1902 Encyclopedia > Italy > Education

(Part 20)



In the matter of education the kingdom of Italy at the time of its formation might almost be described as a desert, broken every here and there by an oasis of matchless fertility and luxuriance. The learning of the learned was high, and the ignorance of the ignorant profound. As late as the census of 1861 it was found that in a population of 21,777,331 there were no less than 16,999,701 "analphabètes," or persons absolutely destitute of instruction, absolutely unable to read. Of children between five and twelve as many as 82 per cent, were in this condition; of those between twelve and nineteen 71 per cent. And, as was natural, the ignorance was greater in the female sex than in the male: while 59 per cent, of the men married in 1866 were obliged to make their mark, 78 per cent, of the women were in like case. In certain parts of the country matters were even worse. M. Natoli found, e.g., that in the Basilicata the illiterate class comprised 912 out of every 1000 inhabitants. It was thus no light task that presented itself to the department of education ; and the progress that has been attained does honour to its activity : in 1879 only 48 per cent, of the bridegrooms and 70 per cent, of the "brides were unable to sign their names.

The administration of the education department is not so strictly centralized as it is in France. The minister of public instruction is assisted by a permanent council of fourteen ordinary and seven extraordinary members nominated by the king and chosen from the upper ranks of the educational profession. And this council has no mere nominal existence ; it meets regularly thrice a week, though it often contains men of European celebrity. Five of its members, selected by the king, constitute a fine arts commission. Another general council—theProveditorato Centrale—established in 1867, has special control of secondary and primary instruction. In each of the sixty-nine provinces there is a consiglio scolastico or school board, under the presidency of the. prefect, which has the right of supervision in regard to the sanitary and moral state of the provincial schools, private as well as public. By the law of 1859 (known as the Casati Act) every commune of 4000 inhabitants is bound to maintain a primary school; but as a matter of fact some of the communes are too small and poor to have a school of their own, and are permitted to send their children to the schools of neighbouring communes. Elementary instruction is gratuitous, and by the law of 15th July 1877 the compulsory principle was brought into operation as far as the condition of the communes allows—or, in other words, in all communes of less than 5000 inhabitants provided with one teacher for every 1000, in all communes of from 1000 to 12,000 inhabitants provided with a teat.her for every 1200, and in all the larger communes with one for every 1500. According to the report published in 1878 by the minister of public instruction on the effects of the law, Northern Italy was in the most favourable condition, having a much greater proportion of communes than either Central or Southern Italy. While in the north only 383,916 inhabitants— scattered in little groups through the mountainous districts—were unable to make use of the existing means of instruction, in Central Italy this was found to be the case with 1,230,599 (out of a total population of 6 1/2 millions); and matters were still worse in the south. In the central regions 498 of the 1235 communes were unable to enforce the law through lack of the legal number of teachers, and in the southern provinces it would have been requisite to increase the teaching staff by 1536. The following statistics indicate the extent of the organization for primary instruction in 1879 [Footnote 461-1] : — (1) Asylums for children (infant schools) [Footnote 461-2] —pupils, 183,809 (92,905 boys, 90,904 girls); teachers, 3752. (2) Elementary schools: public 35,171 (890,080 boys, 708,227 girls); private 6476 (53,479 boys, 80,416 girls). (3) Evening Classes for adults : 11,161 for men, 472 for women; pupils—439,624 males, 16,063 females. (4) Sunday schools (scuole festive): 592 for men, 5979 for women ; pupils—5977 males, 21,194 females.

