Italian Schools and Universities During COVID-19

The beginning of 2020 sparked fear for many as the world came to a rude awakening. The novel coronavirus rapidly spread to all corners of the globe, disrupting the global economy and forcing people to social distancing. Italy’s southern region was the hardest hit by the virus, leading to the closure of schools and universities in late February. As the virus progressed to different parts of the country, Prime Minister Conte initiated a ‘state of emergency’ to help stop the spread of the virus. All academic institutions closed their doors as the government ordered people to stay home.

Some parts Europe like Germany and France reopened schools in April while Italy and Spain are taking a different approach of holding back on the reopening. The challenges the continent faces with the reopening of schools is the possible resurgence of the outbreak and convincing parents on whether it is safe to do so. 

How are Italian Schools and Universities Saving the Academic Year

As a solution to save the academic year, the ministry of education advised schools to set up means for remote teaching. With more than 12 million learners tasked with a new way of learning, the challenges of Italy’s technology came to light. In Italy, the right to education is a constitutional right. The lack of readiness for e-learning by some schools prompted the government to set up a task force for educational emergencies. According to the Authority for Communications Guarantees, 18% of Italian schools were already using digital technology as a daily practice.

By setting up means for remote learning, the government hopes to salvage the damage caused by the virus. Recently, Italy started initiating measures of easing its more than 2-month extended lockdown. Businesses are gradually opening in phases to help prevent a resurgence of the virus. The government announced that while its important to start reopening the economy, schools would remain closed until September. This decision to keep schools closed is met with mixed reactions as concerns loom on where children will go when parents return to work. 

Minister of Education Lucia Azzolina said the health concerns were the primary reason for schools to remain closed. “Keeping the schools closed has allowed us to save lives by slowing the spread of the contagion.”

Should the decision to keep schools and universities closed until September remain, this would mean pupils and students will be out of school for seven months. Parts of Italy with lower recorded cases have threatened to reopen schools.

Some experts have expressed concern about the repercussions of out-of-classroom learning and its possible effects on the quality of education in Italy. Although the current plan is to reopen schools in September, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte gave hope for possibly opening schools at an earlier date. He went on to say some quarantine deadlines may be moved up should Italy’s data on the outbreak improve.

To see how schools and universities in Spain are phasing in the reopening of schools visit – ‘Impact of COVID-19 on Spain’s schools and universities.’

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