Sunday, February 13, 2011

Ah, Italia....

I've been emailing back and forth today with a former student and recent college graduate who's living the 20-something dream in Italy, and she's given me permission to post the following comments she made about public education where she lives:

That's a shame about the budget cuts. I've been teaching a few hours here and there. Being a native speaker of English is the only thing I can capitalize on at the moment. Frankly, my first-hand experience with Italy's school system has really made me see how inefficient the America system can be. High school is specialized here. There's a school for science, one for classical studies, and one for the arts, not to mention an agrarian, a culinary, an automotive, and an enological tech school, and that's just in my tiny little medieval valley. The education is more tailored to what kids might want to go into, but it doesn't limit them when university time rolls around. The presence of the tech schools means that kids that aren't college-bound actually graduate with a diploma and a good deal of training. Much better than a system that (sorta) prepares everyone for a university degree they might not want, or moreover, not be able to afford. Italy also spends less per student than a lot of other countries, including the U.S.. I worked in the lab with a guy who only went to the enological high school. You'd need a BS in chem from a reputable university to do the same job in America and you wouldn't be nearly as qualified as he was at 17.

I find that the U.S. school system likes to b***s*** itself. State funded education that tries to guarantee individual development and promote personal growth, self esteem, and teamwork and all those buzz words...the schools here are part of a government-funded system, educating people so that they don't become burdens to said government later on. Sure it's a tad socialist, but why should public education have anything other than publicly-minded goals.

Been giving that a lot of thought. I teach at the scientific high school and it's freaking beautiful. It's in the old bastille (there's a moat!). The hallways are spotless, the technology up to date, and the students are motivated and interesting. Maybe it's just a different mentality here, but they're doing something right.
One person's opinion, a person whose opinion I trust.

I'll comment on one point she made, though. All public education is socialist, and that's not necessarily bad. What she describes in Italy, though, sounds a lot like what we in the US would call magnet schools. What we mostly have in the US, where every square kid is pounded into the round hole of college prep and so-called 21st Century Skills, is much more "socialist" (as a pejorative, not as a descriptor) than what she described in her "little medieval valley".


PeggyU said...

How do students determine which school to attend? Is it entirely by choice, or are there entry criteria?

maxutils said...

I didn't even need to read it before I agreed. :)

mazenko said...

Education critics and reformers spend so much time praising and touting the Asian and European systems ... and then respond by calling for more tests as reform. When will we learn?

Anonymous said...

If making schools here more like the ones in Italy will require more tax dollars, then how much would be enough? Italy is not exactly known as a modern hub of capitalism, is it? While the tax burden here in the States can be heavy, it's heavier in Italy. There's no free lunch.

At the same time, here at my campus in California, where we're expecting cuts of 10%-20% (relative to our general fund budget) this year, I'm pretty sure that the number of non-teaching staff is greater than the number of teaching staff. Will those 10%+ cuts result in the campus trimming some of the non-teaching staff? I'm not holding my breath.

Darren said...

Italy doesn't have to be a hub of capitalism--that's a non sequitur. My correspondent pointed out that Italy spends *less* per pupil than we do in the US.