Proceedings of the webinar presentation of the Permanent Observatory on Educational Policies of Eurispes
CALIGIURI: Good morning. Let’s start the presentation of the Eurispes Observatory on Educational Policies with the opening greetings of the President of the Institute, Professor Gian Maria Fara.
FARA: When we talk about the need and the urgency of upgrading our education and training system, we need to reflect on some data that reveal the delay in addressing the problem. In the 1999 Italy Report, we pointed out that only 5.5% of GDP was allocated to education and only 0.7% to research in Italy. We doubted that an advanced country like ours could progress with so few resources invested in this fundamental area. Unfortunately, we must highlight that, in more than twenty years, not much progress has been made in this sense; instead, today Italy spends even less on education: approximately 4% of GDP. And investment in research comes close to 0.5%. The primary objective of the new Eurispes Observatory is to place the theme of education at the centre of public and cultural debate in our country. The meeting between the scholars and experts who will animate the Observatory will be an opportunity to present to the community a tool for analysis and research that can assist public realities and also raise public awareness of the structural interventions that the PNRR foresees in the central sector of education, an absolute priority for Italy. I would like to thank the Director of the Observatory, Mario Caligiuri, the President of ANVUR, Antonio Uricchio, the President of INDIRE, Luigina Mortari, the President of INVALSI, Roberto Ricci, the Deputy Directors of the Observatory, Elena Ugolini, former Undersecretary for Education, and Alberto Felice De Toni, President of the Foundation of the Conference of Italian University Rectors and, finally, Benedetta Cosmi, Secretary of the Observatory Committee. In general, our educational system is not aligned with that of the strong G20 countries. We suffer from a serious delay in computer literacy; we do not know foreign languages, a gap between boys and girls persists: the latter are capable of better performances from the point of view of scholastic results but then when they enter the world of work, they earn less than their colleagues. And in this regard, the gap between female and male employment rates in Italy continues to be among the highest in Europe. All of this is very damaging to our young people and therefore to the country’s prospects. From the point of view of technology education, Eurispes was the first in Italy to accept and spread the idea of the need for Media Literacy as a tool for knowledge and training and a stimulus for the active and conscious participation of citizens in public life. For an individual, possessing media literacy means acquiring the ability to access the world of the media, i.e., to understand and critically evaluate the strategies, operating mechanisms, and content of messages, as well as to become, oneself, a protagonist of active communication. With these skills, an individual is best placed to take advantage of the many opportunities offered by the media society. In contrast, without them, an individual is destined to suffer serious prejudice to the detriment of their educational, cultural, work, and professional path. Then there is the question of the relationship between the educational process and the world of professional training. Realistic employment scenarios describe a labour market that has changed considerably compared to the past: new professional figures are required, new technical and practical skills and a different vision of the employment network itself. Clearly, at the same time, the traditional pedagogical-training agencies, first and foremost the School and University, are struggling to keep up with the changing needs of the real labour market, immersed in an increasingly virtual system, since it is closely tied to technological and communication innovations. If this is true, it seems clear that new didactic approaches will have to be placed alongside – in the pursuit of the common objective – the formative action carried out by the traditional centres of knowledge diffusion. There is a need to train new specialists in the advanced quaternary jobs. There is a need to train trainers. Schools and universities seem to have understood the urgency of shaping new curricular paths: however, much needs to be done. The private sector must also play its part with greater conviction, which means devoting more energy and resources to updating and training. In fact, the laws of competition and business success – together with the challenges imposed by the globalisation of the market – require drastic course adjustments that force educational agencies to use educational models that keep up with the times. In the next few years, the job market will be increasingly oriented towards environmental and social sustainability, energy efficiency, eco-sustainability and digital technology. More than 50% of the labor supply will concern these sectors and professions. This is a trend that is not only linked to the opportunities offered by the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, but also, and above all, to those production sectors that need to modernise and make their structures and assets even more competitive in the shortest possible period of time. In addition, among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals identified in the 2030 Agenda, the fourth is dedicated to education policies with the ambitious goal of “providing quality, equitable and inclusive education and learning opportunities for all”. Schools and universities, as well as public and private entities, must take into account the new frontier of employment, launching collaboration and training projects capable of ensuring new employment levels across the regions and, consequently, progress for the entire Country-System. All this always bearing in mind what the challenges of the future are: the ecological transition and a new digitalisation. This is a real revolution in the labour market that is developing rapidly alongside traditional jobs and professions which, however, are undergoing and will continue to undergo changes and transformations. In short: to know, but also to know how to do. It is no longer possible to imagine education and training as separate from a labour market that has already changed.
CIARDI: Good morning everyone, and I thank this committee for the invitation, I thank President Fara, Professor Caligiuri, and I am very pleased for this invitation and this initiative. I believe that the educational factor is of crucial importance today because of the major changes our society is experiencing. My point of view is particular, my perspective is on the digital society, and both in my previous role as Director of the Postal Police and now as Deputy Director of the Cybersecurity Agency, I see and experience every day how the educational factor in this society is absolutely essential. Among the fundamental missions of the Agency, for instance, there is precisely that to which the Professor referred at the very start, to train a workforce of qualified young people. In our Country, but I would say worldwide, we struggle to find qualified professionals to work in this field. Our schools and universities are not yet in line to train such professionals. A considerable effort is needed, just as a considerable effort is required in order to ensure that young people know how to live in this society. From my former job, I carry with me the painful experience that in recent years we have seen the numbers of minors who are victims of cyber-crimes and children who are perpetrators of cyber-crimes increasing dramatically. This is primarily due to the lack of an educational factor, to an essential awareness of youth society on specific issues. Therefore, I believe it is more important than ever to have a general discussion on topics that will affect the future of society as a whole. I won’t keep you any longer; I know there are many guests, so I’ll just say hello and thank you to everyone.
FARA: I would like to greet Mr Ciardi, who always follows us with great attention, but I can see that Gerolamo Balata, who is our Director of the Sardinian Regional Office, is also online. Just a few days ago, he presented a vital survey that received great press coverage on cyberbullying and thus a topic linked to the one we are discussing today, which clearly affects the behaviour of our young people. I wanted to mention this because the survey is very valuable and is naturally available to anyone who would like a copy of it.
CALIGIURI: The data on the national education system have been visible to everyone for years. Italian universities are struggling in international rankings, and we are at the bottom of the school league tables, highlighting a gulf between North and South that has not been bridged even in the 160 years of unified history. There couldn’t be more obvious evidence to show that the path we are following is likely not the right one. We do not need detailed interventions but structural policies that take time, distinguishing between contingent and long-term challenges. As Koeno Gravemeijer of the Eindhoven University of Technology explains, “in education, everything happens fifty years later”. So, just as the economic boom of the 1960s was accompanied by the Gentile reform of 1923, we are now experiencing, for better or worse, the effects of the educational policies of 1968. In our opinion, the starting point is that education, not the economy, should be at the centre of the political choices of Italian society. The fact that education is not is proved by the fact that when Sergio Mattarella retook office as Head of State on 3 February 2022, he received 55 applauses during his 40-minute speech, and there was no applause for education. Indeed, education is not on the political and cultural debate agenda and is confined to specific events, such as remote learning, where we talk about procedures and never about teachers’ content or quality. Like all major social issues, education is the consequence of political choices and individual behaviour. The media system and the cultural system are involved. But rather than focusing on the effects, we should seriously investigate the causes. There are undeniable responsibilities within the educational community. School and university, which are often referred to as the solution to social problems, are a significant part of the problems. There is also a specific crisis in educational theories throughout the world, due to the shocking developments of recent years, with the use of outdated words and, in the Italian case, the gradual emergence of an anti-language which, in some pedagogical manuals, is used to evade rather than describe reality. Yet education is central to the future of any nation. Based on all the indicators, in Italy, although it has played and is still playing a vital role in promoting social advancement, enabling the social rise of millions of Italians, the education system is losing ground compared to others, with the directly related effects such as institutional inefficiency, public corruption and organised crime. Qualitative investment in education is worthwhile at the national level because, as is well known, there is a direct relationship between school quality and GDP growth. It is no coincidence that countries that invest more in education become richer, and in Italy, even a small increase in OECD-PISA indicators could lead to a 5% increase in GDP. We need to launch a political and cultural debate in our Country on education, as they did in the United States in 1983. At that time, the occasion was the report “A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform”, in which, in times of the cold war, the low level of education was directly linked to national security. This is a key issue even at this precise moment, exposed as we are at powerful winds of war. Also, in the United States, the Coleman report in 1966 explained that intervention in the quality of school buildings, educational technology, and changing the curriculum were of little use unless action was taken first and simultaneously in the social, family, and urban contexts of individual students. The only thing that could make a difference was the quality of the teachers. Therefore, the quality of the teachers became fundamental. According to Piero Calamandrei, the school should be considered ‘’a constitutional body”, so the lack of quality of education and the inadequacy of those who implement it, in other words, school and university teachers, could represent a ”constitutional violation”. The quality of managers and teachers is crucial. Among the latter, there are around 200,000 in schools without qualification, with the risk of permanent damage to students’ education. In the academic world, on the other hand, mass qualification is creating an extremely dangerous precarious situation in universities and the explosive situation in schools. Therefore, the training, selection and evaluation of managers and teachers’ systems must be revised as a top priority. My viewpoint, Calabria, sometimes provides devastating data. We do not realise it, but we live an incredible reality. Politically, culturally and in the media, there is not the necessary attention to education, which is by far the largest area of public policy and on which the present and future of the Country in the knowledge society depend. Since the future is not expected but rather planned, Italy should make the best possible use of PNRR funds today. One of the six missions concerns education, for which about 32 billion out of 248 billion has been earmarked. The two objectives are: to strengthen the education system along the entire educational pathway (from kindergartens to universities); to support research and foster its integration with the productive system. A total of 9 reforms and 25 investment items are planned. The largest items are school buildings and technological equipment, and practically all are procurements. Therefore, the decisive game of education must be played essentially on rules rather than on investments, focusing above all on the quality and effectiveness of spending on training staff (starting with teachers) and connecting the labour market with the academic community. Consequently, the objectives of the Eurispes Observatory on Education Policy are to bring education to the forefront of political, scientific and cultural debate with initiatives and research; to monitor the quality of spending and the effectiveness of reforms linked to the PNRR’s mission on education; and to write an in-depth section in Eurispes’ annual “Italy Report”, which will present its 34th edition in May, in which much space will already be devoted to our education issues. In this initiative, we have involved the most significant pedagogical associations, the most prestigious cultural institutions, public bodies, and experts and sectors that have to influence education. Indeed, this area represents a meeting point for all sciences, in the awareness that education is so important for society that it cannot be dealt with by educators alone. Therefore education can be the driving force behind all the battles for changing Italian society. Today we are beginning a journey that, with the contribution of all of us, we hope will take us a long way in the interests of young people and our country’s future. I now hand over to Professor Antonio Uricchio, President of ANVUR.
