Education overhaul

New initiatives seek to correct’ ailing school system

Editorial Staff
September 18, 2008

‘The Italian public school system is in a dangerous situation, on the brink of collapse, because 97 percent of the available funds are allocated toward salaries; the quality of education is measured by how you spend the funds available', said education minister Mariastella Gelmini as she announced massive cuts to the national education system.


Amid widespread criticism from teachers' unions and several centre-right politicians, Gelmini announced that about 87,000 teachers would be cut from the school system within the next three years. The education minister stressed that the cuts will not alter the required number of special needs instructors but will mainly target elementary schools. Her plan is to reduce the pool of elementary school instructors to one full-time teacher per classroom instead of the current three. 


According to the education ministry, the extensive job cut will bring seven million euro in savings, 30 percent of which will be used to improve the structural conditions of some 10,000 schools that have been deemed ‘outdated' and ‘unsafe' as well as to grant performance pay to instructors.


Gelmini also intends to abolish the required post-graduate teaching programs, which in her opinion, only serve to create a surplus of unemployed teachers. Teachers will soon need to make it through a state-run competition and complete an apprenticeship in order to enter the school system.


Personnel cuts are not the only priorities on Gelmini's list. She has already re-introduced a grade for bad behaviour in high schools, an attenpt to curb a rise in bullying. The much-feared ‘zero in condotto' mark was abolished 10 years ago by the centre-left government because it was believed unjust to fail students based on their bad conduct.


The education ministry is also re-introducing civics classes to help improve students' knowledge about society and the Italian constitution. There has also been a proposal to re-institute school uniforms in elementary and middle schools.

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