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EACEA National Policies Platform


6. Education and Training

6.7 Skills for innovation

Last update: 30 November 2023

Innovation in education

In Italy, there is the awarding of a certification of competences for students who complete the ten-year cycle of compulsory education coinciding with the end of the second year of secondary school. All the school subjects are involved in the process leading to certification. The model provides for indicating the level reached for each of the following axes:

  • language (Italian language, foreign language, other languages);
  • mathematical; 
  • scientific-technological; 
  • historical-social. 

There is also an assessment of the transversal competences (personal, communicative, cognitive, organisational) that have been acquired in the formal course of study and in the informal experiences connected with it.

For each of the areas, the level achieved is specified, divided into:

  1. Basic
  2. Intermediate
  3. Advanced. 

Within the Italian school system, the School-Work Experience (ASL) is one area in which the value of non-formal learning has been promoted, with clearly defined training itineraries integrated into the curricular pathway. It received a strong boost with Law 107/2015 ('La Buona Scuola'), which made it compulsory for students to be involved in practical training experiences at a public entity, a company or a third sector organisation. In technical and vocational institutes, the experience has a total duration, in the second two-year period and in the last year of the course of study, of at least 400 hours and, in high schools, a total duration of at least 200 hours in the three-year period.

The 2019 Budget Law provided for the renaming of the Alternanza Scuola-Lavoro (School-Work Experience) pathways referred to in Legislative Decree no. 77, into Pathways for Transversal Skills and Orientation (PTCO) and, starting from the 2018/2019 school year, are implemented for a total duration predetermined according to the order of study (Licei, Technical Institutes and Vocational Institutes).

Over the final three-year period, the Pathways will have a total duration of no less than 210 hours for vocational institutes; no less than 150 hours in technical institutes; no less than 90 hours in Licei. 

The main innovation of the PCTOs is the relevance of the guidance aims of the courses and the objective of giving young people priority in acquiring transversal skills useful for their future employability, in any field of job placement, in the perspective of lifelong learning as a guarantee of permanence on the market even in the event of reconsideration of the choices made. At the end, the evaluation of the results of the PCTO activities and their impact on learning and behavioural assessment is included. The final results of the evaluation carried out by the school are summarised in the final certification of the competences acquired by the students.

Promoting innovation through non-formal and informal learning and socio-educational animation

With reference to these profiles, in Italy there are top-down and bottom-up initiatives aimed at gradually recognising the value of non-formal and informal learning. Some of them are based on public funding and are promoted in collaboration with schools and universities. Others are the result of bottom-up proposals put forward by subjects animated by young people and working on the issue of improving skills (e.g. associations, cooperatives). One area in which Italian schools are promoting initiatives (sometimes integrated in PCTOs) is on the subject of innovation-oriented non-formal learning concerning Service Learning (SL) activities. This is a pedagogical, methodological and didactic proposal that allows the student to learn (Learning) through service to the Community (Service), i.e. to learn by measuring oneself against the problems actually present in one's own life context. The educational value of SL projects, in terms of personal growth, motivation to study, levels of competence and self-esteem, and the acquisition of socially proactive behaviours has led the Ministry of Education and Merit to carry out a national experiment and to promote the establishment of Service-Learning school networks in all the Italian Regions. During the Service-Learning activities, the evaluation of the acquired competences is included. An ongoing evaluation (situational observation) is included, which may be carried out through the use of evaluation categories with indicators referring to the acquisition of soft skills (which are often one of the main objectives of the SL project actions). Furthermore, a conclusive evaluation is carried out in which the results of a structured self-assessment and of the impact on the community of reference can be included.

The Italian Youth Agency (AIG) aims at creating opportunities for girls and boys, in response to the growing need for the social development and geographical mobility of young people and organisations. Its mission is pursued both at national and European level, in the broadest and most global sense, by promoting young people's access to diversified experiences: through non-formal education channels, including a variety of activities such as volunteering, initiatives in the field of sport and active participation, with the central role of young people and their conscious citizenship.

The European programs Erasmus+, Youth and European Solidarity Corps under the responsibility of the Italian Youth Agency offer a learning methodology such as non-formal education: through workshops, case studies, activities aimed at socialisation and solidarity, the participants are given the opportunity not only to acquire purely technical knowledge but also to develop interpersonal skills. At the heart of the NGO's project activities, there is non-formal education and the work of youth workers. Youth work is based on non-formal and informal learning processes as well as on the principles of voluntary and active participation of young people; it refers to a wide range of social, cultural, educational, environmental activities carried out with and for young people, focusing on their needs and abilities (see Chapter 10).

