Skip to main content
European Commission logo


EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Adult education and training


8.Adult education and training

Last update: 27 November 2023

In Italy, ‘adult education’ (educazione degli adulti) means a series of activities aimed at cultural enrichment, requalification and professional mobility. These activities can be organised by a school in collaboration with local communities, also involving the labour market and the social partners at territorial level; they may be used to extend or integrate the education provided during compulsory schooling, or to replace compulsory education for early school leavers. These activities may just aim at enriching the personal culture to provide or lead to obtain a study title.

A system of adult education has been running in Italy since 1997, organised at Local Permanent Centres (Centri territoriali permanenti – CTPs) and through evening courses at upper secondary education institutions.

In 2007, a specific Ministerial Decree has launched the reform of the adult education system that started in 2012 and ended in school year 2015/2016.

The reform has replaced the expression ‘adult education’ with ‘school education for adults’ (istruzione degli adulti - IDA), which refers to the more limited domain of the educational activities aimed at the acquisition of a qualification, with a view to raise the educational level of the adult population.

The reform has also provided for the establishment of Provincial Centres for School Education for Adults (Centri provinciali per l’istruzione degli adulti – CPIAs) that, together with the upper secondary schools for the second level courses, have replaced the existing CTPs and evening courses respectively.

The CPIAs are autonomous education institutions organised in local networks. They have the same degree of autonomy as mainstream schools, meaning that they have their own premises, staff and governing bodies.

Courses provided by CPIAs are open to people aged 16 and above (people aged 15 can participate in exceptional circumstances). 

CPIAs provide programmes corresponding to initial education up to the completion of compulsory education as well as language courses for immigrants.

The system of ‘school education for adults’ offers:

  • first-level courses, organised by CPIAs, aimed at obtaining a first-cycle qualification and the certification of basic competences to be acquired at the end of compulsory education in vocational and technical education;
  • second-level courses, organised by upper secondary schools, aimed at the obtainment of a technical, vocational and artistic school leaving certificate; 
  • literacy and Italian language courses for foreign adults, organised by CPIAs, aimed at the acquisition of competences in the Italian language at least at the level A2 of CEFR.

In addition, a course to acquire the basic primary education competences is available for learners who lack of certification attesting the completion of a primary education level.

The courses of the ‘school education for adults’ system are available also for prisoners thanks to the establishment of separate seats of CPIAs and of upper secondary schools in the detention centres.

All courses provided by CPIAs have a flexible organisation, allowing for personalised study paths and the recognition of prior learning. Students can take up to 20% of the total required tuition time through distance learning.

The system falls under the responsibility of the Ministry responsible for the education and training system, currently the Ministry of Education and merit (Ministero dell'istruzione e del merito, MIM), from now on referred to also as 'Ministry' or MIM. This type of provision is financed through public resources and it is free for participants.

The National institute for documentation, innovation and educational research (Istituto nazionale di documentazione, innovazione e ricerca educativa – INDIRE) has carried out a monitoring on 126 CPIAs with reference to the school years 2015/2016 and 2016/2017. The monitoring shows that in school year 2016/2017 adults enrolled in various courses were 108 539 (+18.4% compared to 2015/2016). The number foreign adults enrolled in first-level courses (compulsory education) has increased from 12 542 to 14 312 (+14.1%), while those enrolled in second-level courses has registered +16.9%.

First-level courses organised by CPIAs in 2016/2017 have increased of 7% (1 057) while second-level courses have increased of 40% (1 136) and literacy and Italian language courses of 17% (3 764).

Courses in detention centres have also increased: first-level courses have registered +9%, second-level courses +4% and literacy courses +20%. From 2015/2016 to 2016/2017, prisoners enrolled in first-level courses passed from 2 995 to 3 645 (+21,7%), those enrolled in second-level courses increased from 2 613 to 2 875 (+10,1%, and those in literacy courses have increased of +8%.

In general, in the period 2015-2017, the number of learners in the adult education system has increased in all types of courses.

According to the latest survey of the Ministry of education, in 2018 CPIAs were 130 distributed in all the Regions of the country.

(Sources: Monitoraggio, 2018, INDIRE and Focus “Principali dati della scuola – Avvio Anno Scolastico 2018/2019”, settembre 2018)