All you need to know about Italian education system in 2024

By Go! Go! Italia staff
15 Mar 2024
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Italian education system

Italy is home to a deeply rooted educational heritage that extends across centuries, providing a wide variety of learning options for students at every stage of life.

It is home to the University of Bologna, established in 1088, which is recognized as the oldest university in continuous operation in the world. This prestigious institution stands as a testament to Italy’s long-standing tradition of academic excellence and commitment to education.

Moreover, the Italian education system is not only prestigious but also surprisingly affordable compared to many other countries. This affordability makes Italy a very attractive destination for students worldwide seeking high-quality education without being burdened by excessive costs.

In this article, we will explore the different educational stages in Italy, such as elementary school, middle school, high school, and tertiary education, including undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral studies.

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Italian education system: an overview

Scuola primaria di primo grado (Primary education)

Primary education in Italy typically begins at the age of 6 and lasts for five years. The curriculum covers a range of subjects, including Italian language and literature, mathematics, science, history, geography, art, music, and physical education.

Emphasis is placed on developing foundational skills in reading, writing, and arithmetic, as well as fostering critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. Primary education is compulsory for all children in Italy and attendance is mandatory.

Scuola secondaria di primo grado (Middle school)

Middle school follows primary education and is attended by students aged 11 to 14. The curriculum is more specialized than primary school and includes subjects such as Italian, mathematics, science, history, geography, foreign languages (usually English), technology, and art.

At the end of middle school, students take a standardized examination known as the Esame di Stato, which determines their eligibility for admission to high school.

Scuola superiore (High school)

High school in Italy typically lasts for five years and is normally attended by students aged 14 to 19. There are several types of high schools, including Liceo (classical high school), Istituto Tecnico (technical high school), and Istituto Professionale (professional high school), each offering different specialized curricula.


The Liceo in Italy is designed to get students ready for college by teaching a wide range of subjects, including arts, sciences, and different languages.

The Liceo offers diverse educational pathways to cater to students’ interests and career goals. These include the Liceo Classico, which focuses on classical studies such as Latin and ancient Greek, and the Liceo Scientifico, which emphasizes mathematics and sciences. For those interested in languages, the Liceo Linguistico provides intensive language instruction, while the Liceo Artistico focuses on visual arts and design and so on.

The courses help students think more critically and build a strong base of knowledge, which they’ll need for exams to get into university. After finishing five years at a Liceo, students take a big final test called the maturità. Passing this test means they can apply to go to university.

Getting into university, however, might require a bit more than just the maturità exam. 

Depending on what students want to study and how popular that program is, they might also need to pass an university entrance exam or go through an interview. These extra steps make sure that students have the right skills and knowledge for their chosen area of study, ensuring they’re ready for the demands of university courses.

Istituto Tecnico and Istituto Professionale

Professional institutes on the other hand, are more vocational, designed to provide students with specific job-related skills and training in fields such as agriculture, hospitality, and various trades. Traditionally, graduates from Istituto Professionale and Tecnico were more likely to enter the workforce directly upon completion and they used to have 3 or 4 years program but this is changing in recent years.

Students from professional schools can also pursue higher education if they wish, though they might need to take additional courses or exams to meet university entry requirements. They also need to have 5 years of high school education in order to be eligible for higher education.

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Higher Education

In Italy, higher education encompasses bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs offered by universities, polytechnics, and other higher education institutions. Students need to prove their previous 12 years of education in order to qualify for university admission. The academic year normally starts in September or October and ends in June-July with exams sessions.

If you would like to prepare for Italian university admission efficiently, consider joining the foundation program for university admission preparation with one of our partner schools.

Higher education is usually organized in the following manner:

Laurea Triennale (Bachelor’s Degree)

Bachelor’s programs typically span three years and provide students with a comprehensive foundation in their chosen field of study. These programs cover a broad range of subjects and aim to equip students with fundamental knowledge and skills relevant to their discipline.

Laurea Magistrale (Master’s Degree )

Following the completion of a bachelor’s degree, students can pursue a master’s program, which typically lasts two years. Master’s programs offer advanced coursework and research opportunities in specialized areas, allowing students to deepen their understanding of their chosen field and develop expertise in specific topics.

Dottorato di Ricerca (PhD)

For those seeking to further their academic and research pursuits, doctoral programs are available. These programs are research-focused and typically last three to four years, culminating in the awarding of a PhD degree. Doctoral students conduct original research under the guidance of a faculty advisor, contributing new knowledge to their field of study.


From primary school to high school, school is free of charge. Universities have a fee but usually are extremely affordable compare to other countries, ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand euros per year, depending on the specific program and university.


Up to high school, courses are normally held in Italian. University classes are primarily conducted in Italian as well, however, there are programs and courses offered in English, particularly at the graduate level and in certain fields such as international relations, business, and engineering.

Our partnered language schools specialize in courses tailored to help international students improve their Italian language proficiency, navigate higher education options in Italy and prepare for university entrance exams. Don’t hesitate to contact us! Our experienced team is here to offer invaluable assistance and guidance to support you applying for your studies in Italy.

Don’t forget to follow us on our social media for more content related to studying in Italy!

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