URICCHIO: Thank you Professor Caligiuri, thank you President Fara. Greetings to all colleagues who are here participating in this webinar. I see so many friends, and I am really pleased to be in such a prestigious Observatory. Today’s webinar is dedicated to a significant issue, central to our Country. As the President and Mario said earlier, the issue of educational poverty and, more generally of public policies for training is a central theme. And it is not only in this historical phase that we hope for an economic revival of our Country also through the PNRR measures. But it is so worldwide, at any latitude, in any historical context. Education is the basis for social-economic growth, but also democracy, and so there is certainly a fundamental link between education and development and growth, also in terms of social rights. I want to start precisely from the concept of educational poverty, which I believe should be the basis of our analysis because in the Charter of the Constituent Assembly and then also in the formulation that was subsequently offered to those who have been reading and rereading Articles 33 and 34 of our Constitution, educational poverty is seen as a compression of a constitutionally sanctioned right, it is a limitation of youths’ and minors’ right to quality education, and therefore to an educational path that also enables them to work and grow as individuals. Work and citizenship are the parameters against which the issue of educational poverty should also be considered. In our Constitutional Charter, we have some fundamental norms that certainly cannot be avoided in any discussion based on a study of educational poverty, because article 9 entrusts us with culture as a responsibility. As an individual and collective task, Article 33, which enshrines the principle of freedom of research, teaching, and didactics, and Article 34, which states that schools are open to all, express such a solid framework that it must lead us to recognise the right to quality training and education as an absolute and inviolable fundamental right. Therefore, educational poverty is a violation of a constitutional right. We must also start from this awareness to promote public policies that can make the right to quality education and train effectively. I believe that the personal and collective commitment of each of us involved in the Observatory and as representatives of evaluation agencies and public institutions must be oriented in this direction. We have a significant opportunity, which is the use of the PNRR resources (32 billion euros, these are significant resources). Still, above all, we have the need to rethink a model for constructing educational pathways and an opportunity to relaunch a challenge that must be welcomed as an epoch-making challenge: the centrality of educational policies among models of social organisation. There is no doubt that educational poverty not only undermines a constitutional right but also depresses the economy as the link between educational poverty and material poverty is far too obvious. As Professor Caligiuri said a moment ago, every investment in education, training and education generates a multiplier ranging from 4 to 6 in terms of development, so it is clear that we need to promote policies that aim to make the right to quality education and training effectively. However, in general, we also need to promote culture because educational poverty, as it is defined, does not only refer to school education but also, more generally, to the individual’s education, to citizenship, it also means affirming the right for culture. Therefore, the educational agencies are not only schools but also families, third sector institutions and other public institutions, which must also play a central role in the affirmation of a model that places quality and training at the centre of culture. Unfortunately, in this perspective, we must note that the data are quite alarming, as President Fara said. According to estimates, one and a half million young people under the age of 18 are in a state of absolute educational poverty, 53% of whom have never opened a book to read, 55% have never been to a museum, 43% have never even once attended a theatre. Educational poverty, therefore, means not only failing to have access to quality education but also failing to nurture those essential conditions that make it possible to form citizens and make them capable of appreciating the context in which they live and the rights they enjoy, first and foremost those to citizenship and democracy. Educational poverty has devastating effects even when young people have completed their schooling or even reached the age of majority: the number of those in educational poverty after graduating from high school (over 18 years of age) is actually increasing, because from one and a half million before reaching the age of majority, this figure rises to two and a half million between the ages of 18 and 25, in other words, this condition is worsening. This figure becomes even more evident when we consider the number of so-called NEETs, namely those who do not work, do not study and are practically inactive, to use an expression that is unfortunately still significant. Indeed, the number of neets has risen to 2.2 million, and educational poverty obviously turns into difficulties in gaining access to employment and into a state of psychological abandonment. This figure has worsened in the last two years because both the number of NEETs and those in educational poverty before reaching the age of 18 have increased by almost 2%. Undoubtedly, the effects of the pandemic have also been particularly severe in this regard concerning education. Remote learning has generated worsening effects on the educational poverty of the weakest families. It has also produced a widening of inequalities; it has generated effects on the employment profile – the link between educational poverty and material poverty has been far too evident. However, at the same time, it has led to the widening of a gap between the phase before and after reaching graduation age, which is particularly evident. Educational poverty must necessarily be linked to territorial and economic contexts, as well as to gender contexts – both President Fara and Professor Caligiuri have pointed this out very clearly. The North-South territorial inequalities are in the data because two-thirds of those in educational poverty are in the South, as the number of NEETs in the South is more or less equal to two thirds, as the official data of both Istat and Svimez say. There is also an essential theme that concerns the close link between educational poverty, material poverty, and inequalities, which has seen a growing and increasing gap in recent years. We cannot just describe a phenomenon, but we must somehow – and this is the Observatory’s task – analyse it to offer a key to understanding this reality and perhaps be proactive. The centrality of educational policies is fundamental in this context. Still, it is fundamental both in the use of public resources and the actions that must be implemented. Of course, resources are an essential condition for making public policies effective, but a clear strategic design is required that can, in some way, orient the use of resources; strong actions are needed to enable us to assess and monitor their use. First and foremost, public policies must be measured in terms of their effectiveness, and the actions to be implemented must be assessed. Mario Caligiuri said that the PNRR provides for a series of missions, some of which are geared towards upgrading school buildings and the technological modernisation of most schools. This fundamental investment probably should have been made a long time ago. A critical point concerns the age of the buildings that host our students: the average age of a school building, used as a school, is 53 years; in Europe, it is 30 years (the European average). On average, the buildings that host our students are very old and often not even adequate from a safety and technological infrastructure perspective. So, this is a fundamental investment that is also linked to activities undertaken in recent years. It is probably also a question of inadequate resources compared to the amount of investment that needs to be devoted to upgrading the school heritage. This is not enough; it is a necessary investment but not sufficient to achieve the results we expect effectively. We need strong action on the training of teaching staff. This is a subject that has perhaps recently been dealt with in a fragmented way (think of all the tools that have been devised and which have been short-lived), but a systemic action, also linked to the contents of teacher training, has probably been undervalued in educational policies. Quality is central to the effectiveness of educational measures. We need to invest in the qualification of teaching staff; we need to restore the centrality of the human resources, especially because the qualification of teaching staff is essential for the effectiveness of educational policies. Therefore, it is a strong commitment we are called upon to make, as public institutions dealing with educational policies, as trainers, because we also work in universities because many of us are university teachers. We need to take strong action on quality, evaluation, and monitoring. As the National Agency for the Evaluation of Universities and Research, this is a commitment that we are not avoiding. Indeed, we have set up a research working group on teaching professionalism. This international working group, made up of colleagues from many foreign countries and Italy, deals with teaching professionalism in universities and higher education. Of course, we want to offer answers and solutions to the central issue of teaching qualifications. Adequate teaching methodologies are probably needed in different contexts than characterising school and university training. Methodologies and didactic innovation in a profoundly changed context from the point of view of external stimuli, of technologies, must necessarily be acknowledged. As a university system, we have discussed didactic innovation – I can see Prof. Daitoni here, with whom we have met several times, even within a working group – and it is precisely the methodologies that must support didactic innovation. Therefore, we must act and do so promptly in a context of open debate. We need to put merit back at the heart of public education and training policies. At the same time, quality of training and merit are also essential ingredients for social mobility. The logic of evaluation, and above all of the quality assurance, is often viewed with scepticism and mistrust because it is seen as conflicting with models that can combat inequality. However, the affirmation of the merit quality, together with policies to make the right to study effective and therefore the recognition of support tools for deserving students, are necessary conditions for social mobility, which has come to a standstill in recent years. If in the past, school and university education allowed a strong social rise, while in the last decade this social rise has probably come to a halt, and this is an aspect on which we must necessarily reflect to give young people back the basic right to study and, above all, to promote a model of society that is more equitable and respectful of the values that our Constitution assigns to us. I would like to stop here if you agree. Still, I would also like to thank you for this opportunity and confirm the personal commitment and willingness of the Agency I chair to work together. I am pleased that today, thanks to Eurispes, this prestigious and important Observatory has been promoted.
CALIGIURI: Thank you, Professor Uricchio, for your excellent report. Prof. Ricci, President of INVALSI, now has the floor.
RICCI: Good morning, everyone; thank you for this invitation; it’s a pleasure to be here. I believe that this occasion for debate and dialogue is significant. In the two reports before me, some critical and central issues have been highlighted, which I would like to try to address from the point of view of those who carry out my work, or rather the work of the Institute that I have the honour of chairing, which is an activity of assessing learning levels, and in general the school system’s performance. I believe that it is necessary, and perhaps this requires a joint effort on all sides. I think that research may be the best approach to take on the task of observing – I am talking about the world of schools, but I believe that, while making the necessary distinctions, we can apply the same method to universities – schools with the clarity and, at the same time, with the care and attention of a typical mass phenomenon. What do I mean? It seems that this dimension is missing in the public debate. In the physical and chemical sciences, but also in the social sciences, there is a very important principle telling us that the dimension of a problem often profoundly alters its nature. So, what does this mean? That if we do not assume from all perspectives that the solutions, we must imagine, we must be able to be adequate and help a phenomenon that affects millions of people, we will probably not really be able to help. I will give a few examples. There is much talk about finding solutions that consider individualisation, personalisation and all these aspects. It is right that we should do so, provided that we do not understand them as, in a certain way, alternatives or that we never take for granted the acquisition, the daily care of that part that is common to all and must be maintained daily. We all know that a big problem in our Country, not only in education, is maintenance. We have a problem with the maintenance of basic skills. Uricchio was talking about the astounding numbers, to put it mildly, of young people who are neither in education nor in the world of work. I say that there is a further problem, which is even more serious because it is off the radar, namely those young people who get a diploma. Still, without having the skills even remotely close to those, we should expect after 13 years of schooling. We have tried to quantify the number of graduates, to use a rather old-fashioned expression, who will have graduated in 2021, but with basic comprehension skills in the Italian language, mathematics and basic skills in English; well, 9.5% of young people, one student in 10, leave school with a diploma having the skills expected at the end of secondary school. I believe that we cannot afford this, because it is in everyone’s wellbeing, therefore also selfishly speaking in the interest of the whole society, because the general resilience of society is played out on these dimensions. I would like to give you an idea of what one in 10 young people are like. One out of every 10 young people has not been able, for example, to answer a question that I roughly represent to you in this way: the general gives orders to the troops to pitch their tents for the camp after analysing the nature of the terrain. One boy in 10 could not reconstruct the logical-temporal sequence of these sentences and puts “after analysing the nature of the terrain” as the last action. One could joke and say “but how many of us will have to go into the military? How many of us will have to pitch our tents after a curious general tells us to set up camp after analysing the terrain?” It is a pity that many normative texts express themselves exactly this way, so we are talking about something extremely concrete. So, it’s all very well for us to discuss what we should do, but I believe that those in our positions have a greater duty to be practical and constructive than ever before. I believe that schools need intellectual resources and research not only to identify what is wrong, and I am not saying that we are all capable of doing this, but it is the least difficult part, but we must try to propose solutions to a phenomenon that affects millions of students, millions of young people. Every morning, some 8 million young people enter the school building. I was delighted to discover that I am only a little older than the average age of Italian buildings, which is not bad, but the problem is that buildings have to be good places to stand, they have to be pleasant places to stand. But until we address what we teach and how we teach it, I think we will struggle to improve things. This is a task for those who do an assessment, it is a task for those who study, promote, propose teaching methods and teacher training, but I repeat, we must resist the temptation just to make a list of wrong things, otherwise we build a very powerful alibi for not changing anything. A study was recently published in a very prestigious international journal, in which three prestigious Italian researchers working in very famous international universities tell us that, for example, the issue of the social lift is blocked. Still, there are parts of the country where this lift is not blocked, so we must have the lucidity to see the great differences in the country and understand and help all parts of society to understand what we can do in the current conditions. Schools indeed suffer from the conditioning of society and sometimes they are also part of the problems of that society, but there are levers on which we can intervene from tomorrow morning, for example how we form classes, and we have problems in some areas of Southern Italy that are truly unacceptable right from primary school, in the most general silence, but which are there for all to see. We have a form of implicit segregation in the formation of primary school classes. It doesn’t take 1 euro to change this; it doesn’t take more beautiful buildings, it doesn’t take the reform of the system. I think we can work on this, and we must make an effort to take responsibility, to get our hands dirty. Let me give you an example: with the guidelines, we have set some excellent, very interesting goals, but we have refrained from taking on the challenging responsibility of having the courage to say what the criteria are according to which we can say that those goals have been achieved. I don’t think we have done a great service; I think the service is incomplete. Let’s discuss it; let’s “argue” with one another about what it means to achieve those goals. But we must take responsibility for doing so, being clear that proposing solutions that move things around for ten, twenty, a hundred students, unfortunately, does not change the problem, at least if that model is not then scalable on a larger scale and therefore helps us to deal with the problems. As I was saying, the social lift is blocked. Still, there is also the significant issue that it was much easier, or much less difficult, to make that lifting work in the 1950s, 1960s, perhaps even 1970s, when 20, 30% of the population potentially concerned would get into that lift, much more difficult to make that lifting work when the model is designed so that everyone has to get into the lift, and therefore a much different, much more powerful and, in some ways, the simpler lift is needed. Thank you.
