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Education in Italy: Pre, Nursery, and Primary School

Off to School

I have to say that my experience of education system as a non-Italian parent in Milan in northern Italy has been very positive so far.

We have a nearly eight year old son who’s been at school ever since he was a few months old.

At first he attended a private day nursery seeing as we both work, but then, partially owning to the cost of the private nursery which was considerable, we moved him to the local council run day-nursery.

After the day nursery, there was the maternity school – once again run by the Milan local authorities, and now, our son goes to a state primary school and is in his second year there.

Pre-School Nursery

Off to School
Off to School

The state run day nursery in Via Induno, Milan was excellent.

Good staff, well organised, and the opening ours were OK for working mums and dads.

The only negative aspect was the strikes, which happened every couple of months or so, and caused organisational problems when they happened.

Marks out of 10? 8 plus. Excellent service. You do pay for it, but only a fraction of what private nurseries cost, and the payment relates to family income.

The Nursery School

Two teachers per class of around 25 little ones. Once again well organised, competent and consciousness teaching staff, and the possibility for children to stay until 5:30 in the evening. This is a long day, I know, but the children don’t seem to suffer and spend more time with their friends playing and having fun. Our little one never seemed to mind this at all.

The cost here relates to lunch fees, which works out at a little over one Euro a day.

Teacher’s strikes were once again a problem from time to time, but overall, no complaints whatsoever.

Primary School

Seems excellent. Once again, two teachers, for each class of around twenty-six children. The teachers, provided they don’t leave, stay the same for the five years children stay at this level.

The school day starts at 8:30 and ends at 4:30, although my son stays on until 6 pm as he does the ‘after-school’ classes – which are no more than supervised play. Still, this extra, which does have a monthly cost, certainly makes life easier for working parents.

Aside from inadequate English language classes, with teaching which tends to be based on translation – which I am against, as it does not work, all the other subjects appear to be taught efficiently, and progress is monitored via a mid-year report and an end of year report. Children are marked out of ten for each subject, and behaviour is also rated as bad, OK, good, and excellent.

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Primary school children in Italy are given weekend homework, the quantity of which ranges from being a half hour task to taking up a couple of hours.

Homework tasks and the notes are written into each pupil’s diary, which is also used as a means of communication between parent, class teacher, and school. It’s a good system.

My son has been lucky in that his senior teacher has stayed the same, so far, whereas the assistant teacher has changed.

Overall, the school, a combined primary and middle school, in Via Mantegna in Milan is weathering Italy’s recent education cuts well, and there do not seem to have been too many changes for the worse. There was some concern that school trips would be reduced in number, but this does not seem to have happened.

The school’s headteacher, who is more of a manager than a teacher, and who is assisted by a form of management accountant, is impressive. He knows his stuff, and is very good at finding beneficial ways round government introduced cuts and changes. Top marks to him and his sidekick!

In addition to the school staff, the school has an active and proactive parents’ association. The association acts as a form of interface between the school and parents, and carries out fund raising activities via events and other bits and bobs. The parents’ association also organises minor repairs, painting work and the purchase of toilet rolls.

Marks out of Ten? Again, 8. With better English classes and more IT lessons, it would probably earn a 10.


Yes, there are one or two, but overall, the system as it has been implemented in this primary school works well.

The biggest cause of problems, and this seems to occur at many levels in Italy’s education system, is teacher absenteeism. Some teachers seem to be off sick for inordinately long periods, and this makes one wonder whether they are fiddling the system.

Fortunately, the problem of dodgy sick leave taking teachers does not seem to be a major problem at my son’s school.

The Future?

From speaking to other parents, I’ve been told over and over again that the quality of state education tends to slip downhill from middle school level onwards. Teacher absenteeism does seem to be one of the elements which causes problems. Indeed, my impression is that this is one of the biggest problems facing state education in Italy.

I’d be interested to hear if others agree with me on this.

For the moment, Milan’s state Induno pre-school, and Mantegna nursery and primary schools definitely qualify as Good Italian Things.

And you? Are you an expat with children at school in Italy?

Please let us know about your experiences, and to help others, mention the region of Italy you live in via a comment, if you have a moment.

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