Primary education falls under the responsibility of the State and its administration is carried out centrally by the ministry responsible for the school education system, currently the Ministry of education and merit (Ministero dell'istruzione e del merito, MIM), from now on also as 'Ministry' or MIM. At local level, municipalities are responsible for the organisation of premises and of services such as transports and canteen.
Primary education is compulsory and free for all. It lasts 5 years and welcomes pupils aged from 6 to 11 years. It is preceded by non-compulsory pre-primary education and followed by compulsory three-year lower secondary education. Primary and lower secondary education make up the first cycle of education which lasts a total of eight years; however, primary and lower secondary education are two different levels of education, each with its own specificities.
The aim of primary education is to provide pupils with basic learning and basic tools of active citizenship. It helps pupils to understand the meaning of their own experiences. The National guidelines for the curriculum (Indicazioni nazionali per il curricolo della scuola dell’infanzia e del primo ciclo di istruzione) describe the aim of primary school as well as the competences and skills that pupils should have acquired by the end of primary education.
The institution providing primary education is called ‘primary school’ (scuola primaria). State primary schools are organised into comprehensive institutes. Comprehensive institutes are legal entities that group one or more pre-primary, primary and lower secondary schools managed by a single school manager.
Primary education is guaranteed also to children who are hospitalised or at home for health reasons and are unable to attend school for a long time. Pupils with disabilities and specific developmental/learning disorders attend primary schools with the provision from the State and local authorities of specific support measures.
Pupils can also attend compulsory primary education at non-State schools with parity (paritarie), which are considered equal to State schools and can be either public or private schools. Under certain circumstances it is also possible to attend primary education at private schools without parity – that are not recognised as equal to State schools – or through home education (for the definitions of public and private institution please refer to the 2018 version of the Unesco/OECD/Eurostat Manual on concepts, definitions and classification, pp. 24-26).
Teachers in primary schools must hold a Master degree (ISCED 7) in primary education sciences obtained after a five-year course of study that includes a qualifying traineeship.