CALIGIURI: Thank you, Prof. Ricci, for the wide-ranging discussion that covered the key issues affecting our Observatory, and while we wait for Prof. Luigina Mortari, President of INDIRE, to join us, I will now give the floor to Prof. Alberto De Toni, President of the CRUI Foundation, former Rector of the University of Udine and a member of the management of our Observatory.
DE TONI: Welcome everybody, I would like to thank Mario Caligiuri for having thought of and promoted this initiative. I greet everyone. There are many colleagues whom I have known for many years, and I am delighted to take part in this initiative. Mandela told us that education is the most powerful tool for changing the world when he talked about how poor children could empower themselves through education and create a future for their country. People who have dedicated their lives to freedom and democracy understand the value of education. But to be fair, it is no coincidence that the University is the second organisation, after the Church, historically created well before the States. I would like to remind you that “rector” derives from “tuition”: the head of the students collected the tuition fees and paid the teachers; the rising bourgeoisie had understood that knowledge was the real tool to go into a knowledge economy that they sensed was growing. So since the aristocrats could pay their painters, the emerging bourgeoisie could not, and so they formed cooperatives and basically paid the teachers. I would like to remind you that in Padua, where I come from, we had the first public chair, paid for with money from the Venetian Republic, for Galileo, who wanted to honour him with the telescope thanks to which they could see the arrival of snowfalls from St Mark’s bell tower. I applaud that Eurispes has accepted Mario Caligiuri’s proposal, and I thank President Gian Maria Fara, who has given us a fine image of an aggregator, a catalyst of intelligence. In my opinion, the winning organisations are those with multiple intelligences, so congratulations to the President, whom I have read created this organisation since 1982 and that is why this initiative could be interesting. Let’s be frank, I also say this to Antonio. We have shared many years in the rectors’ conference. We have not succeeded even in CRUI in setting up a true Observatory of university education. But let’s be honest, there is not even one within the Ministry; we have something in the Bank of Italy, it is true, but obviously, the Bank of Italy is a player in the field, and therefore I believe that we need third parties; Eurispes could play this role well. We have two important evaluation agencies here (INVALSI and ANVUR), and you have no idea how hard we have worked within the University to get the idea of evaluation across. I want to stand by the two Presidents of the two evaluation agencies because evaluation is necessary. However, as many have said, it is not enough; we need various things. We need many things, and when we list the problems, the answers are usually that we need to put more resources and make new regulatory laws. It is true that these too are necessary, but they are not enough because laws are like plans for a house, where you need builders, you need mortar, you need bricks. We have a lot of unimplemented laws and regulations, and we sometimes have many resources that, instead of improving, increase the levels of dispersion. We need evaluation; we need planning and regulations; we need resources. At the same time, if you wonder why, as many of you have said, little has changed in 40 years, we lack organisational action in the field. This is the key issue. The big problem is mainly cultural because we must remember that organisations are cultural systems. If we don’t do a great job of persuading people, in the positive sense of the term, what education represents and what it can become, we won’t be able to move anything. But then, the second point is the issue of organisational action. As President Fara said earlier, we have this great mega-trend. Still, now we have another issue, which is sustainability: we must transform sustainability from a cost into a source of revenue. I remind you of Crosby’s wonderful title in the book of quality, “Quality doesn’t cost” 1987. It was a provocation because we know that quality costs money, but what did Crosby say? That the costs of non-quality are dramatically higher than the costs of quality. Similarly, we can say that sustainability does not cost money because the costs of non-sustainability are extremely high. Therefore, in schools and universities, we have to grasp this megatrend of digital and sustainability megatrend that we must pursue with great care. The issue of digital innovation is a regulatory one. Some time ago, a wonderful book came out entitled ‘Homo sapiens’: our children, who are used to hypertext, no longer read in sequence; I would say they read diagonally. We have to support these major technological changes with the whole issue of learning. And how do we do that? We have to address the issue of organisation. We don’t have an agency to govern the accompanying measures; it’s like saying we don’t have an agency to help the construction managers to build the house. We have the Parliament that does the planning and does many projects ( as you know, most of the laws are blocked because they do not have the implementing regulations). Still, even when they are implemented, they are implanted in schools, universities, municipalities, etc… So, we have to imagine creating accreditations, consultants, companies that provide organisational support; we have to imagine putting resources in place that can be activated in contrast to the bodies so that these changes are accompanied. Let me come to a concrete topic. I decided to take part in the Province of Trento initiative about teachers’ careers. Elena Ugolini, who has dedicated her whole life to schooling, knows that Berlinguer resigned from his post as Minister when he tried to introduce teacher careers in an attempt to improve education and, as we all know, it ended in a general revolt and Berlinguer also resigned as Minister. Fifteen years later, the Province of Trento asked me to join a group that is trying, timidly, to set up a pilot project to introduce the teaching career. The first big revolution would be to introduce time at school, because in many European countries, instead of the famous 18 hours, they make 36 hours, they have increased the teaching timetable from 18 to 24 hours, and they have 12 hours for organisational activities. This would be a great change in itself, and I don’t want to say much, but we’ll see what can be done. What I want to say is that we need these Observatories, we need to launch strong ideas, and then we need men of goodwill to accompany education towards the things it can achieve. I always say “Education, Education, Education” three keywords for the future of the Country. Thank you.
CALIGIURI: Thank you very much, for this conclusion that reminds me of Tony Blair, and thank you for identifying the themes of the strong ideas of the people of goodwill and the need to analyse the data with scientific criteria. Elena Ugolini has the floor.
UGOLINI: Good morning, everyone. I’m speaking from a school; I’ve always been at school since I entered kindergarten at the age of three. I am passionate about school for everything you just said because the future and the beauty of everyone’s life passes through the school. A total of 8 million students means that they relate to parents, grandparents, friends and the whole country. So, what do I think this initiative can bring (and for this I am very grateful to Mario Caligiuri whom I had the opportunity to meet as Regional Councillor for Schools in Calabria while I was Undersecretary for Education)? What Alberto De Toni was saying just now can be beneficial to schools, namely strong ideas that can guide our ability to read data that we have and that no one dares to understand or interpret. Let me give you an example, and then I will immediately make a recommendation. When the first Pisa survey showed that we were at the bottom of the league table in terms of the level of skills of 15-year-olds in 2001 – and that there was a huge difference in results between North and South – there had been a general shock that gave rise to a working group that revised and rethought the national assessment system, which in 2008 included the PRIVE national standardised tests. We have discovered through this data, which tells us very little about the school, but which is valuable because it highlights the whole Country and all levels of schools, is very serious. In the second year of primary school, Sicilian children generally perform at the same level as children living in Milan, in Lombardy. On the other hand, in the fifth year of primary school, there is a gap which widens in the third year of secondary school, which widens in the second year of secondary school, and which becomes a gap, as Ricci Roberto said earlier, in the fifth year of secondary school, with diplomas which have five years’ worth of wheels behind them. The real issue of the Italian school is the quality of the experience that children and young people have in the 1,000 hours of school that they attend every year of their lives from the age of 6 to 19. However, to understand what remains in that time, and the experience of the long-distance education and Covid has already taught us this, it is essential to have external points of reference. What we have discovered during these years of Covid is that the core of the school is what you have just mentioned, namely education, the educational relationship, the quality of teachers and managers, the quality of an organisation that must allow people to work in peace, guaranteeing standards throughout the Country and in any corner of it. We could not think, and here I am addressing university professors and those with responsibilities in this field, we could not think of reforming, changing and improving the quality of Italian schools without addressing the critical point that you have highlighted, namely the way we educate, select and develop teachers and managers in schools, which is one of the fundamental points identified by Caligiuri in his initial report.
I make two proposals: the first is to use this Observatory to make second-level analyses of the vast amount of data we have within the Agencies that have spoken before me (INVALSI, INDIRE, ANVUR); we have many data that no one reads, and no one understands simply because there has been no analysis. It would be nice to report on the quality of Italian schools using this data, doing some second-level analysis and focusing on some fundamental aspects. Second proposal: the PNRR foresees investments above all in school building and technology. However, without a vision, this money will be wasted because the Ministry will directly build 159 new schools, resources will also arrive at a peripheral level to improve schools, but how can we change the features of our schools by making an urban regeneration operation that can affect the entire territory without having an idea of what can be done on the inside. For example, there are no offices in schools where professors can stay and study; how can we ask professors to dedicate time to look at school, time for receiving students and working with colleagues, when there is not even a space where they can put down a book. This is a very trivial example that, however, makes it clear that it is true the important part of the PNRR are the reforms that are mentioned for a transformation of the school. Still, it is also true that the funds that come and will have to be invested with calls for proposals must be invested intelligently, but there can’t be intelligence without a vision; no wind is favourable if we don’t know where to go.
CALIGIURI: Thank you to Professor Ugolini, who was Undersecretary of State in the Monti Government for Education. She has already concluded her beautiful speech made in a very accurate way this beautiful phrase by Rainer Maria Rilke. I now invite Carlo Chiattelli Delle Ernst & Young to take the floor.
CHIATTELLI: Good morning Professor, thank you for the invitation. I bring you first of all the greetings of Mr Donato Ferri, who is the Head of Consulting of Western Europe of EY and who is the engine behind the very particular interest that we have so strongly developed over the years for learning dynamics and that has led us, among other things compared to other companies of this type, over the years to develop a series of assets of collaborations also with various Universities throughout the country. We are talking about models of competencies and assessment tools that can be used for orientation purposes, and we are also investing a lot in neuroscientific tools for detecting the dynamics of attention learning. From our point of view, all this can be offered to the Observatory’s studies. More important than the exciting considerations I had the pleasure of listening to, the most relevant asset concerns a predictive model that we have developed based on algorithms, artificial intelligence on demand for skills and professional profiles in Italy. We based it on a pre-existing methodology that the Oxford University had developed with the support of Pearson, which, if I am not mistaken, will be represented in the Scientific Committee of this Observatory by Mr Mariani, with whom we have been collaborating for some time. The predictive model I was talking about returns information and – among other things – we triangulate it with real data available from already established studies of this kind, such as Unioncamere Excelsior, or agencies of the European Commission like CEDEFOP or LILO, giving us a series of information that I think is very useful for this debate. First of all, the first thing that I think is particularly interesting to point out is that if in past years in Italy there was much discussion, for example, about intellectual unemployment, because our labour market actually produced many more low-skilled jobs than medium-high, high or even very high-skilled jobs. What we are going to see is, among other things, very much against the trend compared to other OECD economies where, as in all phases of technological transition, there was a polarisation, and the demand for work moved towards the extremes of the range of qualification levels and therefore more low and high-skilled jobs were created to the detriment of medium-skilled jobs. But the polarisation I was talking about in most advanced economies was to the advantage of high-skilled jobs, while in ours it was the opposite. In fact, we have lost a great many graduates in recent years to other EU member states where job mobility is clearly facilitated. Our model tells us that in the next ten years, this phenomenon will be reversed in Italy as well in the next ten years, so the demand for labour will follow more similar trends to those of other OECD countries. Yet, even today, for example, Unioncamere tells us that in the next five years, there will be a gap between graduates leaving Italian universities and demand for work, increasing by around 40,000 per year. After a growth trend of a few years, the absolute number of people enrolled in Italian universities is beginning to decrease, largely because of demographic dynamics. From the perspective of labour demand, which is perhaps the perspective on which we can contribute in a more remarkable way and referring back to what was said about the social inclusion function of the school, we should question ourselves on how our systems, our training agencies, as we said before, our competence creation systems, are not very productive. Even where these systems work, the numbers are too low for our labour market’s needs. This creates a structural risk of bottlenecks and bottlenecks in the labour market, which is the most powerful risk of a structural brake on growth potential; the most powerful risk is actually this in the long run: we don’t have enough qualified people, and we’re not just talking about engineers, we’re talking about graduates in general. Our predictive model tells us there is something else, namely that the occupational profiles for which the demand for labour will increase the most in the next few years are not only those of skilled technicians, or college graduates, or people with post-graduate degrees, but their occupational profiles in their composition in terms of skills will become increasingly complex. New classes of skills will be added, not only technical, to those in demand by labour demand, and the relationships between these skills will become increasingly dynamic. This means that not only are we training too few people, but it will be increasingly difficult to train them in the future, and they will be increasingly difficult to recruit clearly. The real mismatch, the indicator measured by the OECD, concerns not so much the discrepancy between demand and supply of potential jobs, but between the skills held by people already working today and those potentially required for that professional profile. This indicator in Italy is already very high today and will become, as we say in another predictive model, even higher, so the issue does not only concern students but also the current workforce. Looking ahead, the problems we have now, if the system maintains the current level of strictness, in other words, if it does not change structurally immediately, they will get even worse. The positive thing is that we are facing a labour market that will offer many opportunities. Still, we need to respond by creating a labour supply that can meet the demand of the Country’s potential growth.
