6.10 Current debates and reforms
The 'Good School' reform
In the last decade, also in accordance with European objectives, the focus of
education policies in Italy have been on combating school drop-outs, fully realising school autonomy, the quality of the education system, raising the skill levels of students, combating inequalities and guaranteeing the right to study and equal opportunities in training and education.
The most recent reform of the national education and training system is contained in Law No. 107, approved by Parliament in July 2015. Law 107 (known as 'La buona scuola'), which regulates several aspects of the education system, in particular the autonomy of school institutions. Some of the provisions contained in the law have been implemented gradually through the approval of specific provisions. Law 107 also contains a delegation to the Government to adopt eight legislative decrees on school education and early childhood education and care. The final texts were approved on 13 April 2017.
The education and training system reform process
From 2003 onwards, the Italian school system has been affected by three reform projects which have raised a wide debate within and outside the school world.
In 2001, with Law No 53 of 28 March 2003, Letizia Moratti, the new Minister of Education, abolished the previous Berlinguer reform and made several changes to the school system. These included the introduction of English studies in primary schools and the use of computers from the first year, the 5th year exam was abolished and a two-year assessment was introduced in its place. In secondary school, alternating school and work experience was introduced in vocational schools and the possibility of changing course without losing the previous school years but taking an exam on subjects not covered in the previous school.
In 2007, on the initiative of Education Minister Giuseppe Fioroni, compulsory schooling was raised to 10 years and, in any case, until the age of 16. As a consequence, the age for access to employment was raised to 16, as provided for in Article 1, paragraph 622 of Law No 296 of 27 December 2006.
In 2008, the new Minister Mariastella Gelmini initiated a new reform of Italian education. Among the changes that were most talked about at the time, there was the reintroduction of the optional normal time and the single teacher, the conduct grade and the tenth grade.
In 2015, with Law no. 107 of 13 July 2015 promulgated during the government of Matteo Renzi, among the many interventions, the duties and powers of school leaders were raised and school-work experience was made compulsory in higher education institutions.
As of the 2014-15 school year, Provincial Centres for Adult Education (CPIA) were established. They inherit the functions previously carried out by the Centri Territoriali Permanenti (CTP) and by the schools hosting evening classes. They are aimed at adults, including foreigners, who have not completed compulsory education and who intend to obtain the final qualification in the first cycle of education; adults, including foreigners, who have obtained the final qualification in the first cycle of education and who intend to obtain the final qualification in the second cycle of education; Adults, including foreigners, who intend to enrol in literacy and Italian language learning courses; young people who have reached the age of 16 and who, having completed their first cycle of education, prove that they cannot attend daytime courses.
Law no. 92 of 2019 introduced new rules on citizenship skills. It states the need for schools to strengthen collaboration with families in order to promote behaviour based on citizenship that is aware not only of the rights, duties and rules of coexistence, but also of the challenges of the present and immediate future, also by integrating the co-responsibility education pact and extending it to the primary school. An integral part of this intervention regards the development of 'digital citizenship' skills, which refer to an individual's ability to make a conscious and responsible use of virtual means of communication.
With the law-decree of 11 November 2022, n. 173 the new government establishes a change of name: the Ministry of Education becomes "Ministry of Education and Merit". In summary, in addition to the provisions aimed at linking the legislation in force with the new denomination, from a substantial point of view it is necessary to point out:
i) regarding the attributions, in art. 50, the addition of the "promotion of merit" to the pre-existing "evaluation of the efficiency in the provision of the same services in the national territory"on one hand; the inclusion of the "development of merit", in addition to the pre-existing "increase in job opportunities and students' orientation skills"on the other, which are among the purposes of the training experiences to which the Ministry must offer support;
ii) about the organization, in art. 51, the number of general managerial positions present in the Ministry's regulations is brought from 25 to 28. As clarified by the explanatory report, the provision has no innovative scope and is limited to the incorporation within the Legislative Decree. 300/1999 of the new situation determined by the art. 64, paragraph 6-sexies, of Legislative Decree 77/2021, which established three general-level management positions to ensure the functionality of the Ministry's offices, which, pending the reorganization regulation, which temporarily assign one to the Cabinet Office and two to the respective departments, to carry out a study, consultancy and research assignment for the needs connected to the implementation of the PNRR.
The structure of the Ministry is also affected by paragraph 3-bis, introduced during the procedure for converting the decree.
The provision, in particular, intervenes on the art. 64, paragraph 6-sexies, of Legislative Decree 77/2021 under two profiles:
– specifies that the reorganization of the Ministry can also be carried out through the simplified procedure provided for by art. 13 of the decree-law in question.
Please note that the aforementioned art. 64, paragraph 6- sexies, of Legislative Decree 77/2021, in establishing the three new managerial positions at a general level, also established that the organizational structure of the Ministry should be adapted by means of a regulation issued pursuant to article 17, paragraph 4-bis, of Law 400/1988, i.e. by decree of the President of the Republic, following a resolution by the Council of Ministers, having heard the Council of State and following the opinion of the competent parliamentary commissions on the matter, which pronounce themselves within thirty days of the request. The art. 13 of the Legislative Decree 173/2022 under comment, for its part, regulates specific procedures for the reorganization of Ministries, by decree of the President of the Council of Ministers, on the proposal of the competent Ministry, in agreement with the Ministry for Public Administration and with the Ministry of Economy and Finance, following a resolution by the Council of Ministers and having obtained the opinion of the Council of State. Paragraph 3-bis - under examination here - therefore allows recourse to both the procedures.
– increase of 1.28 million euros per year starting from 2023 the financial allocation for the offices directly collaborating with the Ministry connected to the aforementioned three positions of general management level.
Paragraph 3-ter of the same art prepares to cover this second provision. 6. In detail, it is envisioned that the costs deriving from the implementation of paragraph 3-bis, equal to 480,000 euros per year starting from the year 2023, will be provided for by means of a corresponding reduction, for the year 2023 and starting from the year 2025 , of the expenditure, prior authorization pursuant to art. 1, paragraph 202, of Law 107/2015 and for the year 2024 of the fund pursuant to art. 23, paragraph 1 of Law 289/2002, registered in the estimates of the Ministry of Education and Merit.
These are, respectively, the «“La Buona Scuola” fund for the improvement and enhancement of school education» and the fund to be distributed over the course of management to cater for any increased needs for expenses for the purchase of goods and services.
Finally, paragraph 3 contains a general clause for the replacement, wherever they occur and for all purposes, of the previous names "Minister of Education" and "Ministero dell'educazione" with the new names "Minister of Education and Merit" and "Ministry of Education and Merit".
In general, the reforms of the education and training system have always followed the procedures and processes laid down by the Constitution for the exercise of the legislative function, which is collectively exercised by the two chambers: each bill submitted to one of the two chambers is examined by the committee responsible for the subject and then by the chamber itself, which approves it article by article and with a final vote. The Government may exercise the legislative function by means of legislative decrees or decree-laws in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. In the case of legislative decrees, it is the Parliament that confers on the Government, by means of a special delegation law, the task of issuing legislative decrees with the force of law, in accordance with predetermined principles and criteria and for a defined period of time. Decree-laws, on the other hand, are adopted autonomously by the Government and under its responsibility to deal with unforeseen situations that require immediate legislative intervention. In this case, Parliament reserves the right, within the following 60 days, to convert the decree into law, even with amendments. Otherwise, the decree-law lapses. The Government then implements and supplements the legislative provisions by issuing Regulations. The main actors in the decision-making process in the education sector are the ministries responsible for the various sectors of the education and training systems for the areas under their jurisdiction.