Private: Italian School System

The Italian School System: A Guide for Expat Families

Italy, known for its rich history, beautiful landscapes, and delicious cuisine, is a popular destination for expat families looking to experience a new culture. However, one of the biggest concerns for these families is navigating the Italian school system. Understanding how the system works and what options are available is crucial for ensuring a smooth transition for your children. In this comprehensive guide, we will provide you with all the information you need to know about the Italian school system.

Overview of the Italian School System

The Italian school system is divided into several levels, each with its own unique characteristics and requirements. It is important to note that the system may vary slightly depending on the region, so it is advisable to check with the local authorities or schools in your specific area for any specific regulations or guidelines.

1. Scuola dell'Infanzia (Nursery School)

The first level of the Italian school system is the Scuola dell'Infanzia, also known as nursery school. This level is not compulsory and is typically attended by children between the ages of 3 and 6. Nursery schools in Italy focus on providing a nurturing environment for children to develop their social and motor skills through play and creative activities.

While nursery schools are not mandatory, they can be a great option for expat families looking to immerse their children in the Italian language and culture at an early age. However, it is important to note that most nursery schools in Italy operate on a half-day schedule, so additional childcare arrangements may be necessary.

2. Scuola Primaria (Primary School)

The next level of the Italian school system is the Scuola Primaria, or primary school. This level is compulsory for all children between the ages of 6 and 11. Primary schools in Italy focus on providing a solid foundation in core subjects such as Italian language and literature, mathematics, science, history, geography, and foreign languages.

Expat families have the option to enroll their children in either public or private primary schools. Public schools in Italy are free of charge and follow the national curriculum. Private schools, on the other hand, may offer alternative teaching methods or specialized programs, but they usually come with tuition fees.

3. Scuola Secondaria di Primo Grado (Lower Secondary School)

After completing primary school, students move on to the Scuola Secondaria di Primo Grado, also known as lower secondary school. This level is compulsory for all children between the ages of 11 and 14. Lower secondary schools in Italy focus on building upon the foundation laid in primary school and introducing more specialized subjects such as foreign languages, technology, and the arts.

Similar to primary schools, expat families have the option to choose between public and private lower secondary schools. Public schools follow the national curriculum, while private schools may offer additional programs or alternative teaching methods.

4. Scuola Secondaria di Secondo Grado (Upper Secondary School)

The final level of the Italian school system is the Scuola Secondaria di Secondo Grado, or upper secondary school. This level is not compulsory, but it is necessary for students who wish to pursue higher education or vocational training. Upper secondary schools in Italy offer different types of programs, each with its own focus and requirements.

The three main types of upper secondary schools in Italy are:

  • Liceo: Academic-oriented schools that prepare students for university studies.
  • Istituto Tecnico: Technical schools that provide vocational training in various fields such as engineering, tourism, and business.
  • Istituto Professionale: Professional schools that offer practical training in specific trades or professions.

Expat families should carefully consider their children's interests and future goals when choosing an upper secondary school. It is also important to note that admission to certain types of schools may require specific prerequisites or entrance exams.

Enrolling Your Child in an Italian School

Now that you have a better understanding of the Italian school system, let's discuss the process of enrolling your child in an Italian school as an expat family.

1. Gather the Necessary Documents

Before enrolling your child in an Italian school, you will need to gather the necessary documents. These typically include:

  • Proof of residency in Italy
  • Birth certificate of the child
  • Immunization records
  • Previous school records (if applicable)
  • Passport or identification documents

It is advisable to contact the school or local authorities in advance to confirm the specific documents required for enrollment.

2. Contact the School

Once you have gathered the necessary documents, the next step is to contact the school where you wish to enroll your child. It is recommended to visit the school in person to get a feel for the environment and meet with the school administration. During this visit, you can discuss any specific requirements or concerns you may have as an expat family.

3. Language Considerations

One of the biggest challenges for expat families in the Italian school system is the language barrier. Most Italian schools conduct their classes in Italian, and while some may offer language support for non-native speakers, it is important to assess your child's language proficiency and consider additional language support if needed.

Enrolling your child in language courses or hiring a private tutor can help them improve their Italian language skills and facilitate their integration into the school system.

4. Cultural Adaptation

Adapting to a new school system and culture can be overwhelming for expat children. It is important to provide them with emotional support and encourage them to participate in extracurricular activities or join clubs to make new friends and integrate into the school community.

Additionally, familiarizing yourself with the Italian education system and its values can help you better understand the expectations and requirements of the school.


Navigating the Italian school system as an expat family may seem daunting at first, but with the right information and preparation, it can be a rewarding experience for both you and your children. Understanding the different levels of the Italian school system, enrolling your child in a suitable school, and providing them with the necessary language and cultural support are key steps to ensure a successful transition. By embracing the Italian education system, your children will have the opportunity to learn and grow in a new and enriching environment.