CALIGIURI: Thank you very much, dear Carlo; you have captured the essence of the problem with schools and universities that are in danger of training professions that, for the most part, are already obsolete. So systematic reform is fundamental. Now the floor to Mrs Benedetta Cosmi, the Secretary-General of the Observatory.
COSMI: Here I am, thank you. Good morning everyone, obviously we are happy to have you here, also because this Observatory is linked to the “Eurispes Laboratory on Human Capital” that I direct and that we used with Mario to anticipate this Observatory with Minister Messa; because even if in Italy we experience some discomfort when we combine the term education with that of human capital – because there is a whole connotation that seems to be more about money, more economical than about a resource in the sense of a value – in reality, they go hand in hand and are even more so listening to your speeches where this combination returns. So, the idea of aiming at human capital understood as teachers: to be trained is understood as the future, the students, the young people, the hopes of a country that sees in them the possibility of being a welcoming country, that gives opportunities and accepts them, doesn’t dismiss them, doesn’t make them become human dumps, as we said for those who study and work. Therefore, it is a massive loss of talents, desires, and everything that school is that social elevator to which you were referring. So, you certainly feel an integral part of this type of reflection, even from the workshop point of view. A provocation that I would also like to bring to the themes, in quotes, of the gender gap and discrimination is what I had initially been launched without declining it to the feminine, that is, referring to Canada, I was saying that subjects should be chosen there. Guido Calogero already took Canada as a case of active citizenship and myself, with my research several years ago, which I then reported in an article in the Corriere in 2014. So, we’re already talking about years back now; two things emerged that struck me: one, the data on the recovery of early school leaving that was a regular feature for them. They had a fundamental goal to complete in the following years, and they were below 2% school dropout. And for them, it was the target on which to focus, that is, we were at a target that should have been lowered in those years compared to 14%, so there was a gap that seemed evident to me and perhaps there is much to do: from kindergartens to lifelong learning. That is the world on which we act as dispersion; and on the other hand, the question of the subjects: provocatively, one could choose – there was less Greek teaching than in some Italian institutes – but one could choose to do Greek literature and carpentry. In our Country, carpentry is very rare; it is an exception, and if now we decline it as I wanted to do at the beginning on the gender issue, is there any woman working as a carpenter? I mean, we can train female carpenters. There are many ambitions related to other careers that are emerging as a lack of equality with their male colleagues in terms of salaries, wages, and fees. But some professions had a negative connotation, and more so from a gender point of view. However, we are an economy that, in Northern Italy, has even the furniture fair that revolves around the carpenter’s economy, then connected to marketing, then attached to many other design skills and aesthetic taste, and then also combined with the beauty that we are attributed from abroad when we referring to our Country. So, if we would combine these situations we would probably have the school we want; because then one child stays at home on long-distance learning and find a cardboard, as it happened to my child who is currently distance learning for two days, she found one and used it to make a theatre (she cut some cardboard, stuck it, put her arms there and used this kind of shelf to make a theatre show). So, it means that when we give them materials, they do something with them. In contrast, when we keep them sitting in the classroom, we keep them in the same school behaviour that does not enhance their potential, even if we re-evaluate the buildings, even if, as happened in the controversy with the Minister last time, we change the chairs on which they sit. So, in this awakening of the teacher’s and student’s flexibility around the knowledge that can bring together manual and cultural skills, we are certainly awakening much of what I think is involved in this Observatory, and also a little unsaid. So, I hope to be able to agree with you on some key points, also because evaluation in Italy is very important. It is not always done, but when it is done at school or in the school it represents an end, in other words, it is studied for the purpose of evaluation. It’s never the means, the tool, instead, to stimulate that approach even more. So, in short, let’s look for common points on which we want to base school and let’s do it. Thank you.
CALIGIURI: Thank you very much dear Benedetta for your very concrete and articulate contribution. Now I give the floor to Francesco Grillo of Vision. Please, Francesco.
GRILLO: Thank you very much for inviting me to join the Scientific Committee of this Observatory. I wanted to say that I observe the reality of Italian schools and universities with one foot in and one foot out because (…) School in Oxford, fortunately, but I have been an advisor to four university ministers and the first appeal is: let’s hurry up, let’s go a bit straighter because we are in a world that is literally breaking apart around us. I wrote a number of editorials in Messaggero, Corriere della Sera, etc. during the pandemic about primary and secondary schools as the front line in this war. After two years I am very upset, really upset. For example, the word autonomy does not appear in the PNRR reforms. How is it possible to run a school like the Italian one with 800,000 employees, 9 million students without, how should I say, providing it with an organisational structure? How is it possible to run Italian schools – which I believe is the biggest one in Europe, even bigger than the French one, if I am not mistaken – from an office in Viale Trastevere? This shows a technological, social, economic transformation that has been greatly accelerated by the pandemic. Now a war is raging at Europe’s doorstep. So, in my opinion, Mario, we need to go a little straighter than straight. My second appeal is that, given that Eurispes, I believe, is on a mission, we should immediately carry out a serious assessment of the PNRR. I believe that the EU’s Hamiltonian moment with Von der Layen, who emphasised the historic nature of certain decisions, was absolutely the right one. But Europe is also at risk if Italy fails this initiative. Mario Draghi alone is not Harry Potter; he cannot guarantee success. He is just a human being. For example, let us evaluate what the PNRR is doing and will do for schools and universities. I think it is an excellent intuition, so to speak, but we need to gear up quickly to assess what is happening. There is a problem of defining the issue at the beginning of mission 4 of the PNRR, with which we can more or less agree; I think it is valid, but maybe we need to think about that too, then there are investments (30 billion euros) and reforms (probably not enough brave ones) – so we need to evaluate the coherence between the objectives and the instruments put in place – and then there is the implementation phase, where there are enormous difficulties, as I am sure Minister Messa is aware of. So the whole part of the universities is to call for tenders that there are these days. Massive problems, because, as if to say, it is quite an extremely ambitious project… We are talking about a volume of investment enormously higher than this country’s capacity in general, the Italian school and universities, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Education to program call for tenders and contracts to bring them to term. However, there are many difficulties, but I believe that an evaluation is essential to fuel a debate and find solutions because we have very little time and face enormous challenges. So, I would like to ask you, Mario, if Eurispes is interested in a team to assess this challenge in which everyone, absolutely everyone, agrees. Thank you.
CALIGIURI: Thank you, one of the three themes of our activity focuses on the monitoring and effectiveness of the PNRR funds and the policies, the reforms linked to the PNRR. So thank you for your very relevant contribution. Mrs Rosy Russo, President of the Parole Ostili Association, will now take the floor.
RUSSO: Good morning, everyone, and thank you, Mario, thank you, President, thank you to all those who have spoken before me because I really feel at home with the debate, so I will not go over the many things that have been said that I fully agree with from first to last. Well, I am the President of the Parole Ostili Association, which perhaps not everyone knows. It is an association set up five years ago to combat hate speech. Over the last few years, we have worked on this front, and we have also been very active on the issue of digital citizenship entering into schools. I am also putting on my hat as a mother of four children today because this is certainly important in everything we are dealing with. So, I share the screen because I come from the world of communication, and this always helps me a lot, and I will stay like this also in the times. I would like to stress that we are experiencing a change in era, and I say this because it has a lot to do, in my opinion, with everything we are also saying. In other words, the change of epoch envisages a fracture between what we are and where we live; however, to emerge from a change of epoch, it is necessary to live it. Therefore, we cannot explain this change yet, but we have to live it, and each of us will put a little bit of our own into it, which is a great challenge. So even the young people and everyone else are struggling at the moment. There is no rule. The second premise I wanted to make is this: for the world, I am immersed in, I can make a small contribution, such as the theme of language. So with the new generations, there is a new language to learn. This is a sentence my son said last year when I said to him, “Are you coming to dinner?” and that’s what a son says. Now, it was a joke, but maybe not everyone knows that Paul was the biggest player of Fortnite is Twitch, a platform where kids spend quite a few hours a day and where there may be a whole series of dynamics. It was just for fun, but we must consider that there are generations that are not the usual generations but digital generations. So, what does that mean? The world of the net, the digital world, is crucial right now. But as I’ve said before, for most people, living in these worlds is not natural; it requires education and culture, which is what Parole Ostili is doing through its manifesto. And look, I’m talking about the fact that in the last year we have met more than a million students and more than 250,000 teachers involved in our activities, but I also wanted to tell you about a project, a work that we are carrying out that is very much in tune with everything that is being said. On the one hand, it is precisely an attempt to answer the major problems that are on the net. On the other hand, we have the centrality of education and the commitment to bring the world of work closer together with education and culture, quality, etc. It is a project that I would like to share with you because it is not at even the beginning, it is still in its early stages, but we will try to present it next month, and, as you can see, it puts the student at the centre. However, at the same time, it engages in dialogue with parents, schools and the labour market, and logically it includes universities. It tries to solve the problem on the boys’ and girls’ sides: who I am, what skills I have, what to choose after school, middle school and high school, and what to do. But most of all, will I make it? Will I be able to do all this? And maybe exactly with that focus that gives a picture of the youth to understand what he needs and what he has to keep track of. All through role-playing and gamification. You see, these are some interfaces, but here I want to dwell on the theme of skills. Some of you mentioned it earlier. It is a primary theme: this project starts from the 2018 European Union key competencies but with the three big lenses of knowledge-skills-attitudes. It was said earlier that knowledge is not enough and skills are needed, but we are also trying to work on the other major theme of attitudes. That is, the whole ethical and relational part. How many people do we meet and say to us, “some very well-prepared young people are coming, but they don’t really know how to relate and how to move”. So, what are we trying to do? Basically, this is a platform that from the age of 11 (so we’re talking about a very young age) wants to accompany the boys and girls, and little by little, through activities done at school, accompany them to build their curriculum. It goes a long way in the direction of what we are talking about because it wants to enhance the many skills that many actors are carrying out in some way. To conclude, we have divided all the activities into seven major areas. The students will be able to explore them by discovering, let’s say, the various areas, for example, art, culture and creativity, entering these neighbourhoods, in which each house will be a profession, and the students will be able to discover what these professions are, and perhaps even to approach the world of companies by taking courses and thus enjoying themselves. All this will gradually build up their CVs. Please excuse me for being so practical. In other words, I totally agree with everything that has been said so far, and I very much agree with those who have said that we need to start working on practical projects. We are sharing this with the Ministry, with many companies. Still, above all we are putting on this platform all the good experiences that companies, associations and, why not, all the university and school projects are already carrying out. Thanks for this moment. Thanks above all to Eurispes for this committee and this upcoming project. I hope that there will be many opportunities to bring together, as someone earlier said, the many different experiences that can only lead to richness for the Italian educational experience.
CALIGIURI: Thank you, Mrs Russo, and now the Italian Society of Pedagogy President, Prof. Massimiliano Fiorucci.
