Italian legislation provides that all children until the age of 16, both nationals and foreigners, have the right and the obligation to take part in the national education system. Under the Reception Decree, unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and children of asylum seekers exercise these rights and are also admitted to the courses of Italian language. The Reception Decree makes reference to Article 38 TUI, which states that foreign children present on Italian territory are subject to compulsory education, emphasising that all provisions concerning the right to education and the access to education services apply to foreign children as well.
This principle has been further clarified by Article 45 PD 394/1999, which gives foreign children equal rights to education as for Italian children, even when they are in an irregular situation. Asylum seeking children have access to the same public schools as Italian citizens and are entitled to the same assistance and arrangements in case they have special needs. They are automatically integrated in the obligatory National Educational System. No preparatory classes are foreseen at National level, but since the Italian education system envisages some degree of autonomy in the organisation of the study courses, it is possible that some institutions organise additional courses in order to assist the integration of foreign children.
In practice, the main issues concerning school enrolment lie in: the reluctance of some schools to enrol a high number of foreign students; the refusal from the family members and/or the child to attend classes; and the insufficiency of places available in schools located near the accommodation centres and the consequent difficulty to reach the schools if the centres are placed in remote areas.
In some cases, attempts to make up for the lack of places in Italian language courses by introducing other courses have not delivered positive results. In Udine, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, additional literacy courses were introduced in October 2017 for asylum seekers during morning hours, which coincided with middle school classes. This led to protests by parents and the teaching staff.
Article 21(2) Reception Decree.