The future of the school in the silence of the parties

from Ernesto Galli della Loggia

Those who have been promoted are now always close to 100 percent. Given only apparently ultra-positive, in fact of thisover 20% of graduates drop out of university after the first year and not even half of the freshmen reach the degree

TOeven in this election campaign for the umpteenth time there has been silence on education. No party has made it a central theme of its political platform. The fact is that, in reality, politics does not know or care about school and education. Intoxicated by the sea of ​​demagogy that in the last thirty years it has produced in this regard and that the ministerial bureaucracy has taken on the task of multiplying by a thousand, it ignores the critical reality of things. You are unaware that the entire Italian system of public education, from kindergarten to university, is leaking everywhere. And as a result it does not realize that this is increasingly becoming one of the main causes of our overall backwardness as a country.

This is confirmed by the data we heard from this newspaper (
Corriere della Sera
September 19): the very high figures for evasion of compulsory schooling and for dropping out of studies (including university ones). This means that as many as 23.1% (a huge figure) of young Italians between 15 and 29 years of age do not study or work. This explains the situation of our labor market which, especially in the South and especially among women, sees a very high number of people without any professional skills, therefore destined for unemployment or unskilled and mostly black jobs: two categories, in brackets, to which many citizenship income earners also belong.

But the crisis in the education system has an even more vast and serious significance. The school that exists is a school that – not because of those who work in it but because of the approach given to it by reckless political choices – does not have the crucial importance of knowledge as its guiding star, does not motivate study, does not place first given the merit and therefore does not educate the new generations in this sense. According to the tests, Invalsi is a school that does not even manage to teach its students (in fact only half can) to understand the meaning of a text written not in Chinese but in Italian. In short, it is a school that, despite all its intentions, does not help Italian society to be better, more dynamic, more competent, more cultured, more civilized.

To remedy, however, it is not enough to do away with the consequences of wrong practices or choices made in the past. There is no need for counter-reforms. What is needed is to rethink the entire organization of school cycles: not only by finally establishing the duration of the obligation at the end of secondary school (17-18 years), but by adopting a new principle, that is, starting from the point of arrival of the studies, from what is now the University.

To have a new school, one must first of all imagine a new model for the outlets that it opens to its students after the final secondary school license exam. The existence – as still happens today – of a single outlet, the traditional university one, which for half a century can be accessed with the diploma of any secondary school, conditions and profoundly distorts the character of the school. Indeed, the existence of a single outlet presupposes two completely unreal things: first of all, the substantial equivalence of the quality of teaching content and its results in any type of school, from professional to classical high school; secondly, it presupposes the equality of vocations and attitudes of all young people made redundant, all excellent potential candidates for the same university studies.

It is precisely these two unreal premises that in turn force the school and those who teach it – even against their will – to take one of the following two paths, both negative. Or begin to exercise already in his classrooms a screening of the actual skills of the students, of their vocations and attitudes, with the only tool available which is that of rejection: in this way, however, exposing oneself to the accusation of making the school assume a connotation that it can easily be interpreted as a class connotation; or the road consisting in adopting the criterion of the widest long-suffering and that is in fact always promoting everyone except in very rare cases. Which road – needless to say – is precisely the one taken almost everywhere for some time: proof of this is that in both middle and high school license exams the percentage of successful candidates is now always close to one hundred percent. An apparently ultra-positive figure which, however, really contrasts singularly with the fact that then of these, more than 20% drop out of university after the first year of enrollment and that not even half of the freshmen reach the degree.

The Italian school must therefore be deeply reorganized thinking about two different types of outlets, that is, two different types of higher education. And that is, on the German example, to two different types of universities, each the point of arrival of two different types of educational pathways. A university that essentially prepares and qualifies only for research and teaching and therefore with a disciplinary slant with a strong theoretical character, and which therefore is the only one to issue a doctorate degree; and a university of applied sciences which, on the other hand, prepares specifically for immediate professional practice in the fields of engineering and architecture, basic medicine, technology, design, education, social sciences and communication, etc., using teachers who have been in the relevant professions for some time and establishing strong links with production and professional activities related to the various sectors.

It is evident that such a type of dual university on the one hand it presupposes a diversification of the school cycle already after 7 -8 years from its inception and therefore around 13 years of age of the students, and subsequently, alongside a cycle more or less similar to the current classical-scientific high school, a school cycle to be reinvented and perhaps differentiated internally, oriented to the university outlet mentioned above but which at its end already includes a effectively professionalizing diploma.

In Italy there is an absolute need to restore cultural and social and therefore economic dignity to the world of work, of all the work, and the way to do it starts from the school. If the electoral debate had been pleased to talk about such an issue, I bet it would have aroused an interest at least equal to that of the “bills”.

September 21, 2022 (change September 21, 2022 | 22:22)

The future of the school in the silence of the parties