Reflections on education in Italy
October 2, 2021 – 6:34 PM
We choose the advice of local education experts with thoughtful contributions from Simon Gammell, director of the British Institute; Carla Guarducci, President and CEO, Lorenzo De ‘Medici – The Italian International Institute; Alexandre colombo, director of AD Education Italia / Accademia Italiana, and Ylenja Lucaselli, Italian deputy.
They are back! Not as much as before the pandemic, but on the streets of my neighborhood of Oltrarno, you again meet groups of young Americans, filling the space with their bubbling enthusiasm. They are here for the time of their lives, in one of 45 study abroad programs in the United States. It’s great that they are coming back.
Before the pandemic, there was a bit of negative stereotyping around the 10 to 15,000 American students who come every year: too many rowdy parties spoiling the streets and creating a hubbub. But the determined efforts of local youth to turn Piazza Santo Spirito into a permanent rave over the past year (when there were no American students in town) have instead undermined that caricature. Instead, the city is now determined to welcome international students as temporary residents who make a significant contribution, in part because they stay longer than regular tourists: 30,000 international students spend an estimated 2.4 million nights per year in Florence. This overhaul benefits from the concrete support of the Tourist and Convention Office of Destination Florence, with a new program entitled Belong (nifty pun, right?).
Florence is a major international center for higher education. Next to the American university programs, there are prestigious colleges such as the European University Institute and Polimoda, as well as the University of Florence of course, which also attracts 4,000 international students each year, as well as many other academies, schools. art and research centers. There is much to be done to realize the full potential of the sector, a key part of Florence’s burgeoning knowledge economy and start-up scene, including fostering better collaboration between different colleges and programs. , by strengthening the links between research and industry and by simplifying bureaucracy.
But, for now, we can celebrate the return of international students and welcome them very warmly.
Director, The British Institute of Florence
Studying is a privilege; it’s something we should never forget. And studying in Florence is priceless, for a myriad of reasons that will never change.
The world of education has suffered and students around the world have been forced to change the way they learn, in front of a computer, at home, without the empathy and connection that only time with a teacher can provide.
Education will not be the same as before and all of us who work in this world should not underestimate this aspect. Many opportunities have arisen from the ashes of a now redundant model which is no longer in tune with the times. By that, I do not mean that face-to-face learning is not fundamental, but that the classroom format where the teacher explains and the pupils listen is no longer interesting; it is too far removed from the world of work and the interaction between people.
During these two years, the concept of school evolved into something different. The physical place has disappeared and only the act of educating remains. It gives us new stimuli; school is not the place, but the way we learn. With the same logic, we could argue that an entire city could be a “school” and that a place like Florence could offer even more potential than it already has.
Imagine classes in a park (think Boboli!), In a café overlooking piazza della Signoria, as well as a craftsman’s workshop, a theater, or sitting in front of the Arno as the river flows. If we want to dream of a more “scattered” school, now is the time to do it, and maybe we could go further and think of our classmates as travelers, or even a lot of passing tourists. . They are people after all and among them we could find experts in a range of subjects. One thing can lead to another and soon we will have a knowledge exchange that will enrich us all.
If the question is, where do I see the future of education once the pandemic is over, there is only one answer: Florence.
Director, AD Education Italia / Accademia Italiana
The enthusiasm and energy of the students arriving in Florence is the greatest recognition of all we have done to ensure their safety and compliance with legal requirements.
It’s more than enthusiasm; it shows determination and awareness. Our Mexican students were forced to spend ten days in quarantine and they did so without complaint, happy to be here and eager to start their studies.
The difficulties of traveling–vaccines, green pass, quarantine–sharpened their conscience. Our students know exactly what they want, even in their choice of course, and value their experience; they have never been so motivated and see only the goal instead of the obstacles in their path.
The situation forced us to work with more creativity and knowledge in terms of finding solutions: small groups, new layout of classrooms and workshops, new cleaning procedures, orientation and in-person and online classes. We try to listen to our students as much as possible, striving to understand their needs and doubts through constant and attentive dialogue. For my colleagues, it was a period of struggle, of course, but also of growth and confirmation of the passion that we put into our work.
We now have over 300 students, which is less than 50% of pre-pandemic levels, but that’s an increase from last year’s numbers. What is positive is that we are seeing a lot of enthusiasm for next spring with even more countries interested than in the past, bringing cultural richness to our school.
The perseverance and the will to be in Florence of our students give us a responsibility and an energy which allows us to overcome any difficulties and to look to the future with confidence.
Chairman and CEO, Lorenzo De ‘Medici – The Italian International Institute
Today more than ever, the internationalization of the learning offer of Italian universities, in particular with regard to the attraction of international students, is essential for Italy to follow global trends in education.
To achieve this, it is essential to give this internationalization a meaning that openly goes beyond the European context.
For a time, the international openness of our universities made the continental and European dimension prevail. Then it moved to the extraordinary success of the Europeanization of higher education in the EU, which does not seem to be a problem today, to the detriment of the introduction of integration processes to take as a model to encourage and drive similar processes regionally and globally.
It is to this awareness of the global dimension posed by the question of higher education that we must aim today. The growing demand is manifested by the imposition of migratory dynamics, which constitutes a challenge for national universities, while offering them new opportunities which are not limited to the European context.
The challenges and opportunities are often viewed in terms of competition. Words have become a sort of mantra, which seems intended to structure the whole conversation about internationalization. In fact, improving higher education globally is above all a response to the needs of the planet.
As we will see, the internationalization of a single university or a single university system can bring benefits to that university or that system. However, there is no contradiction between pursuing them and working for global development and its sustainability. In addition, the mission of universities has always been transnational.
In terms of competition, it would seem more appropriate to use the notion of coopetition, coined at the beginning of the 20th century, to designate situations in which the reasons to compete and to cooperate go hand in hand. This is the situation we find ourselves in at the global level.
Therefore, we can only consider that the most offered by internationalized education comes from the possibility of integrating and merging different modes of teaching and educational cultures. From this point of view, welcoming students to our universities and creating links with foreign universities to facilitate the access of our young people abroad is the real key to a complete education and an immersion in an educational experience. which includes culture and territory.