Proceedings of the presentation of the 2nd Report on Schools and Universities available online

The proceedings of the 2nd National Report on Schools and Universities are available here.

The meeting was held on 8 February 2024 at the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale in Rome. Presenting the results and participating in the discussion were: Gian Maria Fara, President of Eurispes, Mario Caligiuri, Director of the Observatory on Educational Policies of Eurispes, Roberto Ricci, President of the National Institute for the Evaluation of the Education and Training System (INVALSI), Antonio Uricchio, President of the Governing Council of the National Agency for the Evaluation of the University System and Research (ANVUR), Andrea Chiaramonti, Managing Director of Giunti Scuola. The meeting was moderated by Roberta Rizzo, Head of Rai News 24.

Roberta Rizzo: “Good morning everyone and thank you for coming to the National Central Library today for the presentation of this important Report on School and University by Eurispes. A report, we must say right away, that comes 20 years after a first important survey was conducted in 2003, and which is published by Giunti Scuola, and closes exactly to coincide with the centenary of the Gentile Reform, with which we are all familiar. So, for the presentation of this report we have with us the guests you see seated next to me: Gian Maria Fara, President of Eurispes; Mario Caligiuri, Director of the Observatory on Educational Policies of Eurispes and University Professor; Roberto Ricci, President of INVALSI (National Institute for the Evaluation of the Education, Education and Training System); Antonio Uricchio, who will join us shortly, President of the Board of ANVUR, (National Agency for the Evaluation of the University System); and Andrea Chiaramonti, Managing Director of Giunti Scuola. Obviously this important appointment cannot be separated from an analysis of the reality of today’s school world. On this we want to make a brief introduction because the main question that emerges from this report is: is school the future of Italy? This is a question we will attempt to answer in a Report that takes stock, 20 years after the previous one, of how the reforms that have followed one another so many times according to governments and ministers have developed; a question that has often remained unanswered. I would therefore like to give the floor to the President of Eurispes, who will certainly on this issue, as on many others in particular, go into depth and explain to us what the objectives of this survey, which comes 20 years after the first report, were.

Gian Maria Fara: ‘Good morning everyone. Thank you for honouring us with your presence this morning. I would like to thank my friend Professor Caligiuri, Head of our Permanent Observatory on Educational Policies. If you will allow me, I would also like to thank the material authors of the Report: Susy Montante, our Director, and Raffaella Saso, our Deputy Director, who supervised the production of the Report in an impeccable manner, and of course I would like to thank, I cannot mention them one by one, all the researchers who were involved in a work that the Institute cared so much about. Twenty years on from the first National School Report, I must confess to you that I was, how should I put it, more optimistic, in the sense of “Well, 20 years have gone by, surely things will have improved, the school will certainly be better than it was 20 years ago”. I must confess, I was substantially disappointed, because things seem to me to have gotten worse over these 20 years. Indeed, if you will indulge me in a little excursus, perhaps 20 years ago we were not afflicted by phenomena that today, on the other hand, are showing themselves on an almost daily basis: stabbing of teachers, violence within schools, attitudes of great prevarication of parents towards teachers. It may be that I am old now, but I remember with a certain nostalgia my youth and adolescence, and when the teacher first or the professor later, as it were, would somehow reprimand me – at the time they even punished you – then you would go home and your father and mother would ‘give you the rest’. Now, if a professor, if a teacher reprimands a pupil, the parents immediately appeal to the TAR (Regional Administrative Tribunal) and this really seems to me an aberration, something that cannot be accepted at all. So, 20 years later, this 2nd Report gives us the opportunity to open a front, a moment of observation on our School and our University. In the first National Report on Schooling, published by Eurispes in 2003, many issues that we can still consider topical and unresolved today formed a considerable part of the research plan and index. Issues such as the duality of the education and vocational training system or the troubled process of scientific research, forced to move between reforms and stunted, if not lacking or absent, competitiveness. One wondered, then, whether mortality and school drop-out were phenomena attributable to the structural characteristics of the system and how, if at all, this coincidence could find a plausible explanation in the differing effectiveness of regional school systems. When one speaks of the education system, one has the impression of having left behind unfinished or perhaps too quickly shelved works. It is difficult, in fact, to find a sector such as education in which the reforming verve of Italian politicians has been so insistent. Of the large number of reforms or change projects, of which students should have been the direct recipients, teachers, whose voices are the litmus test of the education system in our country, often complain. There is no institutional discourse addressed to them that does not remind them time and again that schools are a priority. But one wonders if there is a common vision of what the education system in our country should be. Over the past 20 years, school reform projects have been systematically dismantled, surviving only a few days after the fall of the government forces that had given birth to them. It should therefore come as no great surprise if even today, and not just because it is its centenary, we have to reckon with the ‘Gentile Reform’. And this means evaluating the incidence of the long wave of its effects, first of all recognising its presence, examining the reasons that may have determined the failure, more or less partial and more or less painful, of many attempts to cancel it. Compared to twenty years ago, after the experience of the health emergency that hit the planet, it will be more than legitimate to expect new things and a few more solutions. Think of the use, claimed by all, of new technologies and the impact they should have on education. There are, however, many other no less pressing issues on the table. We would not mind calling them ‘prospective disputes’, wanting to think that their solution is, if not around the corner, at any rate possible. One wonders, finally, whether schools are actually a priority on the national agenda, given that the education item on the GDP is getting thinner and thinner. In the last 25 years we have seen national spending on schooling fall from 5.5% to 4%. A paradox, since, at least in words, we say we consider school the country’s great priority. Precisely for this reason, we remain confident in the good use to be made of the PNRR funding, on the effectiveness of which Italy is staking a good slice of its credibility and growth prospects. Education, on the other hand, more than any asset, represents Italy’s future today. Understanding this will also mean having far-sightedness in governing the processes of change already underway in the world of School and University and, therefore, in the deeper layers of society and in the economies that make up the wealth of our country. Thanks once again to Mario Caligiuri, he is truly a Chinese drop, a terrible drop. Thank you and have a good day at work’.