FIORUCCI: Good morning, everyone, thank you, Mario Caligiuri, thank you, Eurispes President and all those who have preceded me; I greet Prof. Uricchio and all the other colleagues. I agree that it is appropriate to be concrete in our future work. However, I think some preliminary reflections are to be made, and some issues need to be addressed. Earlier, Elena Bolini mentioned something fundamental: namely, vision. Now, we have many data for diagnosis and analysis, often not considered, and I think it is appropriate to start making proposals. However, in my opinion, all the reasoning we do now must start from a vision. What idea of school, university and therefore of society do we have in mind, and do we want to build? That is, all the reasoning about educational innovation, the quality of teaching and new competencies are not neutral facts; they are not educational innovation. Why, and for what reason? The quality of teaching is a consequence of the vision of pedagogy that guides it. So, if we don’t decide what kind of society we want to build, it is also difficult to imagine these themes; all the themes touched are not neutral, evaluation is a central element. But what kind of evaluation? What is it for? A formative evaluation for improvement? The relationship with the labour market is crucial. We invest a lot in internships, but we will always be late; the obsolescence of our knowledge will always be late to what happens. So, we need to train solid, key skills that allow us to navigate a fast-changing world. So, I give an example: we don’t have to learn how to use a computer program, better, we can learn it, but the logic that governs it (because after three days it will be old) then also this immediacy of entering the labour market to manage with awareness. The PNRR is certainly an important moment that should be monitored carefully, but what happens after 2026? What vision is there? We said that there were no investments for a long time, or, even better, there were disinvestments. I do believe we need to start with an assumption. With all their limitations, then we try to see them. Despite all the limitations, schools and universities are the few garrisons of real democracy where we discuss, talk, confront each other, build the simplifications, the toxic narratives, the culture of the slogan. So, today, things are more complex; we need to have together skills that come from humanistic, scientific, and technical culture to understand complexity, as Marta Nussbaum also explained in that beautiful book called “Not for Profit”. So, I am surprised too that after two years there has never been so much talk about school as there has been in the last two years, but there has been bad talk about it fundamentally. There was the health emergency; it is still there, we focused on the health protocol but not on the educational one, that is, the educational relationship is a fundamental element: research is emerging that highlights the hardships to which students are also subjected, as well as teachers and managers, who have done an extraordinary job anyway, but it is not the psychological bonus that solves these problems, it is not a pathologisation, it is a reconstruction of the centrality of the relationships that schools and universities put at the centre. We must say that we are also often victims of certain trends. Today there seem to be, so to speak, many references from cooperative learning to peer education, outdoor education learning by doing, are not new. They were thought up 100 years ago by the new active schools, but they were part of a model and a vision. Today it seems abstracted from the contexts. So let’s restart from the democracy-education relationship that John Dewey talked about, and let’s restart from this. Therefore, they are not competencies disconnected from a vision, and we must also pay attention to some of the linguistic drifts and corruptions we have witnessed in recent years. Because we talk about credits, debits, satisfaction. We have adopted quality models taken from the productive world. The productive world has to make a profit, while schools and universities do not. This difference is fundamental: if we do not reorient ourselves in this sense, the educational and training system risks becoming, as it were, an extension, as Mario Caligiuri said in his initial report. The centrality of the economy instead of education. So let’s also pay attention to the language, to the linguistic corruption that has accompanied the processes of inattention to school university such as for example, disinvestment. The pandemic has highlighted some critical issues already there: delays, dropouts, the neet generation, few graduates, the non-existence of a system of adult education and lifelong learning, low levels of education. So we know from all the research that investing in preschool and daycares, that early access to these places of education and upbringing are extraordinary protective factors. The other key element is the issue of guidance in teacher education. As scientific societies, I see that even Pietro Lucisano, Maurizio Fabbri, Liliana Dozza, have proposed scientific societies Central Training teachers at secondary schools of the first and second degree, that currently does not exist, there is not actually. And this is obviously a problem. Because there is a cultural legacy that those who know, can teach. Now we know that to teach, one must certainly know one’s disciplines, but one must also have an educational apparatus of pedagogical-didactic skills and experience them through internships and workshops. And therefore, a dedicated path subsequent to the acquisition of technical knowledge. I believe that we must not lose sight of the fact that schools and universities are, first and foremost, not only an engine of the economy but also places where active and aware citizenship is built. Thank you.
CALIGIURI: Thank you, Prof. Fiorucci for the meaningful and intense contribution, and now the floor to President Mattiacci, president of the Eurispes scientific committee.
MATTIACCI: Good morning, thank you, Mario; good morning, everyone. I have the role of President of Eurispes Scientific Committee; I am a full professor at Sapienza University, with a fixed term. I say this, and then I will explain why. I also work with a private university called LUISS Business School. I have two children; one goes to a private kindergarten out of necessity, and the other goes to a public elementary school as a matter of principle. I say these things not because I am important but because I think I have a diverse point of view. I was a child of public education 40 years ago. However, I am a proud son of that education, and I sometimes find myself forced in the centre of Rome to make different choices. I believe that the issues at hand are a rhombus. I’ve heard of a triangle: school-university-work. I would add another corner of the rhombus, which is civil society, as I call it, and these points of the rhombus, in my opinion, are connected. The quality of one depends on the quality of the other. I believe that we should not miss that factor. I think that anyone should. This fact, seen in perspective, not seen with our heads turned backwards but seen with our heads turned forwards, should make us change our mind, as I sometimes find in the debate that I see. Let me give you a few examples: those who spoke before me have rightly said about linguistic corruption. Words are important; words make up thoughts, ideas, subjects and everything. So, for example, let’s start with these. Let’s start with words and say that, for example, the word profit, are we sure that in the world of the 21st century, in 30 years’ time when many of us will be out of productive activity, it will be so distant from education, as it has been called? Well, in the meantime it is called English education, but I am not at all sure. If we still think that profit is evil, I do not say that profit is the absolute good, but it is not evil either. According to the constitution, there is public-private education and if private education is exercised by bodies like Rector Cannata’s and does not work for anything, it works to make money. We have invited a friend from E&Y whom I greet, I also beg him to bring my greetings to Donato Ferri whom I know well, E&Y is an auditing company and then opened a thread on Education, as they call it. And in my opinion, they are legitimate to call it that way because they are Americans, well understanding that there is business there. So, in the United States, in the UK, education means business; if you follow the Economist a little bit, I am an economist by background, I am also in business, so I see that I have that bias for which I apologise. But beware, let’s not pretend that the world doesn’t exist. Training and education of all levels are on the borderline between public good and private good managed in this way. The significant failure that I see in perspective, above all, is that the public sector cannot keep up with the private sector. I said before that I am a professor with a fixed-term contract. Those who work at the university know that fixed-term contracts mean working part-time because of the frustration of not being able to do activities within the university that could bring great wealth to the university. It is not possible because we are full of constraints of obstacles, we need to free the university from the public administration until the money that arrives at the university will be treated as money from the state budget, and then there is the Court of Auditors that are watching us with a watchful eye, as we know, as we do not have a public debt in Italy. So, there you have it; in short, it doesn’t work; many like me make these choices here. I do not say this with controversy. I say it with the wounded heart of a lover speaking. Because I would be very proud to bring everything into the public university, but it is simply impossible. Also, because there is an illustrative culture representing what has been said, education is not a business. It isn’t. If anyone here thinks this way, please ask yourself some questions because it is not valid. Because there are public universities, public schools, and people who do other jobs, who rightly see education as a huge and growing business area, and with the PNRR (the big ATM), these efforts have multiplied. And they will multiply, and I am afraid, really afraid, first of all as a state employee who believes in Public Education. Secondly, as a father, I am afraid when I see how our educational institutions mentally face this evolution. The world has changed, but we haven’t noticed it. How many people at the top of our undergraduate educational institutions have had experience outside of public administration? Very few, too few. Excuse me if I’m a little inconvenient. But let’s face it. Another element gives me the measure of how much we are not there. Like all of you, for the past two years, I have probably done more than a hundred webinars, and in these hundred or so webinars, I keep hearing people say at the beginning: “here we are, I greet everyone with the regret of not being physically present, etc., hoping to be present again”, which means that we haven’t understood, we haven’t understood that this form is the new normal. Then we will also do in-person seminars and so on. This is the new normal, which means we are still saying, “No, God, how much I miss you when you are present”. It means we don’t get it. I’ll give you a metaphor that I use with my students: scientifically, it’s called digital, so we can get rid of the university professor who puts categories in the middle. I tell my students to understand: guys, life is a cappuccino. I was born 55 years ago, I was born when life was white milk, that is the physical world, then came the latte macchiato, physical world with a drop of coffee – I open and close parentheses – in which, unfortunately, many of the Italian ruling class is still if they think they are latte macchiato. Instead, life is now a cappuccino. Indeed, a dark cappuccino with lots of coffee. Coffee is digital and, in the cappuccino, there is no sense in distinguishing physical and digital, it is a whole. Two, three final speeches and then, to speak a bit corporate, since I also tell you what I think would be great, we have a parameter that pulls us of the success of the initiatives in the coming years. The school, I was really struck by the observation that a colleague said earlier and she said if we go and look at the cognitive status of our children in the first two years of elementary school between south and north, they are aligned. Then as it goes on…is obvious. Why obvious? Because when education, when training, when learning is emotional, that is precognitive, everything is fine. As it becomes more and more cognitive learning, you see the family. Having young children, I struggle with that. We have three and a half months of children abandoned to their families a year. I say “abandoned” to their families intentionally. School ends at the beginning of June, and we are back in mid-September, June-July-August and mid-September of working families, of families that may not have the capacity to be able to follow their children. My mother was an elementary school teacher in the months of September. She always cried about the great work lost that they had to make up in the fall. In the fall, we catch up on the summer; but where do we go if we continue to do this. Of course, the unions are tearing their clothes off; those same unions opposed the idea that all teachers should have a university degree; think about it. What are we talking about? The second thing about the school is that two out of three graduates come from lyceums high schools (source: la voce.info). Let’s read it right; high schools work very well; let’s read it wrong: you do it. We are all aware that we are talking about something about tomorrow that we do not understand at work. We can imagine it a little because artificial intelligence – we will do an in-depth essay on artificial intelligence in the Italy Report- will overturn many things, but in general, the digital transformation. So, I think that, since work is a purely economic variable, having to put a point of reference, let’s look at the economic formula of this country and understand what kind of work skills we will need. We are a Country that will greatly benefit from the redesign of globalisation because we have important manufacturing concentrated in the country geographically, but important; we are a country that has a dramatic issue of public administration. It is dramatic quantitatively and qualitatively; few are even poorly paid and with the results that we all see. For some time now, exactly what has happened to the school has been happening to the university, and it is one of the reasons why I, like many others, have put ourselves on fixed-term contracts, that is, through the proletarianisation of a profession, do you know how much a university researcher earns? Do you know how much a full-time associate professor earns? Let’s make some distinctions; let’s make some parallels. My salary as a full professor does not everyone get there, and not everyone gets there at a decent age, and half the salary of a peer of mine went to be an executive in a private company. We don’t succeed, if you put together low payments, low salaries, very high precariousness, formulas of rewards when you enter the university as a role that asks you to decide once and for all whether to do the university or the other because it is no longer: if I fail here I have invested five years that I spend on the job market. Ladies and gentlemen, it doesn’t work that way. So we are asking young people to come for low salaries to accept a very high precarious status, with high risk because if you can’t win the game there, you are out of the rest of the job market. How can this too be solved? It can be solved by starting to make a difference. I know I’m saying politically incorrect things, but studying literature is not the same as studying economics or the notorious STEM subjects. Suppose we want to have valuable people in the university. In that case, I don’t take doctoral students from me anymore because I can’t find people to work with, and I don’t waste public money on scholarships. So, I’d rather have them go undone than put in minus habens who have no chance outside because this is happening. Let’s start drawing some distinctions; we are still treating with a mass approach a theme, training, I don’t want to say education, because it’s a term I hate, we are treating as the ford model t a theme that is no longer in the world, in real life and outside our offices it is no longer like that. I close with one last point. I would give all state policies in the university a simple benchmark. The number of people born and living in the north enroll in universities in the south. Who dares to put something like that on the plate? No one, because we know that the southern game, in this respect, is a losing game. There is little to do, little to turn around. Let’s face it because this is a country rich in wallets but poor in understanding. This starts from the base up to certain summits, in my opinion. I’m done, Chairman, sorry for the out of the box thing, but I think between us we have to tell each other things out of the box, and then I don’t claim that reason, of course, and so I also like to hear the debate thank you.
