information for global expats

State School Systems for Expats in Italy

Submitted: February 2014

Education in Italy is free to all children regardless of their nationality. It is mandatory for children aged six through sixteen to attend school. State school is an option to consider if you intend to stay in Italy for more than a year. State schools are often perceived as better if not just as good as private schools.

Though not compulsory, every child from age three to five is entitled to attend nursery school (Scuola dell’Infanzia or Scuola Materna).

The state-funded education system in Italy is divided into four stages:

  • Nursery School- ages three to six
  • Primary School  (Scuola Elementare)- ages six to eleven. In order to comply with the European standards for school leaving age, children can start primary school from five and a half years old. This marks the beginning of compulsory formal education in Italy.
  • Lower Secondary School (Scuola  Secondaria di 1 grado) - ages eleven to fourteen
  • Upper Secondary School  (Scuola  Secondaria Superiore) ages fourteen to nineteen. The school system was recently reformed in 2010. Students have six specializations to choose from when entering.
    • Liceo Classico     (Classical Studies)
    • Liceo Scientifico (Scientific Studies)
    • Liceo Linguistico (Modern Language Studies)
    • Liceo Artistico    (Fine Art Studies)
    • Liceo delle Science Umane  (liberal Art Studies)

Students at Italian State Schools follow the national curriculum. The State School system is administered by the Ministry of Education, Universities and Research (Minister dell’ Università e della Ricerca). Their website is https://www.istruzione.it//. If you are already proficient in Italian, this website would be the perfect place to research your child’s options with regards to the State Schools in Italy. If you are seriously considering state school for your children, it is important to take certain things into account.

  • Consider the age of your child. If your child is very young and you intend to stay in Italy for at least a year then state school may be a viable option since younger children are able to learn a new language easily. If your child is older though, it may be difficult integrating into a new school especially if he or she is not fluent in Italian.
  • Post Italy plans- knowing where you are going after Italy is important when considering your child’s educational needs.
  • Will extra tuition be needed particularly for a child who is not fluent in Italian? Is extra tuition available if required?



Schools are legally obligated to accept all children under the age of eighteen even if their documentation is not provided. Students are enrolled temporarily until parents can provide the necessary documents. It is prudent though to perhaps take a visit to Italy well in advance of your move in order to make the best decision for your child.
A useful Document Checklist as provided on one website https://www.expatsinitaly.com/node/75 is:

  • Certificate of family status (certificato di stato di famiglia)
  • Your Child’s birth certicate ( certificato di nascita) and proof of immunization against   hepatits B, polio, diphtheria and tetanus ( relavant translations
  • A photograph of your child and resdidence certificate (certificato di residenza) or written proof of your intention to permanently move to Italy
  • A translation of previous qualifications and previous school experience and a letter from previous school principal.
  • An evaluation certificate (dichiarazione di valore) obtained by the Italian Consulate before arriving in Italy.

For a more detailed breakdown of the Italian School System, you can visit the website https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/fpfis/mwikis/eurydice/index.php?title=Home and search Italy. The website is described as a European Encyclopedia on National Education Systems and is indeed helpful in gaining a comprehensive knowledge on how the Italian State School System operates.



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