How school education levels are divided in Italy?

The levels of school education in Italy are divided as follows:

  • Pre-primary education: this is the first level of education and it is intended for children aged 3 to 6 years. It is not compulsory and is provided by nursery schools and preschools.
  • Primary education: it is the first level of compulsory education in Italy and takes place in primary schools (commonly known as elementary schools). It covers a period of five years from ages 6 to 11.
  • Lower secondary education: it is the second level of compulsory education and covers three years of education for students aged 11 to 14 (commonly known as middle school).
  • Upper secondary education: it is the third level of compulsory education and includes different types of schools depending on the chosen study path, such as high school (“Scuola Superiore”), technical school (“Istituto Tecnico”), or vocational school (“Istituto Professionale”).
  • Higher education: this is the highest level of education, it is optional and includes University courses and higher technical education and training courses (ITS).

Public or private school?

The national system of compulsory education (primary school, middle school, and high school) is divided into Public, Private, and Charter schools. Public schools are educational institutions funded and managed by the State, open to all students, and offer free education. Private schools are educational institutions funded and managed by private entities/associations, although recognized as educational institutions by the State. Therefore, these schools require the payment of tuition fees to cover the operating costs. Charter schools are a particular type of private school that receive financial contributions from the State. These schools also usually require the payment of tuition fees. For example, religiously affiliated schools are usually Charter schools.

Do minors have the right to free education in Italy?

In Italy, the right to education is guaranteed to all minors, regardless of their country of origin, citizenship, or the legality of their stay in Italy. Therefore, even minors not legally present on Italian territory have access to compulsory public education according to the procedures established for Italian citizens. If they lack identification documents or have irregular or incomplete documentation, one of the parents or legal guardians can declare their personal details under their own responsibility. This circumstance does not jeopardize the attainment of educational qualifications at all levels of schooling.

Who is obliged to attend school in Italy?

The obligation to attend school applies to minors from 6 to 16 years old. The obligation to attend school is not limited to Italian minors but applies to all minors present in Italy, including foreign minors, who are subject to all the relevant provisions regarding the right to education, access to educational services, and participation in the school community.

What are the timelines for enrolling in a school?

For students already enrolled in the Italian school system, registrations are done within the timeframe laid out in the relevant ministerial acts: usually in January and February for the following school year, which begins in September. For those who have just arrived in Italy, enrolment can be requested at any time of the school year.

How does the procedure of enrolling in an Italian school work?

The enrolment procedure in Italian schools is carried out in the same way and under the same conditions as for Italian minors.

Online Enrolment:

To access the online enrolment procedure, it is necessary to register and the parent must have a digital identity called SPID (Sistema Pubblico di Identità Digitale), Electronic Identity Card (CIE), or eIDAS.
Once in possession of a digital identity, you can access the dedicated portal at and fill out the application form provided by the chosen school.

Enrollment in person:

The enrolment application is submitted directly to the school’s administrative office where the child wishes to enrol in the following cases:

  • For those who have just arrived in Italy and are enrolling during the academic year.
  • If the parent does not yet have a digital identity.
  • In the absence of civil documentation (e.g. Passport) or with irregular or incomplete documentation.

How is the school enrolment of a foreign minor regulated?

Foreign minors are enrolled in a class based on their chronological age, unless the teaching staff decides otherwise, taking into account a series of factors (educational system of the country of origin, minor’s knowledge and skills, courses of study followed or academic qualifications obtained in the country of origin). In any case, the placement can be a maximum of one year below or above the corresponding age-appropriate class. It is in any case not necessary to provide documentation regarding studies completed in the country of origin. Additionally, the Italian school system offers Italian classes for foreign minors, as well as language integration programs. These courses are offered in primary and secondary schools and aim to develop the student’s language skills and facilitate their integration into the school environment and community. Furthermore, many Italian schools offer cultural orientation programs that help foreign minors understand Italian culture and society in order to facilitate better integration.