Italy COVID-19 education response


Italy was the country hit first by the outbreak and the number of cases as well as fatalities have reached alarming levels in February. For formal education there was a series of ordinances and circulars. First they stopped educational trips, then classes were suspended and finally, schools were closed on February 23rd. First they were expected re-open on March 15th, then on April 13th and May 3rd, but now it is very likely that they will only re-open in the next school year. There was no preparatory period for schools, they had to dive into distance education from one day to the other. Probably because it was hardest hit by the infection, Italy did not arrange any childcare for children of emergency workers, parents were made fully responsible for this. Regarding curricula, schools have a certain degree of autonomy: they define a 3-year plan of their educational offer. Due to the current emergency, schools organized peer training activities for teachers to help everybody become digitally fluent to a certain degree. The Ministry, has given very general guidelines with only a few days’ delay, but most of the work was done at school level. Generally, schools started using their digital register of grades as a common basis for homework and communication with families, then most of the school subscribed to digital platforms such as Google Suite, Microsoft Teams or Edmodo. There are major discussions about how big platform will use the data they’re collecting and how they will be compliant with European privacy regulations. Although the Education Ministry made a survey, they haven’t released data yet. In general, there is an estimation that 6% of students have not reached by remote education.

According to Istat data, 12.3% of children between 6 and 17 (850.000 in absolute terms) do not have a computer or tablet at home. Half of those who do not have one are in Southern Italy, where the problem affects almost 20% of children. Moreover, 57% of those who have one, have to share it with others. The Education Ministry made a survey to understand how schools are coping with using digital platforms and how many students are not able to follow the lessons due to lack of connection and devices. Having an understanding of the situation 85 million Euros were allocated for schools to buy what they needed. In a few days money was transferred to schools, but now then there were problems due to increasing demand. In Torino, the Municipality started a project of Digital Solidarity, called TorinoCityLove and they also supported schools in different ways: organizing a virtual markeplace for donating PC to schools, collecting PC donations Universities and companies, agreeing with TELCO operators on donating internet connection to 500 students.

There is a long-time discussion and many complaints about the role of parents in supporting children with homework. Now, many parents are complaining about too much homework while other are about not enough screen lesson time. Many schools offered online meetings for parents to prepare them for online lesson management and ask them for collaboration. Most of the students in the last year of school feel sad. One of them said “It makes me a little sad that I might have done the last day of school in my life without even knowing it was my last.” In general, in the schools they had experienced a bit of a mess in the first days because every teacher organized lessons on their own, but they appreciated every effort made by schools and teachers. Nevertheless, for most it is very difficult attend lessons as they share computers with brothers, sisters or parents. In general students miss school very much.

Some teachers working with migrant youth are building deeper relations with their students. Moreover, they are using WhatsApp other or digital tools for creating virtual collections using fairy tales from their origin countries. See example here:

Italian Universities made autonomous decisions on closure before it was made mandatory. They are managing remote teaching using different platforms like Teams, Moodle,  Adobe or even YouTube. E-learning had already been used and it was made more wide-spread now. The national research network that connects all the Universities registered an increase of about 60% of traffic.

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