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EDUCATION IN ITALY.
By WALTER A. Montgom ERY,
CoNTENTs.-I. Introduction: Illiteracy.—II. Popular education: (a) Elementary schools : (b) scuole popolare ; (c) rural schools; (d) agricultural schools; (e) vocational schools ; (f) extra-scholastic activities; (g) hospital schools for wounded Italian soldiers; (h) projected plans for schools after the war.—III. Middle schools: (a) Industrial and commercial schools ; (b) tochnical schools; (c) normal schools and teachers' institutes; (d) ginnasi and licel.—IV. Universities and higher education.
The economic and social exigencies brought about for Italy by her entrance into the war in May, 1915, inevitably led her educational thinkers to submit her traditional system of education to more careful scrutiny than ever before, and to recognize how inadequate it was along certain lines to meet the demands thrust upon it by the new conditions. The first results of the consequent attempt at readjustment were seen in the enlarged scope given the schools—the teachers, the pupils, and the buildings—and in their vigorous cooperation with the nation-wide organizations founded to minister to the immediate needs of the refugees from the invaded Provinces, to relieve the families of men called to the service, and to supply school facilities to an overwhelming influx of pupils. The local and provincial teachers became, very logically, the executive heads of much of this activity; and pronounced benefits accrued to the schools in increased respect for them and popular dependence upon them. Administrative officials, teachers, and laymen interested in education were not slow in taking advantage of the new strategic position of the schools to initiate a propaganda of reform, which, taken up by the educational and secular press, began to direct itself definitely toward legislative action. This awakening of the nation, with the impetus given to educational interest, and the consequent testing of principles and methods hitherto held sacred from all criticism, constitutes the most valuable line for the review of educational matters in Italy for the past two years. Of the projects and plans broached, some naturally failed of enactment into school law; but all show,
in their natural sequence from the lower to the higher, a uniform national desire to throw off the dead hand of traditionalism and to make education subserve the actual needs of the nation.
Preliminary to the discussion of the elementary schools proper should come that of illiteracy, a national problem inextricably bound up with them and dependent for its solution upon their progress and betterment. The percentage of illiteracy in Italy has decreased from 68.8 in 1871, the year of the first census after the unification, to 46.7 in 1911, when, of a total population of nearly 35,000,000, approximately 16,000,000 were illiterate. Of prime ethnological and climatological significance in the study of Italian illiteracy are the facts that the Italians are spread over many varieties of climate and altitude: that of the 8,323 communes (June, 1911) only 6 were without illiterates, and only 13 had less than 1 per cent, all these being situated in northern Italy; and that 456 situated in south central and southern Italy had an illiteracy of 75 per cent and over.
Sicily and Sardinia showed the highest percentage of illiteracy: the plateau and mountain Provinces the lowest. Of 30 communes 1,500 meters and more above sea level, 16 showed an illiteracy of less than 5 per cent; 9 of less than 10 per cent; 5 of less than 20 per cent; only 1 of as much as 37 per cent. The highest commune in Italy— appropriately il commune di Chamois—showed a percentage of 0.9 for women and 2 for men; the lowest commune in the Kingdom, onethird of a meter above sea level, had a percentage of 57 for women and 42 for men. Of 69 chief provincial cities and towns, 5 showed 10 per cent of illiteracy and 10 more than 50 per cent. Turin had the lowest percentage, 5; Girgenti and Messina, in the extreme southern tip, had 57. The city of Rome showed 15 per cent. The minister of public instruction is seriously doing his best to overcome this chief menace to national life. For the year 1916, 4,246 night schools and 1,923 holiday schools for illiterate adults—an increase of nearly 500 in two years—accommodating approximately 100,000 men and women," were authorized; and of continuation schools for semiilliterate adults (scuole di complemento) nearly 1,400 were authorized for the same year, an increase of nearly 200 over those of the two years preceding. Encouraging as these figures are, however, such adult schools can never be more than palliative measures.