CALIGIURI: The floor now to the President, Pietro Lucisano, President of the Italian Society of Educational Research.
CALIGIURI: The floor now goes to Pietro Lucisano, the Italian Educational Research Society President.
LUCISANO: Thank you, Mario. I would start with a joke that one of my research directors commented on our Prime Minister’s remarks that distance learning has accentuated social differences. He constructed the joke in this way, he admitted the cover of Capital in German and deleted the “s” Das Kapital putting DAD (“Didattica a distanza” – distance learning) Kapital and saying that as an old communist, he thought that social differences derived from something other than school, or rather pre-existed school, and we must deal with them. We sometimes construct a debate around schools and universities that seems to attribute the Country’s problems to schools and universities. And sometimes it is the problems of the country, and our economic model creates problems for schools and universities. I have an observatory that allows me to observe the transition to work diachronically – now we also have it for Roma Tre and the universities of Lazio and the Tuscan region – through the compulsory communications, the transition to work of our graduates and I guarantee you that what you see suggests a job demand that is absolutely inadequate to make the university experience an experience that fits positively into our social system. Those who have preceded me have said that we have a Constitution that clearly states what schools should do. Still, for years we have been at school’s bedside, and more recently at the university’s bedside, and we have the feeling of being totally unheard because the data have always been there. A short while ago, Fiorucci recalled that at the beginning of the 20th century, a group of great researchers tackled the problem of how to change the educational system. In our Country, there is very little educational research to research; it is residual from all points of view, and everything that is said is unheard. In our Country, from Italian unification until today, we have not been able to create a teacher training model. Suppose it is true what Ricci said that many things can be done even in the most uncomfortable conditions of the present. In that case, it is also true that to work in our present’s most uncomfortable conditions, we need prepared people. And we continue to employ people whose only merit is to have covered the gaps for years in a system that cannot recruit teachers. This is the first aspect on which we must reflect. During this talk, we have also said that we really need evaluation. However, it is also true that all the tools we have had so far have been built to evaluate what is happening at the bottom; very few have been evaluated to evaluate policies, and policies are fundamental. Policies affect the great differences that exist between North and South. In the 1990s, Confindustria asked me to audit the trend in educational spending. We took State budgets, regional budgets, and municipal budgets. It turned out that between a school in the South, with 500 children, and a school in the Veneto, with 500 children, there was a differential of 1 to 5, worsened by the fact that, today, schools also include the contribution of families. There was an as much significant gap in terms of family contributions. We have a system in which this equality and this social elevator cannot occur. Yes, indeed, there will never be a student from the North who goes to enroll in universities in the South; it is also true that students from the South, once they graduate, have to look for a job up North. In the 2016 data, I do not have the most updated ones; in Sapienza came 400 students from Lombardy to graduate, but they go and work in Lombardy. Also, 6,000 students graduated from Sapienza, some from the southern regions and some from Lazio. In order to work, universities need to be around a work network that really allows them to create a network of relationships because if there is no working network, there is no employment and if there is no working network, our students ignore class. Suppose we continue to think of an educational model solely made up of disciplines and to shower students with notions of science that is always outdated by people who do not have the ability to update their knowledge. In that case, this has a dramatic effect on the motivation, soft skills and abilities for our students. If we don’t have the basic resources in our universities that keep us abreast of technological progress, a young person coming out of university will tend to go into a company saying, “I used state-of-the-art equipment in university, you can only dream of in your company”, and it would be a driving force for the economic development of the country if this were the case. But in university, young people use obsolete computers, in most cases, and when they go into a company, they find it hard to get their hands on the ones they should have been trained to work on. So, there’s a structural problem that we need to give much attention to: teacher recruitment policies, the structures in which teachers work. We have talked about schools and their situation: the school’s condition is the same, again, since the Italian unification, since the first research that the governments of united Italy did on the state of the schools. If you take them and put them in parallel with the state of the schools today, you will see that, basically, there is no real difference. We need to change the way we look at this issue, and Eurispes has a great opportunity to create an observatory that looks at the responsibilities at the top and those who merely indicate goals without ever thinking for a second about the resources that are required. When a project is conceived, it should be made workable: it is often thought that it is possible to train teachers without resources, without the human resources of people who do training, and without people who do training having the opportunity to do research. These are the problems we face, and I think restricting the perspective to results assessment is important; it gives us information. I had the opportunity to coordinate a couple of surveys on the state of schools in our Country and then observe the results that INVALSI offers us year after year. The results are always the same, yet in the meantime, nothing is being done to try to make real changes and not only to provide indications to do more. In part, the many indications to do more in schools conflict with the possibility of obtaining positive results in schools. The excess of indications is a noise that ends up engaging teachers in several activities (we see it even in a university), of meetings, that have nothing to do with the meaning of our work, which should be that of doing research and teaching, because that’s what we do. It’s no coincidence that my colleague said earlier, ” I have a part-time job” we live in a condition in which ours, which is one of the most beautiful jobs in the world, is experienced with discomfort. We must try to listen to the reasons for this discomfort and then try to suggest solutions and then claim that our suggestions for solutions are listened to. A problem that is affecting education research is that the perception of the uselessness of the suggestions we are making leads us to do more and more specific research, mainly to write articles and participate in the competition to become university teachers, and not to propose something that changes the way our students live in school, the way our fellow teachers work, the way we work. The idea of an observatory that evaluates policies and then not just that score teachers, the school system would be better, but also to say what it takes for teachers to be better is the big challenge we face.
CALIGIURI: Thank you, dear Pietro, for the complexity of your analyses that put on the table fundamental issues. Antonello Giannelli, President of the National Association of Principals, has the floor for a very brief greeting.
GIANNELLI: Good morning, thank you, Mario, thank you again for the opportunity. I thank President Fara. I apologise for stepping in so last and having to say goodbye right away because I have another call lined up. Of course, this is a great opportunity; there’s no need to hide it; Professor Lucisano nearly took the words right out of my mouth. I agree with everything he said. We have a severe educational emergency, and I believe that this observatory is in the correct position to take charge of it, analyse the results and suggest solutions. As Lucisano said, it is also a question of changing teaching practices. In the 21st century world, we cannot think of continuing to teach with a mentality, an approach, a cultural and methodological paradigm that is essentially that of the Gentile Reform one hundred years ago. We organise conferences, participate in updates, and say the same things, but the reality basically doesn’t change much. I believe that the PNRR allows us to massively invest in updating and training teachers, all of them, but it must be methodological training. We continue to mistake good teaching with the stuffing, excuse the term, of knowledge. Notions must be learnt because we could not think about competencies. Otherwise, we couldn’t think about anything without concepts. The problem is that you must be able to make sense of it and build a meaningful framework of it all, as clearly there was no need before; in a mass school, there is a need for this. There was no need in the school of the past, which selected an elite, because the process of making sense contributed to choosing the future elite and was guided by social belonging, by the family background, as it still is today. We must study this problem, which is a known problem, we are not inventing it today, but we must make ourselves heard by politics so that solutions can be found. It is clear that it is much more convenient to teach lessons by showering students with notions, following the school program, a concept that would no longer be present in our system. Still, everyone continues to evoke it like a ghost, and so we continue in this direction. I don’t doubt that we will be able to do something meaningful; I just briefly say goodbye and hope to see you all again very soon. Again, greetings to all of you and best wishes for your work. Thank you.
CALIGIURI: Thank you, the Chief of Staff of the Minister of Education, Mr Luigi Fiorentino, has joined us.
FIORENTINO: Good morning everyone, dear Professor Caligiuri, I’m very pleased, let’s say, to speak and to bring greetings to this Eurispes event, but mainly because of the topics. This is a beautiful opportunity because a great debate is developing, focusing on school issues, on educational matters. I listened to the researcher, the university professor who spoke earlier, raising all the issues of research, of PhDs and therefore of a more significant problem for higher education but also university education in Italy, In addition to my greetings and those of the Minister, I would like to mention two concepts: the problems of schooling are problems that have lasted in Italy for many years. In recent years and especially in the last year with Minister Bianchi, a few issues are being addressed, also because the National Resilience Plan, the PNRR, in particular, the PNRR education part of the over 17 billion that we will have at our disposal in the next few years allow us to redefine what are the overall parameters of the school system both from the reform and investment side. The real issue in our country is one that we must address, we must address with multi-year planning, and it is an issue that relates to the development of teachers, first of all, the development of school leaders. This must be done both in terms of tools and training. It must also be done by public finance constraints, and therefore always from a general governmental point of view because these are available policies that cannot be resolved from one institution, but instead, require the awareness of the entire government. This awareness is present in this government, namely by President Draghi and Minister Bianchi, who always manages to outline a path to achieve the objectives thanks to his enthusiasm. The goals are to enhance the value of the teaching function, including its economic value. The real opportunity is given by the reforms and investments of the PNRR, and as I heard someone say earlier, there is, of course, a public infrastructure efficiency issue, a matter of public administration performance that will have to implement this Plan. Why is it tough to implement this Plan? Why does this Plan represent a challenge for our Ministry and the Government as a whole? Because the very characteristic of the PNRR, as you know, is that it is a comprehensive program, it is not the Pon of education, the National Plan for Recovery and Resilience is the program of the Government, it is all-inclusive and therefore the education part is embedded with the other parts of the program in a coherent manner and therefore the real challenge is implementation. The difficulty of the implementation of this program, the difficulty that I am very confident about because of the approach that our Minister wanted to give. As we have already done this year, I am sure that we will go all the way and reach all the objectives set by the PNRR. The real difficulty is the fact that the education system is a stellar system, it is not a homogeneous system, it is a system made up of the centre, of the periphery of the centre – I am referring to our regional school offices and to the territorial areas – but I am also referring to the system of autonomous schools. All of this, of course, requires a great effort by the Administration to implement the plan, because there is a political responsibility of the Government and the Minister, and then there are the implementing entities that are the municipalities and provinces. Then there are the investments, which are very important. Professor Caligiuri, you have been dealing with these issues for decades, so we all turn to you with great attention, at least as far as I’m concerned, in order to learn. I must say very clearly that we have at least two interventions here, but all interventions are fundamental. I want to refer in particular to 2 of these interventions because they are from the South, and I think they are very important. I’m referring to the one on early school dropout: it’s a billion and a half. We must do better than in the past; we have to make sure that this program is a program that actually focuses on those areas where dropout is real, it’s evident, where INVALSI indicators tell us that there is a school dropout. This program challenges us because the difference with the Pon is that now Europe has not only put in the timing. As you all know, it is a very important timing, a central timing: if the program is not realised by that deadline, the opportunity is lost, you don’t get paid, you don’t get resources, you don’t get any of them, this is the first aspect. The second important aspect is the challenge: it doesn’t tell you to do the little project, give the money to the school, involve the teachers, do some courses. This is a limited view. Indeed, what the plan tells us, what Europe tells us, is that you have to bring back into the classroom the young people, the missing, those who have dropped out of school, and you have to bring back those who are over 18, who are between 19 and 24. You have to give them a second chance, to use a community jargon, that is, to give them a professional qualification, you have to learn a specific job, and put them back into the system. In order to do all this, institutional synergy is important, but not only with public institutions; synergy with the third sector is important, but a synergy with local authorities is also important, synergy with the church is important, synergy with all those subjects that are living protagonists on the territory and therefore know how to happen. Europe will not give us the resources if we do a project and sign that we have done the project, Europe will give us the resources if it is certified that a certain number of pupils return to the classroom as required by the Plan (and I tell you what the target is) and if we also get people in the range 19-24 a second opportunity system. What is the target? To bring back by 2025, the end of 2025, the national target of dispersion to the European target 2019, then to 10, 2 compared to 13.9 in 2019 for Italy. This is a great challenge, just as the investment project related to higher technical institutes is a great challenge because it is a matter of bringing together advanced education high-level education with production chains in the territories and all this must be done with an exact target, that is, it must be done by doubling those who are enrolled in 2020, in 2025 we should have double the number of enrolled students. Naturally, people will enrol if they have a clear vision and an orientation program to support them. These are two of the most important investments in my opinion; then there are the six reforms, the one on recruitment is a major reform, an important reform that must be submitted by June 2022; there is the School of Higher Education which is a real innovation, however in this seat which is such an important seat, so high where there are people who operate within the university institutions, I want to say that we do not want to build, Minister Bianchi does not want to build a bandwagon. The school will not be yet another bureaucratic structure; the school will be an edge that will help the Ministry think about teacher training, recruitment, how to recruit and so on. Occasions like these are significant because the debate you are having is important; I greet, of course the President of Eurispes Fara, I greet my friend Mario, I greet all of you. My message is that the Ministry of Education is working on it because there is a great European program and a Minister who has a clear vision. Moreover, because there is a system that, although downsized over the years due to retirements, still manages to achieve results and we are here to rebuild the structure, on the one hand, and to achieve the objectives of the plan to ensure that the entire population has a quality education service. The reforms go absolutely in that direction. Thank you.
