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Reform will add two years to schooldays

A think-tank to consider reforms excluded teachers.

David Newbold reports Europe. ITALY. Wide-ranging reforms of the school system are being considered by parliament five months after being presented by the ministry of education.

The shake-up planned for the year 2000 would bring the education system more in line with other European countries such as Britain, France and Spain, which have seen major reforms over the past 10 years. It would also make the school system more in tune with the world of work.

The reforms will bring the school starting age forward a year to age five and raise the leaving age a year to 16.

The scuola media - the lower secondary band for 11 to 14-year- olds introduced in the Sixties - will disappear and be replaced by a longer primary cycle, and a more vocationally-orientated secondary school. It will be possible to start university a year earlier, at age 18.

The Bill has been modified after five months of consultations. After a dispute with the Italian Bishops' Conference, the Vatican's education watchdog, the overall aim of the new system was stated in terms of "personal growth" and not just as the development of human resources for the workplace. However, none of the modifications affects the overall structure of the proposed system.

A passage in the original text which referred to the first year of the new system as "preparatory" has been removed because it was considered offensive to the scuola materna, an internationally acclaimed pre-school institution.

Additional legislation on parity between public and private sectors is being presented separately to give the Bill an easier ride through parliament.

Although politicians and teachers all agree on the need for a major overhaul of the system, education minister Luigi Berlinguer has come in for increasing criticism since the reform was first announced. Teachers were angry that a think-tank set up by the ministry included 22 university lecturers, but no practising teachers.

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