Why do school vacations in Italy last three months?

School is out! Parents have almost 14 consecutive weeks in front of them to manage their children. 

School ends, along comes summer and the search for camps for children and teens, some 5 million of them, who will return to their desks at the start of the new school year, set for September 12-19 next year. 

That's nearly 14 weeks parents must cover. An undertaking that comes at a high cost: according to the National Association for Consumer Defense and Guidance, the average weekly expense for a private camp is 170 euros, and only 25 percent of families can afford it. 

The long summer break is also a time when students experience regression: according to the American Educational Research Association, more than 51 percent of children experience "summer learning loss," meaning they lose between 17 and 28 percent of knowledge in the humanities and between 25 and 34 percent in math. 

According to the Eurydice network, the number of school days in fact varies, from 156 days in Albania and 200 days in Denmark and Italy. 

Italy, however, not only has more school days, it also has the longest vacations: they range on average from a minimum of 6 to 8 consecutive weeks (France, Germany, UK, Norway, for example) to 10 to 12 weeks (Finland, Greece, Iceland, Portugal, Spain, Hungary), to 13 weeks in Italy and Latvia.

In Italy, the biggest break is in summer, while many countries break up the year with more frequent short breaks (in addition to Christmas and Easter, there is also an autumn and spring break).

But why does Italy, despite many proposals, continue with this school calendar with the longest break in Europe? It is a choice with roots more than a century old, when, in order to allow even farmers' children to be able to attend school, the calendar followed the wheat cycle, which is harvested in July. 

Since the year 2000 several governments have tried to "shorten" the school summer vacation, without success. 

In 2008, Francesco Rutelli and Giuseppe Fioroni, then minister of education, had timidly suggested aligning with other countries and going down to 12 weeks. But nothing was done about it. 

In 2013, the Monti government tried to move from three to one month of vacation, but the school calendar reform was shelved. 

In 2015, Labor Minister Giuliano Poletti proposed shortening the vacations and devoting a month to education- a proposal that fell on deaf ears. 

Why? Skeptics usually repeat that it is a decision that takes into account the climate factor: going to school until the end of June, or from September 1, would especially penalize students in the South, who face higher temperatures than students in the North.

In 2021, current Prime Minister Mario Draghi had put forward the idea of a longer year to allow kids affected by the pandemic and distance learning to recover, and "summer schools" were activated, which will return this year.

Education Minister Patrizio Bianch explained, "The summer plan was a great success last year... This year there are about 290 million resources available... And we will make this experience structural. For many years there was talk about schools opening in the summer. We said we would open them, and we did." 

However, as many parents point out, summer school has been dictated by the availability of individual schools, principals and teachers.

An integrated structural initiative would be needed to change the Italian school calendar. But, for now, all is silent.  

To the parents of Italy, in bocca al lupo.

Photo credit: MZeta / Shutterstock.com