Italy: 150 Years of History - 150 Years of Education

Bulgaria-Italy Survey » EDUCATION | Author: Carmela Pace |May 30, 2011, Monday // 07:32

Article by Carmela Pace, Principal, Classical Secondary School "Tommaso Gargallo", Siracusa, for the "International Survey: Bulgaria-Italy" of (Sofia News Agency).


On 18 March 1861 in Turin, at noon, twenty-one gun shots announced the Unity of Italy. On the previous day, Vittorio Emanuele II, King of Sardinia, Cyprus and Jerusalem had been crowned King of Italy.

The Parliament was made up of 650 delegates and senators including Massimo D'Azeglio, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Alessandro Manzoni and the famous musician, Giuseppe Verdi. Rome, the region of Veneto, Trento and Trieste are not yet part of Italy.

The Casati Law Code is extended to all the schools in the kingdom, affirming the State's will to intervene in matters of education in place of the Catholic Church that had taken care of education throughout the centuries. The municipalities provide for school buildings as well as teachers' salaries.

The Royal Decree n. 229 of 4 March 1865 creates the first sixty-eight Classical Secondary Schools; technical education is not considered. Also, it is decided that each secondary school will be entitled to some famous person belonging to the local and national history of the country. Italian schools are created abroad: in Albania, Argentina and Tunisia. On 4 January 1864, four regular elementary courses begin, with seventy students altogether. In 1872, more courses are added: business and technical courses are added to elementary courses.

The educational mission of Italian elementary teachers throughout the world reaches its peak in 1876 thanks to the Salesian Fathers, of the Don Bosco Opera. This institution provides elementary and secondary classes, as well as vocational schools, agricultural colonies and leaves an imprint in all fields of knowledge and industry.

1861 and 1870 are two important dates in the history of Italy. The first marks the Unity. The second is related not only to the inclusion of Veneto, but also to the end of the temporal power of the Popes and the Roman conquest. Thus, Unity is achieved with the declaration of Rome as capital, while irredentist movements rise up in Trento and Trieste.

The new generations want to be "positive", face reality, defy any difficulties with all their awareness. This trend towards all that is positive and realistic is encouraged by the European developments of the Industrial Revolution as well as by new myths, such as the careers of scientist and physician.

Next to the scientist and the physician, the figure of the elementary teacher is very important, as the protagonist of the diffusion of education among the lower classes, almost a knight of social duties and strength of reason.

As a consequence, we shall remember the idealization of the character of the elementary teacher shown by De Amicis in his masterpiece "Cuore" (Heart).

The most important steps of Italian efforts to provide better education are:

a) The Coppino Law (1877), which extends compulsory education to the age of 9 and determines penalties for the defaulters, giving the State the responsibility of controlling the designation of elementary teachers;

b) The Crispi Law (1889) affirms the right to education for all Italian citizens living in colonies and the divulgation abroad of the Italian language.

c) In 1904, the Orlando Law extends compulsory education to the age of 14, institutes evening and holiday classes for the illiterates, while the municipalities provide for meals and educational assistance for those in need.

d) In 1906, Law n°383 appoints the General Commission for the areas in the south of Italy in order to contrast illiteracy on the Islands and throughout the Southern provinces, increases the number of evening and holiday classes and of School Administrative Offices.

e) In 1911, the Credaro Law creates the first Public Schools. It is mandatory for all municipalities to have a student benevolent fund. Also, they must provide for all prison and regimental schools. Funds are appointed to schools for the disabled, nursery schools, school buildings and to raise teachers' salaries.

f) Law n°1993, in 1915, states, "The King's government has the power to create, sustain and support schools abroad as well as other educational and cultural Italian institutions".

The School Law that wholly permeates Italian Education is the Gentile Reform, by Giovanni Gentile, Minister of Education, based on an aristocratic classicism that makes the difference between a humanistic superior education (the classical secondary school) and an inferior one based on technical vocational studies.

A number of exams gives the idea of a selection for the students attending the classical secondary school. Until 1969, they needed to take an exam. The so-called "Liceo – Ginnasio" lasts 5 years, the "Liceo" 3 more years. Also, we witness the establishment of the Scientific Secondary School (instead of Ancient Greek, students study two languages and Art).

Furthermore, we have the foundation of the "Istituto Magistrale" which lasts 4 years and is based on the training of elementary teachers.

While the year 1933 marks Hitler's and the Nazi's coming to power in Germany, in 1934 in Albania the Royal Liceo Ginnasio Francesco Crispi is created.

The year 1938 is to be remembered for the racial laws issued over the summer. In September of the same year, Jewish students cannot enroll. Even the books written by Jewish authors are replaced by others written by Arian authors. Enrico Fermi flees to the USA, together with many liberal intellectuals.

In 1940 the Ginnasio loses its first three years that become the first, second and third year of Middle School.

In 1955 the new programs for elementary schools are promulgated, based on the integral humanism of the being, acknowledged in its psycho-physical entireness. 1963 is the year of the Unification of Middle Schools.

The start of student movements in 1968 provokes new forms of participation: in 1971 disabled students are accepted in elementary and middle schools.

In 1977 disabled students can also enroll at nursery schools; in 1988 in secondary schools.

In 1988 the rules for the education of foreign students are set.

I would like to expand now on Italian schools in Bulgaria.

The first Italian school "Alessandro Manzoni" is opened in Sofia, at 22 Gurko Street in 1921. At its opening ceremony the Bulgarian Minister of Education declares, "We highly appreciate the marvelous Italian culture that has given a strong contribution to the development of mankind". Italian schools in Bulgaria start their activities with a more social orientation compared to the others; they have lower registration fees.

At the same time, they soon enjoy a very high reputation. Financially and institutionally speaking, these schools are under the supervision of the Italian government. We shall not forget what the writer Vladimir Svintila states, "Thanks to the what I learned during the first three years in an Italian secondary school, I have been able to face the world. Not even my college degree taught me as much... Education at an Italian school kept me going for over forty years".

On 15 February 1927, the "V. Alfieri" Secondary School opens in Plovdiv, based on the Montessori method. In 1937, the Italian "A. Oriani" Secondary School opens in Burgas. One of the Art teachers is Catervo Gigli, the brother of the famous opera singer, Beniamino Gigli. Italian schools remain active until the mid 1940s. Today, many schools based on the intensive teaching of Italian can be found in Bulgaria, five of which listed below have an Italian teacher appointed by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MAE):

Gorna Banja Classical Secondary School (Sofia),

Dalcev Classical Secondary School (Sofia),

Vazov Classical Secondary School (Plovdiv),

Rakovski Classical Secondary School (Burgas),

Pushkin Classical Secondary School (Varna).

Also, two lecturers are appointed by the MAE at the two most important universities in Sofia, Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski and New Bulgarian University (NBU).

I wish to mention here the remarkable story of two young teachers of Italian, Oreste and Nino Ghedina – two Italians from Ampezzo, who on the background of the approaching end of the war in 1943, were sent to the Italian language at the Italian Institute of Culture in Sofia.

The teaching performed by the two young teachers, mainly at the secondary schools in Vidin and Archar, faced numerous discomforts and infinite obstacles. Impressive was the love that the Ghedina brothers dedicated to teaching the Italian language to Bulgarian students, who loved them and very often helped them with specific issues.

For the ups and downs faced by the two young Italian teachers in Bulgaria bespeak the pages in the diary of Oreste Ghedina, he stresses that Italy has never spared efforts to disseminate the Italian language and culture abroad.

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