The Constitution of the Italian Republic declares that school is open to all and that compulsory schooling is free of charge (Art. 34). The Italian education and training system is organised according to the principles of subsidiarity and autonomy of school institutions. The State has exclusive legislative competence for the 'general rules on education' and for determining the essential levels of services that must be guaranteed throughout the national territory. The State also defines the fundamental principles that the regions must respect when exercising their specific powers. The Regions have concurrent legislative powers in the field of education as well as exclusive legislative powers in the field of education and vocational training. State educational institutions have teaching, organisational and research, experimentation and development autonomy. Italian law stipulates that education is compulsory for at least 10 years, with reference to the age group between 6 and 16. The purpose of compulsory education is to obtain either an upper secondary school qualification or a professional qualification lasting at least three years by the age of 18.
In recent years, there has been a gradual transformation of the education and training system through, among other things, the launch of a number of institutional reform processes (Law 53/2003; Law 296/2006; Law 107/2015). In line with the treaties and EU indications, the Ministry of Education, in its regional and local branches and in its specific bodies, has been committed to promoting innovation processes in terms of technology (e.g. in the field of skills and digital schooling) as well as in terms of organisation and methodology, with a focus on the need to counter some of the criticalities that have historically characterised the Italian education and training system.
In terms of innovation, Italy has a national media literacy strategy contained in the National Digital School Plan (Law 107/2015). The Plan aims to create the conditions for all schools to access the information society, making the 'Right to the Internet' a reality and covering the whole chain of digital access in schools, so as to enable digital teaching. It envisages enhancing the presence of digital tools in schools and their connectivity through three actions, respectively the deployment of ultra-wideband fibre to the door of each school, the internal wiring of all school spaces, and the school connectivity fee. From a methodological point of view, among the transformations currently underway, it is worth mentioning the teaching of schools of all levels in the direction, which accepts the model based on the competences recommended by the European Union, with attention to the value of the heterogeneity of the educational experiences as well as the challenges of growth of the young generations, called to actively insert themselves in a social and work context that is constantly evolving.
One of the issues that Italian education and training policies are focusing on is the fight against early school leaving. The drop-out rate from education and training has been steadily decreasing for a decade but remains well above the European average. The drop-out rate of young people born abroad is about three times higher than that of young people born in Italy. Regional differences in drop-out rates are also particularly significant. The drop-out rate in the South and islands is significantly higher than in the North. In order to counter these criticalities, a number of programs have been launched to address the issue starting from local contexts (e.g. National Operational Programme For Schools - Skills and Learning Environment 2014-2020). Similarly, in recent years, the fight against early school leaving has also involved the adoption of non-formal or informal educational strategies which have been able to count on the contribution and planning of training, research and third sector organisations committed to this front (e.g. Fondazione Con il Sud - Impresa sociale con i bambini). Within the Italian school system, the value of non-formal learning has been recognised with the introduction of clearly defined training itineraries integrated into the curricular path aimed at promoting School-Work Experience (ASL). The 2019 Budget Law provided for the renaming of the Alternanza Scuola-Lavoro routes under Legislative Decree 77/2005 to Percorsi per le competenze trasversali e per l'orientamento (PTCO) and, starting from the 2018/2019 school year, they are implemented for a total duration redetermined according to the order of studies (Licei, Technical and Professional Institutes).
It is worth noting that Italian legislation has incorporated the perspective of lifelong learning (Law 92/2012), understood as a set of activities undertaken by people in a formal, non-formal and informal manner, at various stages of their lives, in order to improve their knowledge, skills and competences, in a personal, civic, social and occupational perspective. The concrete outcome of this process has been the recognition of the educational value of non-formal and informal learning proposals within the school system as well as outside school. Outside the school system and in collaboration with it, cultural and youth associations, foundations, NGOs and some training centres and volunteer networks have launched itineraries to promote the raising of young people's skills in the context of increasing study and work mobility, including and above all international mobility.
In 2013, the general rules for the operation of the National Skills Certification System were defined (Legislative Decree 13/2013). The System aims to bring out and improve the professional skills acquired not only at work but also in free time, so as to promote geographical and professional mobility, facilitate the matching of supply and demand in the labour market, increase the transparency of learning and the expendability of certifications at both national and European levels. In 2018, the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) was established as a tool for describing and classifying qualifications awarded under the National Skills Certification System. The NQF represents the national device for the referencing of Italian qualifications to the European Qualifications Framework, with the function of linking the Italian qualifications system with the systems of other European countries.