Most of the institutions known as asili infantili, or infant asylums, are after the Aporti method—forse, says an Italian critic, un poco troppo scuola e troppo poco asilo; but a certain number are conducted on Froebel's kindergarten system, which was introduced among the Italians by the baroness Marienholtz-Bulow and George P. Marsh the American minister. The principal institutions for secondary education are the gymnasiums and the lyceums. The former have a course of five years, and the instruction comprises Greek, Latin, Italian, history, geography, and arithmetic; the latter, with a three years course, add to those subjects philosophy, mathematics, physics, chemistry, and natural history. There are seven masters or " professors " in each lyceum. The pupils entering the lyceum are usually from fourteen to fifteen years of age ; they are only admitted on presenting a satisfactory gymnasia! certificate. According to a pleasant custom, the lyceum usually bears the name of some person of national and at the same time local celebrity—as the Leopardi lyceum at Macerata. As the gymnasiums and lyceums are too exclusively devoted to what is known as classical education satisfactorily to subserve the necessities of modern life, they have been supplemented by a very considerable number of technical schools, the earliest of which in Italy dates as far back as 1848. No fewer than 43 trade schools were subsidized by the minister of instruction in 1878-79. Most of the secondary education institutions were intended for boys. In 1861 the municipality of Milan founded a "high school" for girls, and their example has met with very commendable imitation. A variety of establishments for female education were of course in existence throughout the country at a much earlier date, hut they were organized on the basis for the most part of old-fashioned ideas in regard to what was appropriate for women. Such are the so-called conservatorii of Tuscany—which were originally purely religious foundations, and only partially secularized by Leopold I.—and the St Mary colleges of Sicily, which have occasioned so much controversy as to whether they are educational or charitable institutions. The Government lyceums and gymnasiums had 18,021 pupils in 1879, the other public lyceums and gymnasiums 11,779, lyceums and gymnasiums attached to the seminaries 11,650, and private lyceums and gymnasiums 7139—making a total of 48,589.

For the higher education Italy possesses no fewer than seventeen national universities. They are all of more or less ancient date, except that of Rome, which was opened in 1870, and it is a respect for this antiquity which is in some cases the chief cause of their preservation. That several of them are of comparatively small importance is*flhown by the following figures, exhibiting the number of students or hearers of lectures for the year 1879 :—Naples had 2817, Turin 1509, Padua 948, Pavia 672, Rome 648, Pisa 586, Bologna 569, Genoa 480, Palermo 449, Modena 195, Parma 194, Siena 181, Catania 168, Messina 128, Cagliari 95, Sassari 93, Macerata 82. Besides the seventeen establishments there are four free universities, those of Perugia and Ferrara with three faculties each, and those of Camerino and Urbino with two faculties. They are all small,—the students for 1879 numbering 65 in Perugia, 60 in Urbino, 46 in Ferrara, and 43 in Camerino. Theology has ceased to be a subject of instruction in the national universities. In 1876-77 there were 3314 students in the faculty of jurisprudence, 2842 in that of medicine, 1257 in that of the mathematical sciences, and 212 in that of philosophy and letters. The university teaching staff consists of ordinary professors, extraordinary professors, and free professors, the last corresponding to the " Privat-docenten " of Germany. A certificate of attendance at a lyceum is requisite for admission as a university student, and candidates are further subjected to a preliminary examination.

Among the institutions which cooperate with the universities it is sufficient to mention the institute for the higher studies and the school of the social sciences at Florence, the scientific and literary academy of Milan, the upper technical institute of Milan, the engineering schools at Naples, Rome, and Turin, the veterinary colleges at Milan, Naples, and Turin, the royal school of commerce at Venice, the royal school of medicine and surgery at Naples. As an indication of the extent to which such a list might be carried, we may take the department of agricultural training. Here we have agrarian institutes and farming colleges at Rome (1872), Castelletti near Signi (1864), Motrone in the province of Lucca (1874), Macerata (1868), Cosenza (1870), Grumello del Monte near Bergamo, Brescia (1876), Brusegnane near Padua (1872), Pesaro (1876), Palermo (1819), Caltagirone (1868), Brindisi (1872), Lecce (refounded 1879), &c. ; and many of these establishments have considerable pieces of land for the purpose of practical training. The Middle Calabria school of agriculture (1876) is also a school of pastorizia or shepherd craft. An Istituto forestale was started at Vallombrosa in 1869, and in the eight years (1872-1879) it has sent out eighty-three licentiates of forestry. The school of " viticulture and enology," or vine-growing and wine-making, at Conegliano dates from 1876 ; it publishes a Eivista di Viticoltura. A school of zootechnia and caseificio, or the principles of cattle-breeding and cheese-making, exists at Reggio Emilia; and at Palermo there is a special school for the art of sulphur-mining.