The 'territorial networks for lifelong learning' are the institutional point of reference for coordinating and implementing actions aimed at young people (from the age of adulthood) and adults that promote the improving of education levels and the consolidation of key competences for lifelong learning. They are the backbone of the lifelong learning system, which makes it possible to take charge of people undergoing training by means of reception, guidance and support. The important nodes of these networks are the Provincial Centres for Adult Education (CPIA) which, in addition to being second level educational institutions that provide second level adult education courses, have a training unit that works to extend the training offer by stipulating agreements with local authorities as well as with other public and private subjects, with particular reference to training structures accredited by the Regions; these are initiatives to enhance citizenship skills and therefore the employability of the population. Territorial networks for lifelong learning provide support for people to build their own formal, non-formal and informal learning pathways, recognition of training credits, certification of any learning acquired, and the use of guidance services throughout life.

Regarding the development of skills geared towards innovation, it is worth mentioning the Territorial Laboratories for Employability (set up by Law 107/2015). These are school spaces open to the local area, which can also be set up in spaces outside schools and which will be active after school hours.

Workshops are intended as places for meeting, experimenting with old and new professions and practising innovation in all its expressions (technological, social and individual). The employability laboratories are supported by specific funding from the Ministry of Education and Merit and by the Ministry of University and Research (formerly together in MIUR), which has made available 45 million euros (with a maximum contribution of 750,000 euros for each laboratory) for networks of schools, including those of different levels, which can be joined by public entities, local authorities, boards of trade, industry, crafts and agriculture, universities, associations, foundations, vocational training bodies, higher technical institutes and private companies. After a selection procedure of 529 projects from all over Italy, in June 2016, the MIUR identified the 58 winning projects. The project proposals mainly regarded the involvement of both students in formal education and training and NEETs (Not Engaged in Education, Employment or Training) and were aimed at promoting the knowledge, integration and reintegration of young people into the world of work by enhancing the peculiarities and vocations of each territory.

The themes of situational learning and the sharing of ideas and projects find an important application in the training proposals of the so-called 'maker movement', which brings together people from different backgrounds who are interested in learning technical skills and their creative application with the aim of inventing innovative solutions. All this with a teaching methodology based on inclusiveness and equality in learning. The National Institute for Documentation, Innovation and Educational Research (Indire), a research body of the Italian Ministry of Education and Merit, since 2014, has been supporting the research project Maker@School: New Technologies for Teaching, which studies the specificities of the 'maker model' for the school world and how innovations can contribute to the evolution of the teaching model. The aim is to verify whether the innovative tools tested in the classroom and the teaching methodologies inspired by the 'maker' learning model are able to contribute to overcoming traditional frontal teaching methods and support a more up-to-date innovative teaching in which pupils become the protagonists of their own learning. The inclusion of 'Maker' type activities in the curriculum can enhance the development of logical-mathematical, scientific and linguistic skills, and above all bring out meta-competences and soft-skills.

In recent years, the Social Innovation Citizen (SIC) project network has been set up as an initiative of the Italian Youth Agency in collaboration with ItaliaCamp Association. It is a reference point for the young generations interested in becoming protagonists in the development of local innovation processes through a dialogue with citizens, institutions, businesses, academia and the third sector, also with the aim of stimulating self-entrepreneurship. Permanent innovation laboratories have been set up starting from four Italian cities (Florence, Matera, Messina, Turin) which, on a pilot level, have been touched by a Road Tour and have encouraged the first experiments of social innovation of SICs. In each stage, different themes were explored: sharing economy, cultural innovation, urban transformation and the reuse of disused spaces. The four chosen focuses were identified as priorities upon which to work in order to strengthen collaborative platforms, along with the use of civic crowdfunding to promote the collective and participatory funding of public works and projects by citizens, associations, businesses and institutions as a concrete opportunity to implement projects of interest to the community and to generate a social impact on the territory. Creating spaces for sharing to give life to spaces of opportunity, to promote new ways of working, creating, living and improving one's skills.

In the field of innovation, the National Association of Young Innovators (ANGI) is the first national non-profit organisation entirely dedicated to the world of innovation, in all its forms. Created with the support of the European Union, the Prime Minister's Office, the Parliamentary Intergroup on Innovation, and with the backing of leading figures from civil society, the association has laid solid foundations for the pursuit of its mission. ANGI has promoted 10 technical tables on innovation, and its 8 national events have been attended by 1,500 people. The first National Observatory entirely dedicated to Youth and Innovation is active within it, focusing on the numbers of the Italian ecosystem and Italian and European public policies in support of the new generations and technological innovation.

