Monday, 26 May 2014

The school year in Italy and Britain

One of the biggest differences for me to cope with in Italy was the  Italian school calendar.
In Britain our school year was divided into terms, Spring, Summer and Autumn. We started school at the beginning of September, had a week's half-term holiday at the end of October so we could have fun on Halloween and Bonfire night. then we had a two week Christmas holiday. we had another half term holiday in February and then a two week break for Easter. Then we had a Spring half term holiday at the end of May. We then  finished for the summer holidays about the 20th July. Our summer holidays lasted about six weeks and we all considered them long holidays. Magazine articles abounded on what to do with the children during the long summer holidays. Most of us just had a two week holiday away with the family. We were very happy with all of this, we liked being at home and playing in the garden. My dad used to say he loved his life and his work, life was one long holiday. He'd seen enough sand during the war to last him a lifetime. We did go on some lovely holidays though, Wales, Scotland, camping in France and Italy, and we had a caravan by the river or by the sea. This was all very adventurous and we felt very lucky. As we got older we worked during our holidays, temping jobs in offices or factories, waitress in cafes or pubs. no sitting around doing nothing for us .All young people seemed to do this.
When I met my husband and he told me about his Italian school holidays I was astounded. he told me they finished school at the beginning of June and didn't start again until the beginning of October. He said that he spent a month at the sea and a month in the mountains. He said this was common, there were all sorts of Scout groups or Colonie, where children could go if they didn't have the possibility to do otherwise. It was very common to rent an apartment in the mountains or by the sea and just go there to escape the heat of the town. Holiday jobs were unheard of.
 When he was at school there were also numerous Feste,  to celebrate special saints or historical events. A lot of these feste have since been abolished, there were too many of them. The Italian school year now starts in the first half of September and then there is a holiday on the first of November. the Christmas holidays  last about two weeks and start on Christmas Eve until the 6 Th of January, Epiphany.. Next comes a short holiday for Martedi grasso, shrove Tuesday or Pancake day and then just a couple of days for East. The summer holidays start at the beginning of June and  so now we are having all the end of  the school year festivities.Everything stops now, dancing, football, all extra curriculum activities grind to a halt.
 In Britain it is only half term but in Italy it is already the end of the school year.
In Britain we went to school all day. Our lessons started at 9.20 am and we went home at . In Italy most children only go to school in the morning and on Saturday, even though there are some schools that have orario continuato, all day timetable.
I was surprised to discover that the actual number of hours that children spend at school is practically the same in both countries.
You would think that the Italian school holidays start in early June because of the heat, but that is just when the serious exams start taking place. The Italian equivalent to A levels, La Maturit√† is held in June and July. If the students then want to try and get into university to do medicine or engineering or anything else with a numero chiuso, limited number of places, they have to study all through the summer heat of August to take the entrance exams at the beginning of September, because their
Maturità has no value at all as far as the universities are concerned for certain degree subjects.
Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages. In Britain we choose three or four subjects to study at A level after having taken our GCSEs at 16.
As I've told you an education system is often just a haphazard sequence of events..

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