Minister retreats over extinction of Darwin

7th May 2004 at 01:00

Italian pupils will still be able to study evolution following a U-turn by the Government on plans to drop the topic from the compulsory curriculum.

Bowing to pressure from protesters, who accused the government of giving in to Catholic fundamentalism, education minister Letizia Moratti has appointed a commission of scientists to see how Darwin can be retained in middle schools for 11 to 14-year-olds, and even brought into primary schools.

There was no trace of Darwinism in plans for the new middle-school programmes, which are due to be introduced next year as part of an ongoing reform of the whole system.

Instead, new curriculum topics include "principal types of rock" and "human reproduction with special regard to the weaning of offspring".

Only from the age of 15 - the school-leaving age - would pupils be able to study evolution. Until then, they would have to be content with creation myths, which Ms Moratti insists "pave the way towards the child's understanding of scientific data".

When middle schools were was introduced in the 1970s, much of the science curriculum was devoted to the structure, function and evolution of living beings.

The planned textbook rewrite provoked an appeal from leading scientists, including Nobel prize-winners Rita Levi Montalcini and Renato Dulbecco.

Oncologist and former health minister Umberto Veronesi said: "The Darwinian spirit is an attempt to understand the world through the force of intellect, and not an anti-religious stance. It is vital that it should be acquired as early as possible."

The appeal is just the latest in a series of protests from a wide section of society against the proposed reforms.

Last month the Italian industrialists' association expressed concern that the incorporation of technical institutes into general high schools would spell the end of school-based vocational training.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today