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The first "reform" (introduced by a "center-left" government) was to reduce the "basic degree" to a three year program, and, in effect, to "water it down" by
imposing various "boundary conditions" on the curriculum. One of my astute colleagues maintains that the politicians, while ostensibly increasing local autonomy, managed to impose enough "side conditions" so
that it is essentially impossible to achieve a really
desirable curriculum. When I say "the politicians" I should specify that I include the "academic politicians", i.e. academic big-wigs who run the consultative commissions for the parliament.
This is not to minimize or criticize the efforts of faculties throughout Italy to make the best of the situation and to innovate effectively. Nevertheless, the result has occasionally seemed to be an adoption of the worst aspects of the American educational system, except,of course, for "compulsory football", i.e. big time athletics and athletics departments.
With the introduction of the two-year "European style" master's degree, the situation is returning to the status quo ante , with both hopeful signs
and inevitable damage as a result of the earlier "reform". With the new 3+2 we will return to the something similar to the earlier 5 year "laurea".
(There is also a good Doctoral program, administered in
the case of my university through a consortium of
several Italian universities.)
Naturally, the quality of the faculties has remained unchanged, so the deleterious aspects of the "reform" have been attenuated by many highly competent and energetic teachers and researchers. At present however there is a justified long-term protest over treatment of young researchers under the present system as well as the proposed "reforms" in that treatment.
The present fear is that another "reform" will only
worsen what had already been damaged by the first "reform". In my view, but not mine alone, a reasonable
initial reform would have been to do little more than
give the students three years to complete what had been a very difficult two year "shakedown cruise", i.e. to
spread the very tough first two years over a three
year period. This was essentially impossible to do, by reason of the new requirements introduced for the
3-year degree (laurea triennale).
Finally, I should point out that despite what is undoubtedly a transnational downward trend in student scholastic preparation (the TV-effect), the 5 year Italian high-schools (especially the "licei classici" and "licei scientific"
still produce well-prepared students. Thus, after a three year university degree the result is (at least) comparable to the typical U.S. college bachelor's degree. Previously, it was similar to a U.S. master's degree.
Let me close, as I began, by stating clearly that these
are merely personal opinions, and by no means well-informed opinions. I expect and welcome corrections to what I have written here.
Hannah K. O'Luthon
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