“Art and image” was established as a compulsory school discipline in 2003, replacing “Image education” in primary schools, and “Arts education” in lower secondary schools.
As for upper secondary education, there are two main categories of schools: licei (like a British grammar school), which are more academic in nature, and istituti (including Art Institutes, a particular form of professional institute which offers an education focused on art and drawing and leads to an arts qualification – Art Teacher diploma), which are essentially vocational schools. A reform law issued in 2008 by the then centre-right coalition (Law 133/2008, named “Riforma Gelmini” after the Education Minister, introduced major changes in the education system also as far as arts and cultural education are concerned. The main innovation in this field was the creation of a new High School specifically devoted to Music and Dance disciplines (liceo musicale e coreutico), while Fine Arts High Schools (licei artistici) were reorganised into 6 specialised courses (indirizzi): visual arts; architecture and environment; audiovisual and multimedia; design; graphics; set and stage design.
Among other things, the law caused much controversy due to the reduction of art history teaching hours, most notably in the Classical and Fine Arts High Schools. Although Renzi’s government promised to bolster the teaching of art history once again, thereby implicitly recognising the existing flaws in school curricula, the Buona Scuola Law did not introduce significant changes in the discipline’s declining status. The increased importance of work-related learning projects for the last three years of all programmes of study, on the other hand, may lead to a stronger connection between schools and cultural institutions (see chapter 5.1).
Outside the school curriculum, in 1998 the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of the Heritage have signed an agreement to jointly promote a better knowledge and appreciation of the heritage through a close collaboration “on the ground” between individual school institutes and the local soprintendenze. This collaboration, which has been particularly fruitful in the past, was endangered by the “Gelmini reform”, which introduced in primary schools a single class teacher to replace the former system of three teachers rotating between two classes, making it far more difficult for classes to take part in out-of-school heritage / museum education projects.
However, in May 2014 MIBACT and MIUR signed a new agreement, entitled “Creating opportunities for a knowledge society by developing new synergies between education and culture” (http://www.istruzione.it/allegati/2014/protocolloMIUR_MIBACT280514.pdf).; art. 3 and 4 evoke the possibility for Regional School Departments, the education services of museums and individual school institutes to cooperate by signing agreements for the training, innovation and experimentation of curricula. The protocol, in fact, recognises the knowledge and understanding of cultural heritage as important factors for the education of young people, “by promoting a mature and informed relationship with one’s own territory and cultural resources”.
Heritage education, through a close partnership between schools and museums, is also the focus of a number of initiatives / programmes promoted by regional and local administrations (see for example the “Educard” project, run since 2001 by Regione Veneto to promote a closer cooperation between teachers and museum professionals through joint training programmes, or the “Edumusei” and “Museiscuol@” portals, respectively promoted by Regione Toscana and the City of Turin: http://www.edumusei.it, http://www.comune.torino.it/museiscuola).
As far as contemporary art education is concerned, it is worth mentioning the programme Venice “Biennale Educational”, which promotes activities such as guided tours, themed visits, workshops (creative, multimedia, multidisciplinary), open days for teachers etc., particularly aimed at “fostering a growing interest in schools for creative activity” (see http://www.labiennale.org/en/educational). The programme is also targeted to families, scholars, art lovers, universities and companies.
Agreements pertaining to the promotion of education in the performing arts (particularly theatre and cinema) have also been in place for quite a long time between the Ministry for Education and AGIS (Italian General Association for the Performing Arts), the latter representing professional associations of producers and distributors in the performing arts field.