Education system in Italy


Home » Information about Italy » Education system in Italy

Education system in Italy

Italy has both a private and public education system. There is free access to education for children of all nationalities and is compulsory from 6 to 16 years of age.

The education system is divided into five stages:

  1. Kindergarten (Scuola Dell’Infanzia),
  2. Primary School (Scuola Primaria or Scuola Elementare),
  3. Lower Secondary School (Scuola Secondaria di Primo Grado or Scuola Media Inferiore),
  4. Upper Secondary School (Scuola Secondaria di Secondo Grado or Scuola Media Superiore)
  5. University (Università).

Upper Secondary schools are divided into three categories:

  • Liceo (Lyceum), the education available in a ‘Liceo’ is mostly theoretical, with a specialization in a specific field of studies (humanities, science, art etc.).
  • Istituto Tecnico (Technical Institute), the education provided in an Istituto Tecnico offers both a wide theoretical education and a specialization in a specific field of studies (e.g.: economy, humanities, administration, law, technology, tourism), often integrated with a three to six months internship in a company, association or university, during the fifth and last year of study.
  • Istituto Professionale (Professional Institute), this type of school offers a form of secondary education oriented towards more practical subjects such as engineering, agriculture, gastronomy, technical assistance, handicrafts etc. It 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, although it is considered a lower level of school compared to the others.


Education for different categories

Children and youth:

Italian legislation provides that all children, both Italian and foreigners, have the right and the obligation until the age of 16 to take part in the national education system. Both unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and children of asylum seekers, exercise these rights and are admitted to the courses of the Italian language.

No official status is necessary in order to enter to the educational path as you will be automatically integrated in the obligatory National Educational System. It is also important to point out that no preparatory classes are foreseen at the National level, but since there is autonomy in the way the study courses are planned, it is possible that you will find additional courses that assist in your path.


By the law, all Italian and/or foreign citizens over 16 years of age can enrol in CPIAs (Provincial Centres for Adult Education) which are state schools established by the Ministry of Education, Universities and Research.

The CPIA is meant for you if you want to

  • Attend Italian language courses
  • Obtain the ‘Diploma di Scuola Secondaria di I grado’, ‘Licenza Media’ (Italian Middle School Certificate) in a supportive learning environment.


Degree equivalency procedure

If you are a holder of refugee status and have completed any type of education in the previous country of residence, you can initiate the process of validating the degree(s) already obtained. You will need to carry the proof with you or contact the embassy of the country to access the information, if available. If your degrees get recognized you can continue in the next level of education equivalent in Italy. It is important to know that this is not an easy process and could take time. You will find more information on the necessary procedure to be followed in this link (in Italian)


Further information & links

Ministry of Education, Universities and Research:

CPIA (Centro Provinciale per l’Istruzione degli Adulti) of Palermo:




How do I enter to University?

Any type of Upper Secondary School that lasts 5 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 and is obligatory in order to enter to the university.

How do I take part in the CPIA courses?

Everyone is welcome to enrol at CPIA provided you are 16 years or older. No previous qualifications are necessary. To enrol, present your completed enrolment form to the school in your area together with your ID documents, provided you are in a possession of a valid residence permit.

For the 2018/2019 courses the deadline of application is on the 31st of October but in any case exceptions can be made if you become aware of it afterwards. Contact your local CPIA by searching ‘CPIA’ and the name of the city or region in which you are residing.  

What is the procedure that will follow?

An interview with the teachers will be arranged, to find the most suitable courses for you. All courses are free of charge and you are not required to purchase texts or materials.

Through the interview and entry tests that follow, will allow the team of responsible of your local CPIA to assess the skills that you have obtained by previous formal and informal study, work and life experience. This process will determine if you are already competent in some of the subject areas or competences covered in the courses, to be granted a reduction in the hours of attendance.

What type of certificate can I obtain?

In the case of Italian courses, you can sit the internationally recognized ‘Perugia University CELI’ exam at the school, which will demonstrate your proficiency in the language.

The diploma of Scuola Secondaria di I grado – ‘Licenza Media’, will be obtained after one school year. The subjects taught are Italian, History, Geography, Mathematics, Science, I.T. and English.

Do I need to complete ‘Licenza Media’ to access other training/job opportunities?

Yes, it is necessary to complete this level of education in order to be able to continue after towards your path.

How do I enrol to University to continue my studies?

After the completion of ‘Licenza Media’, you can enrol to ‘Liceo’ or ‘Istituto Tecnico’ that will give you access to University after five years of study.

Are there any scholarships offered for studies?

There are a lot of opportunities offered by universities all around Italy. You can search for ‘Borse di studio per studenti con status di titolari di protezione internazionale/rifugiati’. For example here there is more information