Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Education in Italy

Time recently published an article about the disaffected Italian under 40's, which includes the paragraph:

Today's Italy is defined by stories like that of Vincenza Lasala. At 32, four years after graduating with honors in mechanical engineering, she is living with her parents in the same house where she grew up. She has sent more than 200 résumés to large corporations and small companies around the country, but all she has managed to secure are a handful of part-time stints, unpaid internships and training programs. From her home in the sleepy southern town of Avellino, near Naples, a frustrated Lasala speaks for much of Italy's younger generation: "Without a job, my parents are basically still in charge of my life. After all my studying, I don't see the fruits of my effort. Right now, I can't even envision my future."
I read the article and felt all the things a sensitive person feels in response to this sort of news, but I didn't think it had much to do with me. I live in a different country, my political insight is limited at best - the whole situation seemed remote somehow.

Then, yesterday, I picked up (somewhat belatedly) the Time magazine of 8 May and read a letter that brought it oh, so much closer to home and into a realm I could get a handle on. The letter comes from Giulio Cicconi in Teramo, Italy:
While you cited cultural, social and economic reasons that young, educated Italians under 40 still live with their parents, you failed to mention the outdated and inadequate teaching system. Since education doesn't focus on practical, market-orientated subjects, Italy's potential workforce is full of talented and educated youths who are inexperienced and struggle to find their place in the labor market. A first-class degree doesn't help when you are faced with high rent, a housing crisis and double-digit unemployment.
This is ageism at the opposite end of the spectrum than is experienced in the UK, and Cicconi has pigeonholed a possible reason for the problem: irrelevant education. And is the need for relevance in learning not the song we learning-geeks sing long, loud and repetitively to whomsoever will listen?

Even if I knew how to remodel the Italian education system (which I don't pretend to), I wouldn't know how to begin gaining the ear of the national education department. But maybe, just maybe, the noise we make on the blogosphere will reach the ears of someone who does know how and can make a difference.


Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher said...

It is hard to know how mechanical engineering would be irrelevant in Italy. Good engineers are hard to find! I would wonder if she graduated with honors how that engineering degree would compare with engineering degrees around the world. It points to how great it would be to have standards for many professional degrees around the world.

Great post!

Anonymous said...

It is hard to imagine, Vicki, but according to the article (which is well worth the read, together with the response letters in later editions) this young woman certainly seems to be typical rather than an exception.

If it is true that the education system is letting these young people down, let us hope that someone pays it some attention toot sweet.

Considering that these young people all have the vote, one presumes they have the collective clout to make their feelings known.

Stefanaccio said...

Best to have raccomandazioni in order to locate your first (and perhaps your only paid position).
Teramo Italy