You can spot one from at least 100 meters away! They are, at best, beautiful, historic buildings about 100 years old or so, restored to their original states, and adorn flags (of course!), plaques, statues and carvings, emitting an inviting air of "Please, come inside and learn." At worst, they are fifty-year-old buildings, badly in need of restoration adorning flags and that's pretty much it, emitting an air of "Get in here and learn. You don't have a choice." They are Italian schools.
Now, this native Texan dares to blog about Italian schools, because, frankly, I have a valid right. I have earned that right through fifteen years and counting of being a protagonist in them, carrying the precious title of Mom-of-Italian kids. I'm specific about that because I'm convinced that a Dad-of-Italian kids has it a bit easier. Most of the time, in my experience, moms were always there, waiting for the infamous bi-annual teacher meetings, which we are strongly expected to attend. My three sons went to Italian schools from Day 1 completely and utterly by choice. My husband and I chose to raise our sons in Italian schools. For me, deciding to plant roots in Italy and raising my sons here, meant being completely integrated into Italian life.
From about 3rd-grade elementary school, I couldn't help my sons any longer with their Italian. History and science were pretty easy. BUT Math... Ah, math! Now, I was good at math. It was always my favorite subject. However, from about 3rd-year high school, I could no longer help my sons with their math at school, if they got stuck. It was in part because I couldn't remember most of it, but even more than that, I had never done any of the math that they were doing. (I graduated in the top 10% of my high school class in Texas, so I'm not stupid, I would say.) In Italy, though, the math curriculum goes beyond anything I had ever seen. In elementary school, the curriculum requires students to begin basic concepts of all sectors of math. In middle school, they go further into those sectors of math, and they start learning lots of theoretical math and not just practical math. In high school, well, they go even farther and, from about 3nd-year high school on, they get into the math, and, at that point, it becomes pretty undecipherable for me. My second son thought about attending university in the USA, so he took the SAT. He sat down twice to look over SAT math problems. He was more concerned with the English, as Italian proves to be his native language, so he dedicated his study time to the English. In the end, he finished the math part of the SAT in the 88th percentile of all the kids who took that version of the SAT, with basically no preparation. Italian schools, primarily scientific high schools, are incredible when it comes to preparing kids in math!
In scientific high schools, students study five years of physics and math. They study five years of Italian, and study philosophy for two years. Italian schools require students to study world history from elementary school. There is little to nothing they do not know, at least generally speaking, when it comes to world history. They study Latin for five years giving them endless opportunities to use Latin for logical thinking, reasoning and expanding vocabulary. They study sciences, of course, including earth science, biology and chemistry. Students are obligated to study all basic humanistic, science and math subjects in great detail. By the time they finish high school, aside from their brains ready to explode, they are academically well-prepared to take on any university degree program out there. They're pretty incredible to talk to at that stage. Very pleasant to converse with.
Italian schools may sometimes be lacking toilet tissue in the bathrooms, which they then ask parents to donate. Students coming out of most Italian high schools are not bilingual Italian-English speakers with CEFR C2 levels, unfortunately. Most students have little technological knowledge apart from Instagram and Facebook use. And, sometimes, especially from middle school on, teachers are unfriendly, unhappy and, often, take out their misery on students. In the long-run, the ramifications are worth coping with, although they are tough, and also very heartbreaking to see as a parent. In the long-run, though, students will forget bad, unpleasant teachers (selective memory is useful sometimes). Achieving a sound, in-depth and advanced academic education before university is priceless. Actually, in Italy, it's FREE! Anyone who travels probably knows or knows of Italian university graduates working abroad who prove to be more knowledgeable and prepared in their academic fields of study. Exchange students return to Italy after their year abroad, and they express that they had found the academic subjects, especially math and science, to be easy. I'm a passionate advocate of the Italian school curriculum. All parents should take advantage of the free advanced academic curriculum offered by the Italian government.
The only vital things missing from Italian schools in 2019 are the chance to become bilingual, CEFR C2 before leaving high school and technology. In today's world, students need to be technological savvy, and they need to be English-speaking. Those are the missing pieces in Italian schools. That's why I dedicate my school to helping students fill those two gaps. If students work hard, they can finish high school and be well-rounded in every field of study and knowledge necessary.
Learn English and go!