Roberta Rizzo: “Thanks to President Gian Maria Fara. We have here the National Report published by Giunti scuola and the CEO of Giunti, Andrea Chiaramonti, explains how this collaboration came about, because in addition to being a publisher there is a partnership a real project that does not stop with the publication of the Report’.

Andrea Chiaramonti: “Good morning everyone. Yes, the Report with Eurispes was also born out of a specific interest on our part, because normally companies never consider the social issue, they always look at business, and like Giunti Scuola we also look at business. However, we work in schools, so we work with pupils and when we make a book we have a civil responsibility towards those pupils who work every day in the school. So we cannot make mistakes on school books, especially primary school books because they are fundamental. Knowing through Eurispes what social world we are in and what the problems are allows us to intervene precisely on the methodology of the book and the training of teachers or whatever, so as to correct the distortions in our country. What have we done? We have helped Eurispes do the research, we have given our names (managers, teachers who wanted to collaborate) and then we will do webinars to expand what is now a physical book, through webinars and expanded information to the school world. But our goal is bigger, we are ambitious, we are thinking big, and our goal is to reach families with our webinars, because the theme that the President touched on is exactly this: the Italian society of the future will be made by the students who are in school today, they will be the future managers, workers, executives, ministers. If this school, instead of being a value, is considered a problem or a cost, we will not have a civilisation, an educated society: other countries that are further ahead than us teach us this with much higher investments than this 4% of GDP that the President was telling us about. So our job, in perspective, is to reach families, because the school is a social centre, in many countries it is the only point of aggregation. Culture in many countries is only provided by teachers, who must be trained and prepared. This is the task of a publisher. But there is an even bigger problem, one that we read about more and more often in the newspapers, and that is the school-family conflict: whereas in the past school was a recognised, universal value, where you learned and you sent your child because you believed that school was the most important thing, you put your child in the hands of another person (who was a teacher) for the purpose of education, today this social value is broken, school has become a management problem, a problem of grades, a problem of relationships, of judgements, of training: it is a problem of competition. We must bring school back to a social value; we as publishers in our small way, in our work, through the webinars I was telling you about, we want to reach families and involve them in the social value of school. If we can make this small contribution we can certainly help to change Italy in the next 20 years, but we also need politics and a strategic vision on the part of governments. If we don’t, the situation is as the President described: from 2003 to 2023 basically, if not worse, nothing has changed. Thank you for your attention’.

Roberta Rizzo: “There, precisely on this there is a lack of a common vision said the President; the question is: what is the school of the future? What is the future of the country? Given that the future is the generation that is currently sitting at school, Andrea Chiaramonti made an analysis of what the role of this report is for schools: to bring them closer to their families, who are becoming increasingly detached; a school that does not even recognise the figure of the professor, the teacher, who is often even bullied in very serious situations, perhaps isolated cases, but which in any case tell of the difficulty of interpreting the role of the teacher and of giving value to a role that was once respected. The survey for this National Report was carried out using questionnaires based on a very broad sampling, we are talking about almost 4,000 primary and secondary school teachers of all orders and grades up to university. So on this and on the future prospects of this second Report on Schools and Universities we give the floor to Mario Caligiuri, who tells us about the survey from every point of view. Professor, can you explain to us how this report came about and where it is heading?”

