Teachers have always been considered government employees; however, they have their own collective bargaining unit at school level. Educational reforms have lead to increased decentralization. Individual schools are becoming the groups primarily responsible for the administration and management of the teaching staff. The Ministry of Public Instruction continues to be responsible for orientation, coordination, and verification of teaching status.
Until 1997-1998 primary school teachers were trained at upper secondary schools (Istitutos Magistrales) for four years where the curriculum included academic courses on teacher training that included theory, methods, and teaching practice. Since 1998 nursery school and elementary teacher education are required to complete a four-year university degree (Laurea).
Secondary school teachers always had been required to attend and earn a university degree in a specialized field. They may obtain the designation of Abilitazione from two-year specialization schools (Scuole di Specializzazione). Those wishing to take the teaching exam (cattedre) must have this designation. Teachers must pass another exam (concorso) to obtain professional teaching status. Teachers also receive training on the integration of special needs students, such handicapped students; some teachers have a specialization in areas of special education. Teachers in recognized private schools must meet the same qualifications as public school teachers.
School principals or head teachers (Preside, Direttore Didattico, or Dirigente Scolastici) are responsible for the overall management of the school, including instructional, financial, and personnel issues and represent the school within the community. They report directly to the Provincial Director of Education. The principals or head teachers coordinate all school activities and are responsible for meeting legislative provisions. They must guarantee equal opportunity and equity of resources to all students, taking into account the sociocultural needs of the community. These school leaders implement School Council decisions; organize the school internally, promoting and coordinating activities for faculty and staff; and develop class schedules, teacher assignments, and student disciplinary action. Other teachers or administrative directors may assist the principal or head teacher.
The recruitment of new Dirigente Scolastici is done through a course-competition announced by the Ministry of Public Instruction. Teachers with a university degree (Laurea) who have been teaching for at least seven years can be admitted to this competition. Teachers who complete the general training course-competition satisfactorily and who meet placement qualifications can be placed in primary and middle schools. Teachers who complete specific secondary training can be placed as head teachers in upper secondary schools.
The School Council (Consiglio di Istituto) is responsible for budgetary methods and the organization and planning of non-educational extra curricular activities. The council decides on the purchase of school equipment, teaching materials, and other resources; on the use of school facilities for curricular and extra curricular activities, including sports; on the remedial and support courses to be offered, and on the cooperative efforts with other schools and community groups. The council includes teachers, parents, and students. The chair of the council is an elected parent representative, and the principal serves an ex-officio member.
Teaching and educational activities are the responsibility of the principal, the Teachers' Assembly (Collegio dei Docenti), the Interclass Council (Consiglio d'Interclasse) for primary schools and Class Council (Consiglio de Classe) for secondary schools. The Teachers' Assembly is composed of all the permanent and temporary teachers of each primary school group or individual primary or secondary school and is chaired by the school principal. The Teachers' Assembly is responsible for teaching and educational plans for each school year. The group must follow national legislation and guidelines and be cognizant of community needs and concerns. It encourages academic freedom and interdisciplinary teaching and learning. The Teachers Assembly is also responsible for evaluating teacher performance, selecting textbooks and other resources in consultation with teachers and parents, and for providing inservice for teachers and staff.
Rectors are univerisities' legal representatives. The faculty members at each university select someone among them to serve as rector or president. The rector carries out the decisions of the academic senate (Senato Academico), the university decision-making body regarding academics and other educational issues. The president also works with the Consiglio di Administrazione, the board responsible for administrative and financial management. Various faculties within departments carry out instructional and research activities in fields of specialization. University teaching requires a doctorate in a field of specialization. The Faculty Committee, comprised of deans, professors and researchers, coordinates and carries out the academic responsibilities of the university related to curriculum, scholarship, and student advising. The committee makes decisions about teaching and research. Students may be a part of this committee. Inspectors visit schools to ensure that educational objectives are being met.
The federal government finances public education by providing salaries for teachers and staff and purchasing textbooks and other instructional materials and resources. Most funding is sent directly to regional and provincial offices for schools to use as they deem appropriate following guidelines from the Ministry of Public Instruction. The School Council is responsible for allocating funding for school maintenance, facilities, equipment, library expenditures, and academic resources. Preliminary budgets are prepared by an Executive Board elected by the School Council and chaired by the school principal. The school secretary, an ex-officio member of the board, is responsible for recording accounting and expenses.
University rectors are responsible for posting recruitment needs, procedures, and competitive exams for the posts of full, associate, and research professor. University faculty includes full professors and associate professors. Full professors are professors with tenure of first level (Professori di Prima Fascia or Ordinari), and associate professors have tenure of second level (Professori di Seconda Fascia). Professorial levels are assured academic freedom in teaching and research. Research professors (Professori di Ricerca) contribute to the development of research and integrate and apply it to their teaching.
Contract professors are hired according to Ministry for Universities for Scientific and Technical Research (MURST) regulations for one- to six-year contracts to teach and assist in scholarship activities with professors and university students within specific fields of specialization. Budget considerations may limit these contracts. Native language collaborators and linguistic experts who have earned a Laurea may be hired to work on specific research projects with faculty and students for a specific time period. Lecturers from other countries are also hired for their areas of expertise and work for a limited contract period.
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