Inglese, Internet e Impresa (English, Internet and Enterprise) was one of the best known slogans from Silvio Berlusconi's 2001 election campaign. But just three years later, the language for global communication is meeting its Waterloo with huge cuts in English at primary and lower secondary level from September.
The education ministry said that a learning a second European language - usually French, German or Spanish - has become more important for students and professionals.
Maria Terese Calzetti, secretary of the national association of language teachers, said: "This is a serious error which will mortify teachers and demotivate pupils."
In primary schools, where English has been taught since the early 1990s, lesson time will be reduced from three to two hours a week.
In the middle school the cuts are even more drastic. To make room for a second European language, pupils who had three or four hours of English a week, will find themselves doing just one-and-a-half hours. Too little, in the opinion of many experts for English and the second language.