Mario Caligiuri: “I will try to give an answer to our brilliant coordinator’s question by contextualising the Report and the scientific documents, such as those that Eurispes has been producing punctually for 35 years and which take stock of what is happening in Italian society and support public decision-making, but also to guide citizens’ awareness. The topic of education is not one among many. Nobel Prize winner for economics Joseph Stiglitz says that society in the last two centuries has progressed according to its ability to learn. But parliaments deal with economics and not with education, because economics gives immediate answers, while education gives answers after decades. From this point of view, Eurispes’ initiative through the establishment of the Observatory on Educational Policies, desired with great farsightedness by Gian Maria Fara, has given birth to this Report, which represents a first and significant realisation and which has a declared attempt, as President Fara explained in his introduction: that of placing the theme of education at the centre of the political and cultural institutional debate in our country. The topic of education, as the other two speakers who will follow me, INVALSI President Professor Ricci and ANVUR President Professor Antonio Uricchio, are well aware, has little appeal within our country and this demonstrates unequivocally that we live in a society of ghosts, where reality is on one side and the public perception of reality on the other. In the last few days, President Fara reminded us, the media have been reporting news from the school world that reads like a war bulletin. 31 January 2024: ‘Taranto, headmaster beaten by a pupil’s parents’. 3 February 2024: “Headmaster beaten with kicks and punches in a middle school in Lucera”. 5 February 2024: “Varese, teacher stabbed at school, student arrested”. 7 February 2024: “At school, a student’s father attacks the teacher, violence in Reggio Calabria”. Beyond the seriousness, much thought must be given to the reasons for these episodes and rather than dwelling, as always, on the effects, we must reflect on the causes. In seventeenth-century Europe shaken by religious wars, Baruch Spinoza said ‘One should neither laugh nor cry, but understand’ and this report helps us understand why we have reached this point. The Report that sees the light 20 years after the first Eurispes report on schools, as Gian Maria Fara pointed out in the introduction to this document, is still undoubtedly topical and is also carried out 100 years after the Gentile Reform. I believe that this report represents the most significant opportunity to date to recall the Gentile Reform as a driving factor for change in the country. I believe that it should be noted that today in developing countries there is a correlation between an increase in education and an increase in wealth; this relationship, on the other hand, no longer exists in advanced capitalist countries, that is: although the level of education increases, the level of development does not progressively increase, and so we must question ourselves on these elements. I therefore believe that placing education at the centre of the debate is a genuine social necessity, because education is always proposed in the face of every problem. In fact, education is proposed with the best of intentions, which unfortunately happened recently, on the occasion of the murder of poor Giulia, which shocked Italy, with the theme of affective education. However, when we invoke education, it is a purely rhetorical invocation, as we overlook two basic aspects: the first is that school and university today are not the solution, but they are a significant part of the problem, and in addition the educational timeframe, i.e. if we carry out a reform today, we will see the results, the answers, decades from now. What is the current situation globally? I have identified three indicators, all interrelated. The first two general and the second national. What is the first one? The reverse Flynn effect. The American scholar Flynn had identified an increase in the average level of intelligence globally after the Second World War. From the late 1990s to the early 2000s there is the reverse Flynn effect, i.e. the level of intelligence globally is decreasing. What are the causes? According to studies, firstly the excessive use of social and video games, a decrease in the quality of education globally and the increasingly limited time spent on reading written texts. The second aspect is ignorance. Ignorance is growing and this poses an obvious problem: whereas before ignorance was determined by a lack of information, today ignorance is determined by an excess of information, so we are faced with total disinformation. The third aspect that is purely Italian is what? There was 1968 everywhere, but in only one country were political sixes and group examinations demanded; we have witnessed and are witnessing since 1968 – and especially since the reforms, some of them truly wicked, that have affected schools and universities since the end of the 1990s – a lowering, a facilitation of study paths that has led to an even greater divide between the children of rich families and the children of poor families, thus accentuating social inequalities. This has led to a kind of amoral facilitation, because it widens inequalities. What is the future situation? The future, according to Nostradamus, is the past that has lowered its flags. It is therefore necessary to grasp phenomena in their nascent state, as soon as they are defined, because everyone sees the strong signals and they often lead elsewhere. From this point of view, no one knows the educational situation. The Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari says: what we are teaching in schools and universities is almost completely superfluous because nobody knows in twenty years’ time what the social situation in the world will be. We all live in three dimensions: the physical, the virtual and the hybridised. And the hybridised one will inevitably prevail. The other spectrum is determined by disinformation where, as Marshall McLuhan said, what fish know absolutely nothing about is water. We are totally immersed in disinformation and do not realise it at all. Of burning topical interest is the issue of the confrontation between human intelligence and artificial intelligence. I am neither an optimist nor a pessimist, I am belligerent. What is the theme? It is that no one knows the outcome. So the theme is to confront artificial intelligence: today we talk about definitive algorithms, that is, the algorithm programming itself without human help. The Director General of the National Cybersecurity Agency, Bruno Frattasi, proposed the idea of provoking and producing educational algorithms to promote Italian culture and critical thinking. Instead of inducing consumption, algorithms should induce thinking, so it is a Copernican revolution. This is not only to avoid the risks of the Net, hence investing in computer security education, but also to seize the great opportunities of the Net, which should be seen in a two-fold perspective. Another aspect is that of leisure: in the next few years, with artificial intelligence and other social revolutions, we will be working one seventh of our lives, so the school should educate on how to live rather than how to work. Another aspect that I think will be of great importance will be the inequalities that will affect national societies, territories and nations. It was foreseeable that after Covid in Italy there would be a push towards regional differentiation, we predicted this already in 2020. Another issue that practically no one talks about is drug use, which is constantly expanding and structurally affects society; it is from drugs that criminal organisations derive income that they then use to invade and distort the legal economy in large cities (Rome, Milan). But the issue of drugs is even more worrying. In America there is Fentanyl and Xylazine, a sign that the drug is widespread and is producing more deaths than the Vietnam war in one year. It is a lethal drug that blocks the nervous system; it was the topic that Biden and Xi Jinping discussed in the China-US bilateral. It is a truly central issue and will unfortunately become even more so in the coming months. The Report does not gloss over this phenomenon. Lastly, the other topic is that of merit. Merit is not an empty word, or a buzzword. Merit is the only means for the children of middle and low-income families to have a lasting social rise. If we do not set up a constitutional and democratic school on merit in Italy, but even more so in the Mezzogiorno, as the Director of INVALSI punctually reminds us in every report, we will not succeed in regrouping, in rebuilding national society and this is no small problem. Finally, this is a controversial proposal, difficult to discuss: artificial intelligence is very fast, the human brain was created in thousands of years; we should shorten the learning time, how to do it? There is only one road, a very dangerous one, and that is to try to enhance the human brain through technology. It is no coincidence that Elon Musk, when a few weeks ago he announced the predictable installation of a microchip in the human brain, mentioned this. So we need to make use of the unknown powers of the mind, which we have not yet transferred to algorithms. A difficult and complex topic, stinging, but it must be addressed’.

