Given that it is the end of the semester here in Italy I thought I would write about some differences I have observed regarding school. The first noticeable difference is the schedule of the school. The school day lasts for only five hours. The school week is, however, six days. Though the schedule is different, the students spend the same time learning as the students at Montpelier High School. The structure of the day is broken up into five one hour periods with a small break between the 3rd and the 4th hour. Most of the classes last one hour but occasionally they are two hours long. Every student is required to take every class except religion. As an exchange student, however, I am allowed to select the classes I take and during the time when I am not in class I study in the library. Unlike in America, different classes are studied more than others. Because Liceo Scientifico has a focus in math and science we study math for four hours a week and history for only two hours a week. Extracurricular activities like gym and art are for only two hours during the week.
The style of teaching is also different. I can relate the style of teaching most closely to what I experienced in AP US History last year. The style of teaching is such that the students read a part of a textbook and then during class, the teacher discusses this text in more detail. For the test, the student rereads the information in the book and the notes on the teacher’s discussion of the topic. This method emphasizes teaching students how to reproduce facts. There are no projects or research for further analysis. It is true that the Italian students learn more information than at Montpelier High School during the school year but because of the quantity of material, there is very little time for the students to review. The students cram to learn information in a given time frame, have a test and then forget what they have learned. In the Italian High School, there is very little time dedicated diving below the surface. For example, in middle school, I learned how to research and propose certain arguments supported by evidence. Only now in 11th, they are beginning to read opinion news articles.
The Italian school system is great at having the students acquire large amounts of information on a wide range of subjects however it lacks in providing the tools to see the connections between this information. Studying at my school I did not have the opportunity to study as many subjects as here in Italy, however, I learned important tools that can be used outside the classroom. In addition, my school felt more like a community based on supporting learning and less like a place only designed for only gaining information. My classmates were people I could collaborate with on projects. My teachers were people who wanted me to understand the information and find joy in learning it. My teachers looked outside the box and tried to make the classroom experience more interesting and accepting to different learning types. Before I went on an exchange I did not always enjoy whole school activities. But after being in a place where gaining information is the only objective of school I began to miss it. I appreciate spirit weeks, morning announcements, school musicals, school soccer games, the harvest festival. When something isn’t there you realize how important it is to you. Being on the exchange I have begun to appreciate the things back home and I have begun to understand the importance of community.
Both the Italian school system and the Montpelier school system have their strengths and weaknesses, but if I had the choice I would choose the Montpelier school system because it is a community which uses a number of different styles for teaching its students. However, I think it could be improved by acquiring some of the aspects of the Italian system like having Latin and Physics as subjects that everyone learns. While studying abroad it is great having the opportunity to go to a new school because you have the opportunity to see a different system of learning. You have the opportunity to compare and contrast and discover the things that you like between them. The world is a diverse place with different ideas for teaching. I believe that by seeing all the methods you can discover a model of school that is the best. Test scores are not the only thing when it comes to finding the best school system. You have to be in the classroom studying to have the full picture. I have had only a small view into the Italian classroom during this semester. I have learned a lot from the writings of Dante to the theory of “Consciousness” in the classroom, however, I have also learned information that is not included in textbooks: the different ways we teach and learn in this world.