CALIGIURI: Thank you to Mr Fiorentino for the kindness of your feedback, especially for the part of the speech in which you highlighted the fundamental policies of the Ministry of Education given the PNRR implementation. There are great challenges, including aligning the Italian school dropout to the European one, teacher recruitment, and ITS strengthening. Thank you again, dear Luigi. The floor now goes to the Rector of the Mercatorum University, Professor Cannata.
CANNATA: Thank you very much; I listened very carefully and all the considerations that were made at the beginning. I greet everyone, many friends that you see around. I want to mention something very factual. I feel very close to the intervention of Alberto Mattiacci, and I say it with great openness. I have been running public universities for 18 years, and I have been running a non-state university for six years. As my friend Luigi Fiorentino said earlier, the sign of impatience is that this is a star system. We are in the situation of having to put together all the pieces that make up educational agencies within this Italian system of ours. This is not happening today, Antonio Uricchio knows this perfectly well, clearly and operationally. I would like to thank Gian Maria for inviting Caligiuri and me to be part of this table, a table that brings us together. This morning we started with the theme of educational poverty and this booklet refers to a work done with Eurispes some time ago.
FARA: Giovanni, forgive me for interrupting you. While we were talking, they brought me this extensive booklet, the first National Report on schools from 2003. Twenty years have gone by, and we’re saying the same things as twenty years ago. The problems are still the same, as are the urgencies and emergencies.
CANNATA: Unfortunately, that’s how it works. Dear Gian Maria, we need to ask ourselves why it works like this; we need to ask ourselves why we are still facing the problems of change mentioned in the previous speech; we only respond mainly with the theme of the financial resources of the PNRR. I do not make use of them. What is worrying is to fail to understand, and I say this with great emphasis to my friend Antonio Uricchio. What I fail to understand is how we are unable to think that all of the existing training agencies in the system can be brought into the system. When I learn of fences determined in the access even to innovative facts, for example, the extraordinary circumstance of working on Public Administration training, because then if the money is there and still there are no results, this is probably because we do not have an adequate Public Administration, then a great effort should be made to bring resources together. This does not happen, we must have the courage to say so, and now I am pleased to note that after a long and painful period of suffering, the Ministry of Universities has organised a round table in which it invites the telematic universities to meet and discuss, to make some reflections. I do not need to advocate for an e-learning university. I am the Rector of a telematic university that originated from the Chambers of Commerce, which operates locally and has tried to interpret the needs of the areas; I strongly believe in the value of evaluation and initial accreditation because we provide a public service on an equal footing with everyone else, but equality means that free competition puts us on an equivalent level at the starting blocks. Then we run and see who has to weave the web. You know, we have outdated attitudes, let me tell you. I am 75 years old, and I have been a permanent employee of Italian universities since 1974. I have seen many things changing. We are old-fashioned in our approaches, and we need to completely rejuvenate the way we interpret our presence in the institutions. Everyone does what they can. I promise President Fara and Professor Caligiuri that we will do a good job in representing the potential of distance learning at this table – I am amazed that the universities have been caught off guard when it comes to providing distance learning. Still, above all, I am surprised that the challenges have arisen in the school system. I don’t have young children like Alberto Mattiacci, but I am a grandfather and I follow my grandchildren’s activities, and I have seen the tremendous effort that has had to be made from this point of view. We need to have a slightly more engaging vision of all the realities operating in the system. This is a declaration of principle I make to the 13 survivors of the Scientific Committee who have had the patience to stay on the line as I have. We will also try to contribute to the 34th Eurispes Report. I am very pleased that this is happening, that an independent institution, such as the one that you Gian Maria had the foresight to establish some time ago, is doing this work. I have listened to you with great interest.
CALIGIURI: Thank you, Professor Cannata, Paolo Benanti, of the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome takes the floor now.
BENANTI: Thank you, good morning. It is an honour for me to have listened to the speeches this morning and to be able, as far as I can, to give a perspective. I was born in 1974, so I was still far from the university system by that time, but, unfortunately, I still belong to it. Even as a guy who discovered computers at a younger age, my story is more attentive to the dynamics of digital, of Artificial Intelligence and above all of this new direction that capitalism is taking towards the digital, namely Platforms. There is such widespread distribution of intermediation services. Concerning the issues that we have been talking about, I wanted to try to give a perspective on how the digital world crosses over, is affected by and, to some extent, can influence these issues. This is the first one: algorithms that have been designed to guide consumer behaviour in a global market are increasingly influencing personal behaviour and the formation of people’s beliefs. This form of implicit education, at least since May of last year, thanks to the studies of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, we can call it global behavioural stewardship. So, there is a force of at least implicit education that has an effect and is effective within this exchange of free services in exchange for user data. This is an instance, and therefore it tells us that there is a new actor within people’s training. By training, it is clear that I mean something minimal with respect to education and different from teaching, but that challenges us to some extent. The second question concerns the effect that these algorithms have from a social point of view. Indeed, an algorithm that has the power to direct people’s lives is very much similar to another human artefact called law. The law is a device that, to some extent, wants to regulate human behaviour. Our democratic system reminds us that a state of law needs the law – or anything connected with it – to have certain principles, one of which is to be knowable, another is to be universal, and another is to be general. An algorithm that functions as a pseudo-law is not knowable because it is coded and executed only by the machine, or at least, even if it were open source, we do not know the equivalence between the written code and the managed code. It is not universal because the algorithm in question identifies and chooses users; it is not general because the subject is not just anyone, organised according to democratic functioning, but rather only the server’s owner. All this is also in tension with the functioning of the democratic system of which education and schooling should be a part. The third big issue is, again in my experience, that the big Hi-T companies are not finding adequate expertise within the extensive education and information systems and are providing their schools. One of them is IBM’s P-Tech, which aims to substitute for university processes and at least in the last two years for higher education processes. If we leave it to private companies to surrogate identity by making access to servers with a login provided by them, to substitute currency with digital money, and replace education, I would say that digital challenges us on at least three other fronts. In this vein, I join those who have spoken, and I hope to be able to contribute to a system, the public system, which was also the basis of my training and for which I am very grateful.
CALIGIURI: Thank you for your constructive and intelligent contribution. Dr Saurini of Save the Children now has the floor.
SAULINI: Good morning everyone, good morning Professor Caligiuri, thank you for the invitation. I’ve heard many speeches, so I won’t repeat some of the things said, but I’d like to come back to the theme of investment, that is, investing in education. Yesterday I was at a conference in Bologna where the EU Commissioner for Education talked about investment in early childhood and the need to put it on the political agenda of the different countries, which many are currently doing. I believe that the theme of early childhood when we think of the educational path and that it starts from 0-6 is a key element. As Save the Children, we have been pushing hard to get the issue of integrating 0-6 and even the first segment, in other words, 0-3, onto the political agenda, because there are studies that show, as we have also done in our small way with a publication in which we demonstrated how inequalities are created from the first 1,000 days right from the first few months of life. However, I believe that it is fundamental when this message has been passed on, here we are talking trivially about nurseries, to take into account what is an enormous gap that we have in our Country. We know that you come from Calabria, where access is around 3%. So the 33% target is very far from being achieved in some regions. However, it should also be considered the other way around, i.e. who are the 60%-70% of children who do not use the service in a region like Emilia Romagna? They are very often children from the most economically disadvantaged families, and they are families and children living in areas without any kind of social, educational or health service. Therefore, when investing, it is also necessary to have a far-sightedness in understanding where to invest the most and with what priority, precisely because it is necessary to pay attention to our country’s differences. The other remark is that, at this moment, resources are going to nurseries. Still, the funds of the National Resilience Plan, which are funds for the nurseries construction, must be supported. Fortunately, the budget law has done it in a perfect way in the basic LEP level on nurseries, putting money that probably will not be enough. Still, the funds of the PNRR must be supported by other integrated funds so that there is a vision. We also talked about this in a recent publication about the resources archipelago, in the 0-6 sector, which can be used as a case study because we can see how political attention and funds were focused in some regions where there were European funds and where it was not possible to invest in the so-called convergence regions, because there was no structure to be able to use that money successfully. The argument that has been put forward at the moment is to understand the effectiveness of the funds that will arrive because, in addition to the critical calls for tender, we have problems with the funds, which are the gaps, socio-economic gaps, gaps between territorial areas, and also gender gaps, as has already been mentioned, but which is a very relevant aspect. I was listening to the interventions at the beginning regarding the data we have in the atlas of children at risk two years ago; we took a whole series of available data disaggregating them by gender. So, when we talk about the LEPs, what perhaps stands out is that there is a gap between girls and boys even in virtuous regions. So, girls do better at school up to a certain point, then when they enter the labour market the situation is reversed and then it is also reversed when, looking at the data, the ratio between boys and girls is 1 to 4 for boys but becomes 1 to 5 for girls and this not only in the southern regions but also in Emilia Romagna and Trentino Alto Adige. So, there is a gender problem. The other fundamental issue, from early childhood onwards, and it is a powerful topic that is also present in the PNRR, is that of canteens and school meals as a moment of integration, not only of the meal but also preparatory to the opening of schools in the afternoon. Once again, a call for tenders has already been opened and launched for school canteens for 1,000 buildings so that it will be limited. Still, a strategy must be put in place if we want to keep schools open with the support of local areas, and once again investments should be focused on the most deprived areas. The problem with calls for proposals is to understand whether the call for proposals affects the territory, and I think this is something to think about in terms of monitoring. There was an indication to build indicators of educational poverty so that the Ministry and the calls could go first of all to invest in those schools, in those places where there is a high rate of school drop out and not only a series of indicators to be agreed and still in progress. Therefore, it is not just a question of funding, of course. I agree with what Professor Ugolini said when she said that we need a vision and that if there is no overall vision, there is no strategy, so it is not just a matter of funds. But it is true that right now, and I will conclude, we are at a time when the pandemic and the funds coming from the European level, in addition to all the negative impact, offer us an opportunity to rethink a school system that, as you said at the very beginning, is one we devote one of the lowest rates of GDP at the European level. Over the years, we have made linear cuts in education and still pay for them today. This is a moment that offers an opportunity not to be missed: we cannot afford to lose everything we can do in terms of monitoring, guiding investments and creating, basically, a system, because we need to give more credit to the ability to plan, spend and invest, so we need to monitor the effectiveness and impact by using data. And we can measure it by verifying whether we are actually impacting by investing that money and that kind of programming. Because, in the end, the ultimate result is to make a real difference to the educational poverty of our children and the other relevant indicators.