“Let’s talk about the Report. The contents of the Report, which was produced with great care by Susy Montante and Raffaella Saso and which is published by the largest publishing house dealing with education in our country, Giunti, and I greet the Managing Director Andrea Chiaramonti, contains a great mass of data. I believe it is a particularly useful work for interpreting the present. Three strategic choices have been made in the Report. The first: to consider school and university together, which seem to be worlds apart, parallel lines; instead school and university go together, because who gets to university? Those who studied in schools. Who teaches in schools? Who has attended university. Professor Uricchio explored these issues in depth and examined them with his characteristic acumen. The second: we let the protagonists of school and university speak, namely the teachers. To use a metaphor from years past, ‘good school’ could also mean ‘good university’. I do not know what a good school or a good university might be, I certainly know that a good school, a good university is one that has good teachers. The third: the data were interpreted with a view to the future, because education is the time of the future, because what we will be tomorrow, we are deciding today. And this is especially true for those who attend schools and universities. The first part of the Report focused on almost 5,000 primary, middle, high school and university teachers, a lot of data then. Economic resources are always scarce, however, a weak signal, 19.5 per cent claim that resources in education have increased, we are talking about one in five of the teachers who expressed an opinion. On class sizes? There is a significant proportion, almost 50 per cent, who did not detect any problem. Again, on school drop-outs, I say something obvious, but the Report certifies it scientifically: most drop-outs come from the children of middle and low-income families. A very important, neglected issue is what? Bureaucracy. Do you know what emerges? That 50 per cent of teachers’ time is wasted on bureaucracy, and in universities it is even more, at 55.1 per cent, an unjustifiable and unsustainable excess. Yet another element is the recognition attributed by society to teachers: 71% even say “not at all”. So are the opportunities for growth and career in schools: for almost 70% it is a non-existent professional opportunity. On the other hand, the data are positive when it comes to the application of freedom of teaching, as provided for in our Constitution; as is the production of study materials. Finally, teachers are very satisfied with their relationship with students: 90.5% perceive a high level of respect and almost 70% experience motivation and a desire to learn. Going further into the details of the Report, some really significant data emerges. On class size, teachers agree that the maximum number should be 15 students; in universities this figure is different. The scarce presence of intercultural mediators is also lamented – let’s take into account that Italy, like Europe, will be invaded by immigrants who certainly cannot be contained with demonstrative actions by blocking a ship in a port. This is explained to us by Paul Collier, a British economist, one of the greatest experts on African economics, and he reminds us that in the coming years we will have to prepare for unprecedented upheavals, because immigration has a precise cause, the increasingly unsustainable inequality between rich and poor countries. Rich countries are in demographic decline, poor countries are in demographic explosion; rich countries have few raw materials, poor countries have many raw materials. So already the scenario is mapped out. Computer equipment is promoted, while gyms and school environments are inadequate. Let’s bear in mind, and the Report highlights this, that judgements differ widely in the geographical areas from which opinions are expressed. Yet another element concerns technology: almost 22% of teachers (one in five) said they had difficulty using technology. But the even more interesting fact is that, according to the teachers, one in three students (more than 31%) show discomfort in using technology at school. The problem of precarious teachers is a very serious one, just as 6 out of 10 primary and secondary school teachers say they are dissatisfied with grade-based assessment, but 51.4% disagree that the teaching currently practised in Italy is mnemonic and that it is merely a transmission of notions. Another really interesting aspect, and one that ties in with the news stories of these, is that more than half of the primary and secondary school teachers denounced parental interference in their choices of teaching methods and content. Again, almost half had felt challenged at least once about the grades or ratings assigned to pupils. Just as episodes of outright violence by parents concerned at least one teacher in 10. This is a very high average, just as in secondary schools one in four teachers has been the victim of violence by pupils, and at least once in the course of their professional activity. These are shocking figures. Again, more than three quarters of teachers testify to the difficulty of integrating differently abled pupils. As far as secondary school – the high school – is concerned, 77% of the teachers say that, unfortunately, technical and vocational schools – which the country needs graduates from these schools to support its development – are considered second-class institutions. A large part of the teachers, it was obvious, are also against reducing the study cycle to four years instead of five. While the DAD experience has gathered both positive and negative experiences. Yet 95 per cent say we must continue to maintain face-to-face teaching. I am going towards the end. As far as university professors are concerned, 23% are in favour of closed numbers; 77% are against telematic experiments. Bear in mind that the survey was only carried out on university professors from traditional universities, not telematic ones. In the same way, one teacher out of four thinks that in order to combat university drop-outs, it is necessary to connect more and more with the world of work. Very interesting then is the part in which university professors identify students’ shortcomings, which are as follows: writing ability, 89%; language property, 88%; spelling, 82%; logical development of topics, 83%. We are talking about a Waterloo. Again, according to 58.5% of the teachers, the university is losing its centrality as a channel for qualified education, and for 62% it would be appropriate to modulate the university offer by increasing the Stem disciplines. Lastly, 73% of teachers do not think that the proportion of graduates in Italy is higher than the market demands, nor that the university offer is adequate to the demands of the labour market”.

