The beauty of Mediterranean school

Mediterranean School “,the open, welcoming, inclusive that pursues the harmonious and integrated development of the person“, The school that remains as the only and last cultural center in many devastated areas of our country, the school that many consider a problem for the expected and unattainable results, actually retains a wealth that we do not know how to read and exploit.This heterodox dissertation, in stark contrast to much literature, especially of economic derivation and in line with a lot of psycho-pedagogical and sociological literature, is at the heart of Damiano Previtali’s latest book, Mediterranean School (il Mulino, 2022, with a foreword by Francesco Profumo and an introduction by Marco Rossi-Doria).

Previtali, from Bergamo, former dean of Sarpi classical high school in Bergamo, has been director of the Evaluation Office for the National Education and Training System of the Ministry of Education since 2015 and chairman of the Trentino Provincial Evaluation Committee. A systems evaluation expert (but also didactic), with a long curriculum of assignments and works that testify to his direct knowledge of the school world he comes from.

The book is based on the southern school, where it reports three “stumbles”, or considerations of error with lots of documentation, evidence and data, but in reality it suggests a different reading of all the abandoned suburbs in the country, unjustifiably considered marginalized as well as a ballast for our development. In fact, many of these schools make an extraordinary contribution in contexts that are desolate from education and training, and moreover, they have long asserted a different consideration, as their “school effect” is difficult to detect and, above all, standardizable. If we study these schools closely, we will discover their “added value”: a vitality that he defines Mediterranean Searooted in students’ widespread possession of skills such as resilience, cooperation, ingenuity, imagination, which are our real wealth and, unlike disciplinary skills, are difficult to standardize and measure with quantitative methods.

The challenge of reducing territorial gaps – writes Francesco Profumo in the preface – “not only can it be assumed with investments that do not always have the best intentions, but it requires an idea of ​​a school where people must recognize themselves in order to effectively become protagonists in new projects“.”Damiano Previtali’s text is valuable as it, through a different narrative, allows us to embark on a new story with the realities that have already been the subject of significant investment, but also of many failures.“.

In a context as difficult as many schools in the South (well described in the introduction by Marco Rossi-Doria), Previtali claims, “attention to educational success for each student and personalization of teaching and learning processes is the only chance to survive“. This would mean an improvement in the necessary and unavoidable basic skills, but also in new skills for the person and life that are typical of Mediterranean culture.”Paradoxically, non-cognitive skills, which already have a development potential in this social substrate, are not promoted at the expense of the same cognitive skills that, with formal and routine teaching approaches, do not have particularly attractive elements. In this way, we have a double damage as cognitive skills are abandoned and non-cognitive skills are not valued“.

The detection systems, both nationally and internationally, notes Previtali, currently have only tried and sophisticated tools for detecting knowledge related to the disciplines, while they have nothing to say about the dimensions that characterize “the person, his mindset, his talents“. The author does not dispute the applicability of standardized tests, which are fundamental and valuable to having a common standard,”but at the same time we need to recognize the uniqueness and complexity that belong to both people and society, with the different developmental logics and the different reference contexts. There is actually no “radical contrast between the standardization needed for large-scale research and the personalization needed to increase diversity;“. They have different purposes.

Of course, if personalization were adopted as a strategy, national tests would have to adapt to people’s skills. In Italy, says the author, there is a strong focus on an important part of pedagogy for differences, for the learning environment, for the personalization itself (among the characters mentioned Montessori, Don Milani, Malaguzzi). It would be enough to refer to this tradition.

That’s why it seems necessary “an integrative and complementary approach to general quantitative studies of a statistical matrix, with a long, shrewd and far-sighted view of the differences, whether they are related to people or to organizations such as schools. Any glance if it rests ‘on the shoulders of giants’ concludes Previtali in his interesting book using the well-known medieval metaphor relaunched by Umberto Eco – can see further“. And the beauty of culture and”Mediterranean school“Could thus help to improve the school in particular the whole Italian school.

For more information:
Mediterranean School. A different story and a new story


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