special cases) different written tests (each test judged sufficient is awarded at least 10 points):

Italian Language and Literature, decided at national level and the same for all examinees: either a text comprehension and critique, or the writing of an essay. In those parts of Italy where Italian is not the only official language, the first test is held in the local language (French in Val D'Aosta, German in Alto Adige, Slovenian in some areas of the province of Trieste and Ladin in some parts of the provinces of Trento and Bolzano)
a subject dependent on the kind of school followed, decided at national level for each different path
a third test on four subjects is prepared by each examining board based on the program of the last year of study. The subjects are chosen between the ones of the last year by each examining board, excluding those of the first and second test.

up to 30 points on an overall oral exam regarding all the subjects of the last year (an oral exam judged sufficient is awarded at least 20 points)

up to 5 points (to a maximum of 100) in cases the examining board judges appropriate to meriting students.
The exam is passed with a score of 60 or more, and any secondary school diploma is valid for access to any university course.