“The report we are delivering to the Italian public this morning is also enriched by very significant and important testimonials, such as Piergiorgio Bianchi, CEO of Talents Venture. Massimo Brai, general director of Treccani; Paolo Calabresi, president of the Italian Society of Neuroscience; Donato Ferri, Europe West Consulting leader of EY; Luigi Fiorentino, head of the department of information publishing; Antonello Giannelli, president of the National Association of Headmasters; Anna Gionfriddo managing director of Manpower GROUP Italia; Francesco Grillo, managing director of Vision; Giovanni Lo Storto, general director of Luiss; Pierluigi Malavasi, president of the Italian Pedagogy Society and professor at the Cattolica University in Milan; Mario Mariani, managing director of Sanoma Italia; Roberto Ricci, president of Invalsi and speaker at this conference; Paolo Roncoroni, managing director of Pearson; Raffaella Ida Rumiati, of Sissa in Trieste vice-president of ANVUR; Rosi Russo, president of the Hostile Words Association; Simona Sandrini, Cattolica University in Milan; Arianna Saulini, Save the Children; Elena Ugolini, Undersecretary at the Ministry of Education in the Monti government and headmaster of the Malpighi high school in Bologna; Antonio Uricchio, prestigious speaker at this event and president of ANVUR and former rector of the Aldo Moro University in Bari; Giordano Vecchi, strategic partnership and business development; then Aldo Berlinguer of the University of Cagliari, Ivana Calabrese Change Maker for Ashoka, Giampaolo Caprettini of the University of Turin, Mauro Ceruti of the IULM in Milan, Nunzia Ciardi deputy director of the National Cyber Security Agency who is represented here with her collaborators; then with Vittorio De Bonis, a literature historian and art critic; Alessandro Curioni of the Cattolica University in Milan and then Salvatore Natoli Milan Bicocca, Paolo Pagliaro director of 9Colonne, Alessandro Rosina of the Cattolica University in Milan, Luca Salmieri of the Sapienza University, Nicola Tirelli of the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa, Luciano Violante president of the Leonardo foundation, president of the Chamber of Deputies from ’96 to 2001′.

‘In the report we identified strengths and weaknesses. Dwelling on weaknesses in an era characterised by propaganda and disinformation means a sense of responsibility, with the obvious intention of improving the current state of affairs. Of great concern is the demographic decline, which no one is addressing. We continue to employ teachers in schools and universities who nobody knows who they will be teaching in a few years’ time (this is technically called damage to the treasury). Again, the always complicated relationship with the world of work, an unconvinced push in Research and Innovation where we express world excellence. In conclusion, why do we in Italy need to invest in education? Italy is destined to play an increasingly important geopolitical role in the knowledge society, being one of the most industrial powers in the world and, even more so, a cultural power that has created the imagination and civilisation of the West. We are certainly not the last wheel of the cart. Consequently, it would be useful to outline a pedagogy of the nation, in terms of how our country shapes its citizens and tells itself to its community and the world, recalling the need to envisage an organic reform like the one Giovanni Gentile proposed, and not countless minimal interventions that systematically worsen the existing situation, like a sort of pain maintenance. A structural reform is needed, involving public and private education at school and university level, to lay the foundations for the valorisation of human capital – in Italy the figure of young people who do not study and do not work is very high, it is a tragedy of our country. And it is therefore important to make the most of the talents we have. Drawing up a proposal, such as the nation’s pedagogy, is an opportunity to reflect on the present and the future of our country, clarifying the purposes of Education. Education, School and University cannot be, as they partly are or mostly seem to be, social shock absorbers for students and teachers, but rather places for building the future. Precisely for this reason, I conclude, democracy is not only the least imperfect form of government, but today, in the face of artificial intelligence, it is the least imperfect form of social justice. Says Y. Harari: when algorithms have ousted humans from the labour market, wealth and power could be concentrated in the hands of a tiny elite that owns the very powerful algorithms, creating the conditions for unprecedented social and political inequality. Precisely for this reason, education and democracy in Italy today are more important than ever, and the Eurispes Report wants to testify to this. Thank you for your attention’.

