It’s been a while since I wrote about the Italian education system, specifically as relates to my daughter. Last year, her second at the liceo artistico, was a disaster. She started the year with three academic “debits” – courses she had failed the year before, and was expected to study over the summer and be tested on in the fall. She and others in her situation were given extra tutoring by the same teacher who had done such a poor job of teaching them math and physics the previous year. Needless to say, it did not do them a lot of good, especially as they were at the same time trying to keep up with all the new material being introduced in class (by the same poorly-organized teacher*). They were given two chances at the make-up exams; Ross flunked all of them.
We were puzzled as to her status at that point. The head teacher (of her class’ group of teachers) explained that she would carry forward the academic debits, which would be taken into consideration when determining her status at the end of the second year. If she passed the second year, the debits would simply be erased and forgotten. This seemed odd, since failing to pass the tests meant that she had never properly assimilated the first-year material, and now would never have another opportunity to do so.
In any case , Ross had fallen into a vicious cycle of assuming that she would fail tests, and then fulfilling that promise; none of us was surprised to be told that she would have to repeat the second year (along with a number of her classmates). Local headlines said that it was a record year for flunking in Lecco, with students at one school even contemplating a lawsuit (on what grounds I don’t know).
Although she partly (and with some justice) blamed herself, Ross was bitter, and did not look forward to repeating the year at the same school. We couldn’t think of any workable alternative, except to try the “traditional” four-year curriculum at the same liceo artistico, which would involve more hours of studio art, and no math or physics after the second year. None of us was sure this was a great idea, since the traditional program had the reputation of being a parking lot for kids who had failed repeatedly and were simply waiting to be old enough to leave school for good. But we gritted our teeth and hoped for the best.
As we got closer to September, Ross increasingly dreaded returning to school, and was thoroughly depressed by the time it started on the 12th. The first day confirmed her worst fears: her new classmates were all demotivated rejects from other schools and classes. Liceo artistico tradizionale was not the answer.
But Ross quickly found her own solution. Many of her friends attend, and recommend, a local private school. So Enrico visited the place on Tuesday, Ross and I had a look on Wednesday, we enrolled her Thursday, and she started Monday morning. Ever since we made this decision, Ross has been motivated and enthusiastic about school as I haven’t seen her in years – which is wonderful!
One irony lies in the curriculum. This school offers two indirizzi (tracks), liceo linguistico Europeo (European linguistic) and liceo della communicazione. Ross can’t do the linguistico now, having missed a year of Latin and German – too much material to catch up. The curriculum that best fits the work she’s already done and the subjects she’s interested in is communications, with a subspecialty in technology, leading to a maturita’ (national school-leaving exam) in science. This is the same exam she would have done if she had gone to liceo scientifico, an option she would never have considered! In this curriculum she’ll have extra math (five hours a week total), plus physics and chemistry, as well as IT courses. And, so far, she’s perfectly tranquil about this choice. Maybe she got her father’s math gene after all.
So, after years of pain, things are looking hopeful on the educational front. I’m sure it won’t be an entirely smooth ride, but, hell, it couldn’t get much worse than what we’ve already been through!
Tuesday: Two days in the new school – so far, so good…
* We later learned that this teacher was trying to cope at home with a husband dying of cancer… In the circumstances, it would have been in everybody’s best interest – especially the students’ – to give her a paid leave of absence.
next: school year abroad?