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The Long Read: The “Good School” reform aims to fill the gap between the classroom and the workplace

by Stefania Giannini*

The exchange between the education system and the labor market is a crucial part of Law 107/2015, also known as the “Good School” legislation. The law promotes and introduces in the school system a number of hours (200 hours for high schools, 300 for professional and technical institutes, to be used during the final three years of studies, also in the afternoon) that students spend on the workplace, as well as at private and public institutions.

Let me be clear: this is the most ambitious attempt to overhaul the Italian education system, still based on the assumption “Learn first, do later.”

From this year, the direction changes: apprenticeship becomes a tool for learning and enhancing skills.

This is not about copying Germany, I would say, but about Italy as it used to be and as it is when it works: the country of Renaissance workshops, of innovation coming from our small multinational groups, where living and understanding beauty and the work behind it becomes an essential part of taste, style and Italian culture.

Such exchange culturally goes beyond the internship experience: it combines education with working experience. It relaunches, through a careful process of controls, verification, certifications prepared by teachers and mentors from the companies involved, an innovative, creative and experimental dynamism for an education system that returns to be an agency for the territory, a leading subject that knows how to guide, that does not chase work, but seizes and creates new work opportunities.

It's a strategic, executive and structural project: from 2016, the Education Ministry will invest in education and work exchange €100 million per year. More than 10 times the investment last year. The primary goal is to put the student at the center of curriculum and disciplinary processes, regenerated through an experience of combined education built by opening the school system to the world outside.

Such a model reduces school dropout and favors not only professional development - the jobs that our children will do in 10 years have not been created yet - but also across-the-board skills, creativity, ethics of responsibility, and teamwork.

In few words, we lay solid foundations for the leaders of the next generations.

In the exchange model that we are creating for Italy, work is not an apprenticeship tool only for students of technical and professional schools, but also for high school students. In this case, the cooperation with local administrations and cultural institutions of our country becomes essential.

An education system aiming at analytical, pragmatic and processes training, that opens the door to local identities and values active citizenship finds in culture and arts an opportunity of essential education.

The exchange between education and jobs can be a tool to seal the partnership between education and culture.

The idea is simple: education as an experience to support culture, and culture as an experience to boost education. This idea has inspired the Memorandum of Understanding between the Education and the Culture Ministries (Miur and Mibact) “to create opportunities to access knowledge through the structural cooperation between education and cultural institutions, in order to develop a society of knowledge.”

Culture, with its “challenge related to the cultural, environmental, social, economic and technological transformation” is a first test for a school system that is deeply contemporary, and capable of developing social capital.

Education becomes the first driver to protect and create value from culture. The more culture is defended, protected, and emphasized, the more it becomes a potential form of growth and education, an open laboratory for methodologies, problems and experiences - the same living laboratory where the education of our students is truly “vertical”, expression of identities, linked to the memory of the past, but also “horizontal”, across-the-board, delocalized, cross-cultural, innovative, in tune with the means and languages that communicate knowledge.

The first project, which follows the Education-Culture Ministries agreement, is the “Pompeii system”: one of the big symbols of world culture becomes the stage to educate and create value through the exchange between school and work.

We are working with Culture Minister Dario Franceschini and the Superintendence of Pompeii to create an education program for more than 1,000 students as part of a network of 15 schools, with the cooperation of several public and private subjects.

Students will take on the challenge, by establishing a tight-knit local network (the archeological site, schools, local institutions, businesses, and the services sector) and an education in progress, capable of producing skills and experience while emphasizing the identity of local services and products: programs focused on technology, cultural marketing, environment and landscape, including park maintenance, arts and science, and technical diagnostics.

A lot has been said recently about “critical thinking,” especially following a proposal by Armando Massarenti: thinking about the role of education as a fundamental strategy to reform the contemporary society. The exchange project of the “Pompeii System” is a strong example of advanced critical thinking.

The strategic issue of culture elevates the idea of education, which is never a formal acquisition of skills, but an effective, conscious exercise of civic sense: the awareness, the attention to landscape and things; the creation of cultural goods and action to relaunch the territory, let alone memory, the wealth of an open discussion where every generation is called to give an answer.

The Pompeii System is a model that can be repeated nationwide. And there are already many schools which have successfully seized the opportunity offered by Law 107 to build programs of work exchange with the cultural system.

It would be a good thing if this and other newspapers committed to report, in the months to come, about this positive initiatives.

The government will be by schools' side to ensure that the transition toward the new education model evolves at its best. And to make sure that schools, every school, become the pillar and a driver of creativity and work, an engine of cultural heritage, social and multicultural cohesion of territories.

*Stefania Giannini is Minister For Education, University and Research


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