Roberta Rizzo: “We would like to thank Professor Mario Caligiuri. One of the issues addressed that particularly struck us is that of ignorance. Once again this year there was data that told us not only of an Italy but of a world, not only a western world, that is decreasing in terms of learning in particular and specific subjects. Particularly on mathematics, reading and science we are on par with a decade ago, but the data predates the Covid period. The issue of ignorance becomes fundamental because, as Professor Caligiuri explained to us just now, if before ignorance was linked to a lack of information, in 2023 – and in the last 20 years – the figure certainly lies in the excess of information, the inability to know how to select, obviously linked to the virtual reality in which we are immersed. So a very important issue to address is the type of preparation of students. In this, of course, I can only call upon Roberto Ricci and Antonio Uricchio (INVALSI and ANVUR), on the one hand for the education information and training system with regard to schools of all levels and, on the other hand, for universities and research’.

Roberto Ricci: ‘The information that can be gleaned from the Second Eurispes Report on Schools and Universities is very important, but so are the evaluations that each individual can make, and this also with regard to the perception that teachers have or do not have of the school in which they are immersed. When I talk about school, I mean the space dedicated to children and young people aged 0-18-19. First of all, there is a need to address the world of schooling seriously, as a field of scientific study: schooling deserves an in-depth study and analysis that goes beyond our individual experiences as students, parents or otherwise. This error of perspective is a major problem our country suffers from when it comes to schools. School is an extremely complex, contradictory phenomenon that must be studied with great humility and the duty to propose constructive solutions It is very easy to limit oneself to the pars destruens of the discourse, but the real challenge becomes the constructive part’.

“One of the themes that emerges from the Eurispes Report’s answers from teachers concerns average class size, an extremely unpopular issue if approached with lucidity. Class size immediately calls into question an organisational issue, yet among OECD countries Italy is one of the countries where teachers have the fewest students per teacher. The real issue is, therefore, the way in which resources are used. In this regard, it should be pointed out, in addition, that only in the western OECD countries – including Italy – are average learning levels falling: the eastern OECD countries, together with Australia and New Zealand, are not in line with the negative trend of the western countries, and this is because they have made very precise educational choices on their curricula, calling into question the issue of widely understood contents and learning levels. These data show that it is necessary, with great humility, to address these extremely uncomfortable issues, certain that there are no optimal solutions as every choice also has potential negative effects. Some say that the worst choice one can make is not to choose, and I believe that this is the theme. Not making these choices is certainly worse. Early school leaving is another big issue that came up in the survey, but a modern country needs to address the issue of early school leaving in the round. It is crucial to have the fewest number of pupils dropping out of school – potentially none – and on this I think there is nothing to say. But the next step is to ask what pupils learn, all the more so in a system such as the Italian and European one that gives a legal value to the qualification. You don’t solve the problem just by bringing everyone to a qualification, but you have to ask yourself what is the content within that qualification. Today we have, as a country, a first provisional measure, but there is a more subtle and more serious form of dispersion that is called ‘implicit school dispersion’, that is, of those who despite studying do not achieve certain objectives. According to many university lecturers, some time ago it was unimaginable to find spelling and text comprehension problems in university students. But perhaps it would also suffice to turn on the television sometimes to realise that the problem does not only concern the university, but all parts of society. We have rather high percentages of students – around 8.7% nationally, but in the regions the percentages change enormously – of students who graduate and are able to answer questions that we would expect students to be able to tackle after 8 years of school, not after 13 years of school. Is it therefore Invalsi that has set the bar too high? Perhaps Invalsi was wrong, but in that it set the bar too low and not the other way around. We are then witnessing another form of dispersion, the digital schooling, where one has to ask oneself whether one has read with depth and humility what Europe asks of us as a European framework of digital competences. Well, the basic skills required to access European levels are definitely higher than what we have proposed as an acceptable level. One cannot think of solving the problem of digital competence attainment by lowering the target: it would be like solving the problem of air pollution by raising the level of accepted pollutants”.

