The Berlinguer reform: when the Italian school approached the pro-European ideals

Today Luigi Berlinguer turns 90, a respectable feat for a man of culture whose name will remain entrenched in an effort to the school reform quickly liquidated as a “reform of cycles”, but which marked a turning point in the Italian school, the consequences of which can be registered even today. As always in these cases, light and shadows. He was – Minister of Education of the first government of Romano Prodi (later Massimo D’Alema), from 1996 to 2000 – to build architecture and preconditions for a change that in substance never took place, but which also served to introduce some of the errors that as they have been there for twenty years corrosive from the inside.

The Berlin war reform consisted of two key measures, around which our country’s new school should have been articulated: the framework law 10 February 2000, n. 30 on reordering cycles and higher education, Act 10 December 1997, n. 425 on amendment offinal exam. The DM implementation regulation will then be withdrawn by the new minister Letizia Moratti when Silvio Berlusconi revived the elections in 2001. In 2003, Moratti will always repeal both and replace them with his reform, the three I’s.

Back to the Berlinguer reform, via the subdivision between elementary, middle and high school, in favor of an articulation of “cycles”: seven years of primary or basic cycle (from 6 to 13 years) and five of secondary cycle (from 13 to 18) , withcompulsory education set at 15 years, i.e. at the end of the second year of the secondary cycle. For those who do not continue their studies until maturity, vocational training organized and administered by the regions, up to the age of majority. Basically, the traditional school path was compressed into two school orders and shortened by one year; the term is maintained at 18 years, so the university for those who want and can. In practice, elementary and middle schools were combined and reduced from 8 to 7 years, higher divided into two two-year courses, the first with many common teachings, the second more specific and a final year of maturity at the end of the course.

The third important leg of the reform is that of the university with the creation of “points degree”(3 years for the short plus 2 years for the graduate); it was presented in 2000 by the then minister Zecchino, but in complete coordination with Berlinguer, who had worked on it during the period when he was both minister of education and minister of universities. The reform of the university it went onthat the school remained at stake, overcome and annulled by the two Moratti laws, of March 28, 2003, n. 53 and November 4, 2005, n. 230, which are substantially valid even today with the corrections made by Minister Gelmini then did, that of the tunnel between Switzerland and Abruzzo, where the neutrinos pass.

The Berlinguer reform was truly the daughter of the mood and culture of the time: Italy was in the middle pro-European momentum generated by the then imminent introduction of the euro. School reform was presented as the necessary tool to modernize society, introducing concepts and themes dear to neoliberal thinking widespread, such as the processing of knowledge (education points, school / work …, competitive assessment of teachers), the dependence of curriculum selection on the needs of industry, the equalization between state and equal schools, both qualified as public schools and located on the same floor.

The Myth of “Profit” it took the place of the values ​​of integration, subsidiarity, didactic and pedagogical experimentation as a tool to make schools and society grow. As if the school repositioned itself by cutting to the extremes: For the poorest a bit of support in a school without experiments, for the wealthy the private school system that became “equal”, equal to the state one. The lexicon also changed to denote what the school would become. For example, the “principals” (the one who leads, it is assumed, a community of thinkers) and the “didactic leaders” (who lead the teaching) become “school leaders”(Bassanini 2000 reform), framed in the executive roles of the state and equipped with powers and tools that already now collide with the management and care of a school community.

Yes, Europe. It seemed then the beginning of a real one New era: The common European currency would have acted as a scaffolding for the new EU and opened a season of reforms that would have led, if not to the realization of the United States of Europe, certainly to greater integration between countries and peoples. There was a lot of talk about the common European army and itpolitical integration it really seemed to be just around the corner, along with the enlargement of the EU, which Prodi, president of the European Commission from 1999 to 2004, was working hard on. The Berlinguer reform was also presented as a necessary adaptation of the scholastic institution to the prevailing systems in the EU, from the age of entry to universities to the formalization of a second middle school, considered by many to bethe weakest link of the Italian school system.

They were also the timesfederalist euphoria and the need to bring order to the autonomy system that had been created by the reform of Title V of the Constitution (2001), desired and promoted by the center-left, which was under the illusion of removing ground from under the feet of the League. The school was also included in the group of institutions where autonomy was recognized, as with its Pof (educational offer plans), then Ptof with the addition of territoriality, “allows to give the school service flexibility, diversification, effectiveness and efficiency and achieve integration and the better utilization of resources and structures, also through the introduction and dissemination of innovative technologies “(Miur). Thus art. 21 of Bassanini (the same law according to which the regions of the Center and the North today require the expansion of the issues of exclusive regional competences) formulated the question on school autonomy, determine its boundaries and identify the bodies involved, specifying their competences.

Many of these aspects will end up becoming an organic part of the Berlinguer reform, e.g regional competence exclusively in vocational training – delegated to private agencies for union or con-industry emanation – and avenues to begin work with the usual entourage of scandals and robberies, catastrophic bankruptcies, ghost courses.

Before Moratti dealt with the winding down of the Berlinguer reform, positive appreciations they were linked to the idea of ​​a new school that understood how to synthesize plural approaches, interact with society and become the engine of initiative and educational planning with local institutions, above all the municipalities. The organizational and cultural coherence of schools and companies was questioned by creating changing school/work paths that were not mere exploitation and history has confirmed it. The idea that compulsory education was raised to 18 years was appreciated (without writing clearly if it was compulsory education), and even less the denunciation of combining the structural reform with a thorough review of programsthe tools available to students in difficulty, updating teachers, their evaluation and improvement.

Thatcorporatization of an institution who had given the best of himself when cooperation was the cornerstone, replaced by a competition consists of grades, ratings and profiles that evaluated the test and not the road; the legalization of technical institutes was opposed, an incomprehensible attack on one of the central schools of the Italian education system. Vocational training, which was delivered to private individuals and training agencies linked to intermediary bodies, was already much debated at the time: the state withdrew from the direct management of a sector aimed at disadvantaged population and which at the same time had been the cornerstone of the boom in Italian industry, preparing operational people who contributed decisively to the work. Of all this and much more, memory has almost been lost in this whirlwind of missed reforms, said and cancelled, renewed and often consisting of cuts disguised as innovation.

The name of Luigi Berlinguer in the world of school is indelibly associated with the great discussion about what the education system should become that followed the process of the law; perhaps the last major choral reflection before Berlusconi’s triumph and of the complicit apathy that accompanied its splendor, on the right as well as on the left. A reflection that made it clear how powerful the massive bombing by the Berlusconi troops had been. Able, even at this important junction, to dictate new value system dell’Italietta del 2000, so distinct that it is good for the right as well as for the left.

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