Italian social workers think the cure is to be found not in measures hitherto employed but in systematic increases of appropriations for elementary schools and salaries to elementary teachers. Valuable aid is anticipated from the plan adopted several years ago by the military
* Figures of actual enrollment are not available.
authorities, whereby illiterate soldiers, veterans as well as recruits, are to be given elementary instruction in the camps and military posts. It is feared, however, that the recently enacted law admitting illiterates of mature age to the electoral franchise will remove a great incentive to self-instruction, and prove a deplorable mistake from the point of view of combating illiteracy.
II. POPULAR EDUCATION.
(a) ELEMENTARY SCHOOLs.
The elementary schools of Italy, in 1915, enrolled 3,692,024 children between the ages of 6 and 11 years, employed 75,993 teachers, 17,243 men and 58,750 women, and cost the nation, combining central and local expenses, approximately $18,000,000." They are, of course, the pivot of the entire educational system. In the judgment of Italy's progressive social workers a fair if disillusionizing estimate of their influence upon Italian life was furnished by the very unexpectedly high rate of illiteracy, or practical illiteracy, shown in the youth registered for the armies since May, 1916. Many such had had one or more years' schooling in the elementary schools. Acting on this stimulus, a definite move began for the complete reconstruction of the entire lower public school system. Among the most fruitful suggestions made by such bodies as the National Union of Italian Teachers, approved by the minister, and commended by the committee on education in the Chamber of Deputies were the follow1ng: 1. The term of years for the courses of the elementary school should be shortened to four years at most; the subjects taught modified in content and scope, and adapted to the comprehension and advancement of the pupils. Fewer subjects should be taught, and these should be taught well. The traditional repetition of programs and schedules should at once be eliminated; and subjects divided into definitely briefer assignments, adapted to the capacity of the pupil. 2. The number of pupils in each class under one teacher should be restricted to 25. 3. School attendance should be absolutely obligatory between definitely prescribed school age limits. This should be rigorously enforced by the civil authorities, with a graduated scale of fines for delinquent parents and guardians. 4. With the improvement in teaching thus demanded, teachers' salaries should be raised from the prevailing average of 200 lire ($40.00) per month to at least twice that amount, and this in
* Expenses of public elementary instruction are for 1916–17.
should be accompanied by an emphasis upon the quality and standing of the teacher in popular estimation. The elementary teacher should be required to have a teacher's diploma. 5. On the administrative side, more efficient operation of the system of inspectors should be secured by a diminution in the number of vice-inspectors from the present 1,000 to 600, and the increase of the full inspectors from 400 to 600, promotion being restricted to members of the lower grade and made solely on the basis of merit and service. The jurisdiction of either grade should be limited to 80 communes at most. Vice-inspectors should be relieved of all teaching functions, and should be required to devote their attention exclusively to the supervising duties in the zones assigned. 6. Fundamental to all these, greater local power should be granted the communes in the management of the elementary schools, and in the adjustment of courses to local needs and conditions. The subjects taught in remote rural schools should be sharply differentiated from those taught in cities and populous towns. In furtherance of this movement the Minister of Public Instruction, early in 1918, appointed a committee of inspectors and viceinspectors, with powers to formulate a report of conditions and of recommendations. This report is awaited with very favorable interest by all the educational forces of the State. Under the vigorous administration of Sig. Berenini, while no strictly legal reforms in elementary education were made during the past two years, the systematic attempt was made, in so far as this was possible by departmental ordinances, to bring elementary education into vital relation with the needs of every-day life, especially in the rural districts. In this connection, the peasant schools of the Agro Romano, in a peculiar sense the ward of the State, have constituted a valuable object lesson as to the possibilities of rural schools. The report of the committee, issued in July, 1917, and covering the 10 years of the schools' existence, shows the harmonious cooperation of the State with the commune, the former working out hygienic and technical problems, the latter those of a moral and ethical nature. The population and teaching material in the Agro Romano was, at the inception, regarded as perhaps the most backward to be found in Italy. Beginning in 1907 with 8 schools, enrolling 840 pupils, they have grown to 78 regular schools, and 8 pre-schools (infantili asili), enrolling and partly feeding 8,220 pupils. Furthermore, 14 State and communal upper elementary schools combined exist in communities where the original elementary lower schools began operation. These schools are of four types, regular day, vacation, night (for adults), and infantili asili. They have rendered through their teach:
* The strip of the Campagna lying north and west of Rome, covering an area of about 75 square miles.