“Within the framework of the strategic management of the problems and contradictions of the school, the issue of a pedagogical reflection on what we want to propose for our school from a sustainable perspective also emerges. We are an old country, in debt up to our necks, and I therefore believe that pedagogy must also take on board the sustainability of the solutions proposed. If one proposes solutions that lead to an increase in expenditure, one has to understand where to get those resources. Our country does not invest as much in schools, in terms of GDP, as other OECD countries do, but if you look at the OECD average you can see that the Italian public sector spends more in its GDP than, for example, Germany does. This means that much less is spent in Italy in terms of private contributions (tuition fees aside), and so when we talk about resources for schools, everyone has to be involved, not just the public hand, if in other countries where expenditure on GDP is higher there is a higher contribution from the private sector. This shows that data by its very nature is never a good idea, but the good idea must be sought by interpreting that data. I believe that the school needs what our country has already been able to do for the past, which is to find solutions that go beyond the individual line-up or the individual government. The issue that has emerged on the duration of schooling is one that has been placed in a partial perspective because we take it for granted that duration is only measured in terms of the school leaving age (i.e. 18 or 19). We should broaden the debate with respect to the duration of schooling, and consider that if in a country like Italy – which has invested more than 4 per cent of its GDP in schooling and put millions of employees on the line – in the end it matters more in which region you were born and what your parents’ educational qualifications are, we are faced with a problem of return on all the resources spent. Rather than accepting the platitude that the more you go to school the better, you can make a difference by going to work on specific skills – for example in space 06, where you develop skills that are not strictly cognitive, which are not alternatives to content but are a very strong prerequisite for the acquisition of those skills.


There is also much talk about the differences in the equity of the school system. Looking at Eurispes data starting with primary school, equity is played out both in terms of opportunities and in terms of the quality of the outcomes achieved. True inclusion takes place when we guarantee good levels of learning for each and every one, where learning is used in an extremely broad sense. We therefore need a reflection that uses data, but does not delegate the identification of solutions to the data, while bearing in mind that we cannot judge the school or have school hypotheses without being strictly guided by the data, also as counter-evidence of the effectiveness of the solutions adopted”.


Antonio Uricchio: ‘Very often the assets, the drivers of development are identified and we tend to lose sight of the very issue of education, training, culture and research, i.e. the construction of a model around which development then revolves. The Eurispes 2024 Report on Schools and Universities has the merit of having focused on the issue of education, which I believe is the central issue of our time. Another fundamental merit of the Report is that it has interpreted the present in terms of the future. Very often, in fact, educational models develop on what is called ‘the chase’, i.e. the tendency to chase change. We, on the other hand, must be able to interpret changes, and above all offer answers because the mismatch that is highlighted, for example, between labour demand and supply, also depends on a poor ability to read the present and above all on inadequate or delayed responses. The reforms of the past, such as the Gentile Reform or the Berlinguer Reform, were able to explore processes and offer timely answers. Today, too, we are called to this great leap forward, which, moreover, our times impose on us: we are in fact in a historical phase of profound demographic changes, of migratory flows that must not only be understood but also governed through the educational issue. The issue of our country’s cultural identity is also linked to the need to welcome those who come from more distant countries, and the key to inclusion is cultural identity, to which we must necessarily look. In this context, there are the great technological changes that impact on educational processes and that cannot be ignored: Artificial Intelligence is a fundamental theme for innovating educational processes and understanding how school and academic teaching must also be rethought in some way. The quality of today’s student has also completely changed, because sometimes the student is more accustomed to the use of new technologies than the teacher, and this must also be taken into account in relation to the traditional lecture model”.

“We are today faced on the one hand with cultural desertification, and on the other hand with hyper-information and the difficulty of critically reading the mass of information with which we come into contact. Lewis used to say that the task of the educator is to irrigate deserts, and this thought is as topical as ever because we are precisely faced with seemingly luxuriant cultural deserts, in respect of which the school and university teacher is called upon to take a particularly important step forward. Another fundamental issue in today’s school and university system concerns the system’s ability to combat inequalities. Already more than two thousand years ago, Confucius argued that education was the best tool for combating inequalities, and this emerges strongly from the school data compiled by Eurispes and Invalsi. While making use of new technologies, university environments at the same time emphasise the centrality of dialectical confrontation between teacher and student, of the need for the student to be able to constantly confront each other also in order to improve his or her own way of approaching knowledge. On this subject, as Anvur we have developed a thematic focus on the need to improve the quality of teaching within the university sector also through criteria for strengthening the teacher-student relationship, even when the student does not experience the community. The lecturers interviewed in the course of the Eurispes survey then highlight how resources are scarce and insufficient and denounce an “excess of bureaucracy”. On the subject of resources, however, it must be emphasised that these have grown, especially in the last four to five years, and that the NRP’s injection of resources has been particularly significant. In fact, the NRP’s Mission 4 injects considerable resources into a number of important assets, such as the academic training of doctorates, the right to study, and infrastructure. The increase in resources has allowed us to come closer to the European averages, but the path we have taken must be continued beyond the NRP’s deadline in 2026, especially with regard to the right to study. Consider, for example, that public university housing in our country covers the needs of just 50,000 students out of more than 2 million, when in France and Germany there is five times as much public housing. Another element that is emphasised by lecturers is the excess of bureaucracy: but I would not like this to be misinterpreted, i.e. to be linked to certain obligations that are closely connected to the issues of quality assessment. Very often we suffer from a hypertrophy of rules, hence from an excess of regulation that sometimes also generates complexity and complications of an administrative and bureaucratic nature. But the rules on assessment cannot be interpreted as an expression of bureaucracy, but rather as a fundamental requirement to guarantee quality, to promote merit, and to allow the system as a whole to grow, a line that is also shared at European and international level’.