CALIGIURI: Thank you, Arianna, you have addressed a fundamental point, that of educational poverty, which is central, especially in the southern regions. Now if Professor Carla Xodo from the University of Padua is on the line, I’ll give her the floor to speak, please Carla.
XODO: First of all, I’d like to thank you for this excellent initiative, which I think we really need, because I don’t want to repeat everything that was said this morning, as many topics have been addressed, and they are topics that we all manage – or at least try to have – but I’d just like to focus on the situation I represent. I was the President of a national pedagogical association that was founded precisely to address the problem of research. I heard colleagues who spoke earlier pointing out that there is little educational research in Italy. It is true, there is not much research in Italy, but still, there is some. The problem is how educational research is done in Italy, and educational research is done, in my opinion, without trying to enhance and expand the empirical dimension of research. We have a lot of theoretical-pedagogical research, a lot of historical-pedagogical research and little empirical research; little empirical research linked to historical research and theoretical-pedagogical research because of a cultural tradition that I am not going to mention again, but that we all have in mind. So we need to strengthen and innovate research by trying to articulate it on all these fronts. We need to have a new research language because when we touch reality, we talk a lot about how education should be, but we do not talk about how education actually is. We struggle to connect with this reality, to assume the language that is actually used in education. It is a question of language and for this reason, I am not shocked, rather: I believe that language is a very lively and mobile reality, language is constantly renewed, and the educational and pedagogical language must also be renewed. I am not shocked, therefore, if the language of education and pedagogy, for example, includes themes and perspectives that are linked to research areas that have always been looked upon with a certain suspicion in our field, such as economics, for example. Education is also an investment in economics because human life is certainly made up of good, good things, but it is also useful. We also work towards the usefulness, not only for the goodness and the beautifulness, as the ancients used to say. I believe that the problem of education, of pedagogy, is to succeed in putting together these three dimensions, not to exclude the one that becomes more problematic to manage. Therefore, to go back to hiding behind old schemes that today must be overcome, because we do not renew and solve the problem of neets, the problem of dispersion, as has been said, if we fail reading reality as it is the case today, and we do not allow ourselves to be less strict on these fronts. So, I am not shocked if we also talk about investing in human capital; why should I be shocked when I read it from an educational point of view? The last issue I want to address is teacher training. The last issue I want to address is teacher training. It has been said that we must not imagine that everything depends on the school, on teachers, because there are also prior difficulties that occur on a social level; we know about different social and socio-cultural realities in our Country, but I also believe that if we talk about education and we are experts in education, in pedagogy, we must also focus on our field and then we must also have the courage to say what is not conveniently realised internally. So, it is pointless to deny that my university and school experience before tells me that there is a tendency that is always present which is that of self-referral: we always go to defend ourselves through this self-referral attitude whereby we always reason by first looking for what suits the institution, suits the maintaining of a status quo, rather than assessing what should instead be provided. Then the problems arise at the social and economic levels. We must therefore also have the courage to say that by reasoning in terms of self-referentiality we cannot deny we must avoid this way of thinking; we have not yet decided how to train a teacher in Italy since public schools were established. We have experimented with certain methods, we have instituted the orsai, we have instituted the TFA, etc., etc. However, we still do not know how to train a teacher, and this is a fundamental problem, which affects and grasps that aspect that has been highlighted, for which having resources is not enough. To have innovative laws is not enough; it is also necessary to have builders who know how to build houses. And here I’ll stop because in my opinion, we are facing a research problem, a problem of creating a scientific community that engages in a dialogue from a research point of view. I believe that Eurispes’ initiative is crucial precisely because, as an external body, it can overcome many of the dialogue issues that occur within the academic community. Also, it encourages this community from an external and unitary point of view, which is fundamental to give an innovative impetus to solving the many problems we are facing. Thank you.
CALIGIURI: Thank you, dear Carla, for the very wise, very suitable contribution you have given us, and we will undoubtedly take up the suggestions you have given us. Now, the floor is given to Dr Gerolamo Balata, the Director of the Eurispes office in the vital region of Sardinia.
BALATA: Good morning, President, thank you for inviting me to be part of this prestigious Committee. A greeting to the Observatory Director Mario Caligiuri and the Scientific Committee’s authoritative members. I have listened with interest to the preliminary reports, especially where education policies are placed at the centre of the public debate. Today, after a brief introduction, I will share with you the experience of the Eurispes regional office in Sardinia, which considered it necessary, during the pandemic, to launch a phase of study and research within schools to check how teenagers were experiencing that difficult phase of their lives, as it could have adverse effects on their cultural, civil and social development. The school, as we all know, has played, especially in the past, a fundamental role in students’ personal development, encouraging the process of building their identity. Today, this role needs to be reassessed considering the changes taking place, due above all to technological advancements. The school experience is essential for individual growth, as long as the school, the family and society, in general, adopt educational means and methods that are more in tune with the times. From their earliest years, children grow up in a world that moves faster than in the past. They are immediately involved in technology and live in total harmony with communication tools, almost always escaping adults’ control. Such an environment necessarily influences the daily life of children and pupils. The language changes, time changes and the way of relating to each other changes as well. It is necessary to find a meeting point that promotes the dialogue between young people, adults and institutions. The pandemic has certainly not encouraged this dialogue; on the contrary, it has further detached young people from reality. In fact, by constantly living on the net, being almost always connected, they have ended up living a virtual identity. The relationship between young people and the net has led to a series of critical emerging issues and has worsened several phenomena that unfortunately already existed, such as cyber-bullying and early school dropout. In our opinion, these phenomena needed, without exception, to be analysed, given the gravity of their occurrence and their negative impact on young people’s civil, cultural, and social development. The first lockdown and the following adoption of distance learning in schools, after an initial moment of confusion that affected all of us, suggested that we should use the tools used for remote education as an opportunity to undertake research and study within the school, opening the door to an in-depth examination of the problems that the new situation had generated or increased, including educational problems. Thanks to the tools used for distance learning, it was judged necessary to carry out a survey on cyberbullying in schools in Sardinia with the aim of offering the school community and institutions useful elements for discussion and planning interventions for teenagers’ cultural and civic development. In addition to cyberbullying, other surveys were carried out: one on distance learning and its devastating effects on early school leaving, which is a very important phenomenon in Sardinia, on the relationship between young people and the Internet and on the problem of smoking in schools. A total of about 200 schools were involved, representing the different geographical areas of Sardinia. The questionnaires prepared for each survey were included with a link to the distance learning tools, school platform and electronic register. As far as cyberbullying is concerned, three links were included: one for students, one for teachers and one for parents. We consider this last survey a unique experience, which allowed us to explore a wide and composite audience; about 6,000 questionnaires were administered. Obviously, for this kind of survey to be effective, all the institutions must be involved, especially schools, which must be more agile and open to the local community. It is essential to rethink a school that has the capacity to relate in different ways, both internally and externally. To achieve these ambitious but not impossible goals, it is essential not only to upgrade the school building infrastructure but also to implement measures aimed at a different kind of teacher training. This training should not be occasional, but continuous, and it was also described as essential in the conclusions of the survey we carried out; it was also mentioned as one of the priority actions in the recently approved National Reform Programme. I think I’ve finished by adding that, in my opinion, training measures for families should also be identified, especially about digital education, thank you.
CALIGIURI: Thank you, Director. If Professor Fabbri can hear us from the train, I will now pass the floor to him.
FABBRI: Yes, I can hear you. I have major connection problems now, so I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make a speech. A few words to thank you, thank you personally, Mario, thank you and the President of Eurispes of the consistent commitment. I would just like to say this: we have heard valuable speeches, great insights, in-depth analyses, even across many areas. One aspect remains a priority in these months and years: I was always proud to say to my students ‘are you aware that the educational experience has remained the only experience with extensive aggregation and socialisation possibilities? As is well known, we live in an increasingly fragmented and increasingly molecularised social context, full of solitudes but also poor in solitudes, and we were the ones left able to foster the meeting, the exchange, the relationship, the socialisation, the experience. Since the pandemic, all this has disappeared, even within the educational experience. So, I am not prejudicially opposed to distance learning. Still, it must be an additional resource to avoid the terrible consequences that distance learning, the way it is implemented in these schools, has had on our students’ learning. Invalsi tells us this about schools, but we know very well that this is also the case for universities: the last few years have been truly awful years in terms of quality, creating an entire generation of students who are not prepared to face their professional responsibilities. So let me say, let’s start again with attendance. Of course, we can move into the extreme horizons of artificial intelligence. Still, these are horizons that are yet to come, requiring the creation of areas, skills and knowledge, including technological and educational expertise, which we do not currently have. I say this with some emphasis because even in the university environment we are now… (connection lost)
CALIGIURI: If Professor Fabbri cannot reconnect, let’s see later today. Professor Fabbri is Director of the Department of Education Sciences at the Alma Mater of Bologna and, therefore, the oldest university in the Western world and is President of SIPeGeS, the Italian Society of General and Social Pedagogy.
Fabbri (connection returned)
I don’t know if you heard me…
CALIGIURI: Let’s wait for your conclusions so we can end the conference.
FABBRI: I don’t know if you heard me because it seems that the connection is running out. I was simply suggesting that we open a transparent, neutral, and frank debate, not spoilt by pre-established ideological positions because within this debate, there can be both the reasons for face-to-face teaching and the reasons for distance teaching, as long as they are not seen as mutually antagonistic and alternative to each other. Thank you very much again, and I wish you all the best; thank you.
CALIGIURI: Thank you for your contribution; although we have lost a few pieces, we should have perfectly understood the meaning. So now I greet Professor Pier Giuseppe Rossi, who was connected until a short while ago and then had to leave. Pier Giuseppe Rossi is the former President of the Italian Society for Research on Media Education. Let us conclude by thanking all the participants, starting with the President of Eurispes, Gian Maria Fara, and the main speakers: Professor Antonio Uricchio, Professor Roberto Ricci, and Professor Luigina Mortari, who, for family reasons, will be sending us her written contribution in the next few days. Today was a very important opening day. A marathon of almost three and a half hours, as we had planned.
We listened to some fascinating points of view, not all of which converged, but this is essential and was unavoidable given the vastness and complexity of the problems on the table. I will not focus on the many exciting topics discussed for obvious reasons, but we will do so during our Observatory activities. The Observatory, as President Fara pointed out, is a meeting point, a place for different thoughts, an attractor of minds with increasingly innovative and changing multiple visions. I would like to reiterate the essential concept: education is such an important issue that no one has complete control over it, nor is it an issue that can be addressed from a limited personal perspective. Therefore, it is necessary, if I may use the word and the comparison, to carry out intelligence work to unite the bridges of those who want to build, identify the relevant data, and determine structural changes, which are those that matter and have meaning. Therefore, it is necessary to define what is needed and, above all, who actually does things, because listing problems is helpful to have points of reference. Still, it is useless if you do not follow through. We see that more than required resources, the problems require a quality of expenditure, but above all a political vision, because schools, like all the significant issues, education, is an essentially political issue. The problems are the same as they were 20 years ago, and they have even increased by far. They have become more complex. We must act quickly: the PNRR represents an opportunity with all its limitations. Not surprisingly, it is one of the three critical points of our activity. We are starting with cultural dissemination to include the theme of education in place of that of the economy in the political and scientific debate in our Country and then monitoring the PNRR. But more than expenditure, we are monitoring reforms. Eurispes’ Italy Report this year will have a significant focus on education, but, more importantly, we will try to implement it in the coming years. Today we are setting out on a path, a difficult challenge, very difficult, but it is the only path that can make sense. It is the only one that makes sense, because there is no point in maintaining the damage, in other words, detailed interventions, reforms of the reforms, but rather structural initiatives that are vital and must be implemented quickly. There is a basic need for vision, there is a need for clarity, and Yuval Noah Harari, the Israeli historian, says that “in a world flooded with irrelevant information, clarity is power”. We hope that our Observatory can contribute to greater lucidity in the public debate, the political debate, and the educational debate in our Country. Greetings to all and we hope to see you again soon.