In 1879 about 2,000,000 lire were devoted by the Government to the encouragement of art. Art schools exist at Bologna, Carrara, Florence, Lucca, Massa, Milan, Modena, Naples, Parma, Ravenna, Rome, Reggio Emilia, Turin, Urbino, Venice ; and the number of pupils has increased from about 3000 in 1862 to 5000 in 1879. Besides these fifteen official establishments, of which that of Milan—with a maximum of 1491 pupils—is by far the largest, there are academies at Genoa, Bergamo, Verona, Siena, Pisa, and Perugia. A Museo Tiberino has been established by the commission charged to superintend the exploration of the Tiber. Five musical conservatorios are supported by Government at Florence, Milan, Naples, Palermo, and Parma.

Next to the difficulty of arousing the interest of the mass of the people in matters of education, so as to secure the realization of the legal enactments, the greatest difficulty perhaps with which the administration has had to contend has been that of obtaining a sufficient supply of teachers competent for their task. In the normal and ' ' magistral " schools training is provided at the national expense for candidates, whether male or female, for the teaching profession. The age for entrance is fixed at sixteen for male and fifteen for female students, and the course of study lasts for three years. In 1877-78 there were 35 normal and "magistral" schools for male and 67 for female teachers. The number of pupils was 7854 (1447 males and 6407 females).

For further information on this section see Hippeau, L'Instruction publique en Italie, Paris, 1875, and Pécaut, Deux mois de mission en Italie, Paris, 1880.

The great Italian public libraries are those of Turin, Milan, Naples, Florence. Florence receives a copyright copy of all new books and new editions. The Pavia library is especially rich in works in natural science, the legacy left by Professor Frank enabling it to purchase from 1500 to 1600 new works per annum. The total number of new books added to all the state libraries, which now number 33, was in 1872 about 14,000. The readers numbered 853,901, besides 9008 teachers who got books home with them. More recent statistics show comparatively little change.

Among the philanthropic educational institutions those for the tuition of deaf-mutes deserve particular mention. It was in Italy that some of the earlier attempts were made to give instruction to this class of unfortunates ; and two of its most important establishments, the royal institute of deaf-mutes at Genoa and the corresponding institute at Milan, date respectively from 1801 and 1805. From a report (Rome, 1880) which was compiled for the instruction of the second international congress of deaf-mute teachers (Milan, 1881) it appears that there are thirty-five establishments of this class, with 1491 pupils in 1880, the largest being at Milan, Bologna, Naples, Turin, and Genoa. The total number of deaf-mutes in the kingdom is estimated at nearly 12,000 ; and hence it is calculated that the number of pupils would require to be about 7000. The oral method is very generally employed in the Italian institutions,—the rich vowel-system of the Italian language giving a favourable basis of operations.

From the Strenna-Album of the Associazione delta Stampa (Rome, 1881) we learn that the number of periodicals published in Italy in 1880 was 1454, or about one to every 8000 of the reading population,—a statement that compares favourably with corresponding statistics of other countries. One paper, Gazzetta Nazionale Genovese, dates its origin as far back as 1797 ; all the others belong to the present century, 162 having appeared for the first time in 1876, 227 in 1877, 240 in 1878, and 246 in 1879. The total number published in 1836 was only 185, in 1857 it amounted to 311, in 1864 to 450, in 1871 to 765, and in 1875 to 914. According to the statistics of 1875, more than the half of the total number of 494 were published at Milan (104), Florence (82), Turin (68), Rome, Naples, Bologna, Palermo, and Venice. See Archivio di Slatistica, 1876, fasc. 1.


461-1 In the Italian statistics scuola means rather class than school.

461-2 There is no statement of the number of these asylums or schools.

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