On the subject of non-formal education, the Italian network of Centres for the Exercise of Active Education Methods (CEMEAs) is active and is part of the international network. The Italian CEMEAs are linked in the Italian Federation of CEMEAs (FITCEMEA), an organisation accredited by the Ministry of Education and Merit and by the Ministry of University and Research (formerly together in MIUR) FITCEMEA carries out national and international projects related to formal and non-formal education. On the same themes, the National Youth Council (see chapter 5.3) in 2017 launched 'You write non-formal, you read competences'. A campaign with the aim of promoting the awareness of non-formal education, investigating whether young people active in youth associations are aware of the skills acquired in non-formal learning processes and whether their skills have been valued in the labour market.

An interesting field in which to detect the training becoming involved in non-formal learning is that of Coworking contexts, FabLabs, training workshops, creative ateliers. These are growing experiences that often focus on the coexistence of formal and non-formal learning as a useful way for the professional growth of co-workers who use shared spaces equipped with facilities that allow them to start technological innovation experiments.

There is no national law in Italy regulating these learning spaces even though they are looked upon with interest by educational institutions, traditional training centres and the business world. Many projects are co-financed by regions, municipalities, foundations and companies. The growing interest in these workspaces has led the Ministry of Education and Merit to allocate funding for the importance of this methodology in schools, transforming teaching laboratories in schools into Fablabs (e.g. Miur Atelier Creativi call for proposals).

Recent proposals indicate how Blockchain technology can also be used as a system for tracking the learning experiences of a young person, which are transmitted through a shared chain capable of recording titles, activities, relationships, storing them to have them always accessible and highlightable (e.g. by Cimea). This allows recording the actual participation and outcomes of a study pathway or training experience, to make it visible and retrievable, witnessable and recognisable, thanks to the structures that issue it.

The LIRAX Project, started in 2018, consists of a Blockchain platform, specialised in certification and traceability that makes it possible to perform a reliable and independent certification of data content at a time linked to a particular identity. This certification is performed via Blockchain, creating an audit trail that can never be changed, with a consensus on the truth of the content across multiple versions of the audit trail, created between many nodes.

An important initiative to combat educational inequalities and promote the involvement of young people in innovation is the one proposed by the Fondazione Con il Sud, founded on the basis of a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2005 by the Permanent Forum of the Third Sector and the Association of Foundations and Savings Banks, with the support of Compagnia di San Paolo, the Permanent National Council of Voluntary Work at the Forum, Convol - Permanent Conference of Presidents of National Voluntary Work Associations and Federations, Csv. net - National Coordination of Voluntary Service Centres, National Council of Management Committees - Co.Ge.

One of the Foundation's areas of intervention is the development of excellent human capital, in order to attract 'brains' and valorise talent, especially in the southern regions of Italy. Since its start, it has supported more than 800 initiatives, including the establishment of the first five community foundations in the south (in the historic centre and the Rione Sanità in Naples, Salerno, Messina and the Val di Noto), involving 5,000 different organisations, including non-profit, public and private entities, and more than 280,000 citizens, mainly young people (43% minors), who are the 'direct recipients' of the interventions. In 2016, the Foundation launched an initiative to combat child educational poverty, managed by the social enterprise Con i Bambini (fully owned by the Foundation), now in its third year.

Other programs and calls of national importance include the activities of the Department for Youth Policy and Universal Civic Service of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, through the Youth Policy Fund, established by Article 19 of Decree-Law No. 223 of 4 July 2006, converted with amendments into Law No. 24 of 4 August 2006, financed the Public Notice 'Support for young talent', published on 15 July 2015, intended to intervene in areas of great sensitivity and resonance for the younger generations. The initiative is aimed at funding actions to support young people in the expression of their talent and creativity, through initiatives that allow them to enhance their experience and skills, including in the field of technological innovation. The Notice, funded with €2.5 million, was addressed to entities and organisations of the Third Sector for the co-financing of project proposals for young people aged between 18 and 35. There are 18 beneficiaries and all of them have signed agreements. With the public notice 'Orientation and placement of young talents', the Department proposed to co-finance actions aimed at promoting and supporting the employment and self-entrepreneurship of young talents, through innovative orientation and placement initiatives that allow them to acquire knowledge of all the alternatives available in the fields of education, training and work. The initiative, which is aimed at institutions and organisations in the Third Sector, is targeting young people between 15 and 28 and is funded with €2 million. Initially, 14 project proposals were admitted for co-financing; subsequently, the Department of Youth Policies proceeded to scroll through the final list, co-financing all the projects already considered 'eligible for non-financing', investing a further €2.6 million.

In the 2007-2013 period, ISFOL, as the National Agency of reference of the Leonardo da Vinci Programme, has financed projects for the transfer of innovation, which aim at the implementation, dissemination, transfer (geographical, sectoral, to new target groups) and mainstreaming of innovative approaches, methodologies, tools and products for the education and training sector; transnational mobility of learners (internships) and teachers (exchanges); multilateral partnerships, which support networking and cooperation between stakeholders of the education and training systems and labour market actors.