“Then the issue of the relationship between knowledge and democracy emerges strongly. This is one of the most stimulating and important aspects of the educational issue raised by the Eurispes survey, because we cannot forget how western democracies have lost sight of the centrality of education, almost believing and taking for granted that democracy survives even cultural poverty. In reality, there is a very strong link between democracy and knowledge, between the capacity of knowledge to promote the development of critical thinking and the defence of democracy. There is a need to promote culture in order to safeguard democracy, to defend knowledge for democratic institutions to survive. With regard to what has been said, surveys and reports are not only an exposition of data or an indication of problems, but are above all an extraordinary opportunity to offer answers to the political decision-maker as well. And so the centrality of the educational issue must become our flag, the flag of the country so that it is picked up and promoted on all occasions. This objective mobilises us all as teachers, educators, citizens, and requires us to request the same reflection from the political decision-maker. Only in this way will we be able to safeguard our country’s model, a model that has given us in the past great capacity to respond even to emergencies and difficulties, as happened after the Second World War. Knowledge is the greatest multiplier of development; even when GDP comes to a standstill, the fundamental drive lies in knowledge, research, technology transfer, the ability to innovate, and the maturation of critical knowledge. As Plato argued, the teacher must not fill a wineskin but must ignite the mind. Our task as educators is above all to also stimulate critical thinking and to do so by transferring knowledge and touching those sensitivities to which everyone, even in a highly technological context, is prone. In this way, our children will have the tools to be able to operate in a profoundly changed context such as the technological one in which we are immersed, and we will be able, as a country, to meet the challenges of the future’.


Roberta Rizzo: “We thank Professor President Uricchio for this analysis. Obviously there is a lot at stake, the educational challenge must become – as President Auricchio said – our banner in front of policy makers. Hence bringing it back to the centre, thanks to surveys that go into depth, such as the Second National Report on School and University by Eurispes, and become the stimulus for critical thinking, but also for creating possible hypothetical paths, of course, because we are facing challenges that we have yet to understand. Professor Caligiuri spoke of artificial intelligence, of the challenge of migration, only to realise that our lecturers are grappling with hallucinating bureaucracy. So perhaps we need to interact in some way, predict the future? What is the use of these innovative challenges, professor?. I understand that this is not a final report, it is just a start to move forward on this investigation, a flag that we must carry in the creation of roads not in the short term, of course, because education and training do not offer short-term solutions but long-term solutions and we cannot leave the field unexplored’.

Mario Caligiuri: ‘Very briefly, human intelligence and artificial intelligence must work together to try to improve the quality of education. It is simple to say but much more complex to do, but when Alan Touring was asked in 1950: “But can the machine be endowed with consciousness?” Alan Touring replied: ‘Yes’. The subject of bureaucracy was very well specified by Professor Uricchio, and we need to understand what is meant by bureaucracy: if it is time that we use for practices that must improve the quality of teaching, research and didactics, then it is part of our work and not bureaucracy’.

Gian Maria Fara: ‘I will be really quick. To conclude this very interesting morning, I would like to reiterate that for us, the Second Report represents a second stage in a journey that I hope will be a long one, in the sense that we will continue to keep an eye on the topic of education, and so you are all pre-determined, also for the future. However, as the reflections developed, two things came to mind. First of all, I would like to point out that I tend to be a pessimist, and the definition I give of a pessimist is that I am naturally a well-informed optimist, so I jotted down a few thoughts while you were speaking, because in short, it is clear and evident that we are all concerned about the disinterest, the neglect that society as a whole and the political-institutional system have towards the great issue of education, schooling, culture, progress. Paraphrasing Aristotle, I was reminded of a passage of his in which he says ‘the worst seems the best decision’, i.e. the decisions we make we always take for the worst and never for the best. Instead, I quote another reflection, this time by Erasmus of Rotterdam, who says ‘the evils that are not felt are the most dangerous’. The feeling is that our society, our system, is not aware, not yet able, to perceive the damage we do to the country, mortgaging the future when we underestimate and neglect the issue of education. The issue of schools should be at the centre of general reflection, at the centre of political and institutional action as well. What I consider to be my teacher, Ferrarotti, when you went to take the exam with him and he saw that you were doing well, he would say: ‘I note with pleasure that your ignorance is beginning to have some gaps’. Well, I hope that with this report Eurispes has succeeded in demonstrating the truthfulness of Ferrarotti’s claims. And in any case, we will work to widen the gap more and more. Thank you all’.




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