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Graduating Italian high school students have fared poorly in written tests.
To tackle this negative trend, several universities have recently launched special grammar courses for first year students, hoping that what they failed to learn in elementary school can now be recovered.
So whose fault is it? Leaving aside that the Italian language is considered one of the most complicated in the world, Italy’s education system in recent years has been rocked by a series of destabilizing reforms that have ended up creating total chaos.
Since the 1960s lawmakers (both left- and right-wing) have tried making the school more meritocratic and innovative through the introduction of credits and the multiplication of subjects and faculties. But instead of modernizing the system, the changes brought about by successive governments triggered fragmentation, says education expert Fabrizio Reberschegg.
Computer studies and English language courses were introduced at elementary school, but without great results considering that most foreign language teachers are non-native speakers.
According to high school teacher Marco Lodoli, who several years ago wrote an alarming article on daily La Repubblica, "students have lost the ability to think and they live in silence."
For Rosa Maria Scrugli, a retired Italian language teacher, a great responsibility of the grammatical void among students lies with the teachers themselves.
“It’s not the students’ fault if they can’t spell their verbs or write a logical sentence, but of the teacher who has a poor preparation. Ten years ago, professors constantly attended refresher courses. We had to keep up with the transformation of the Italian language and at the same time rehearse our Latin and Greek syntax. It doesn’t work this way anymore.”
And according to one student, who admitted to hopelessly failing her Italian exam: “I don’t think it’s such a big issue. Language is rapidly changing thanks to the influence of internet and new ways of writing are appearing,” said 18-year-old Luisa Ranier.
Her friend Marco Bignani, 19, will start working at his father's bar in September. He passed his high school exams with a C. "What's the point of learning proper Italian if I'm not going to university?" he asked. "After all, I will be serving coffees and beers for the rest of my life."