European scholastic systems

Say, Do, Experiment…
June 5, 2018
29/03/2018


Being a student does not have the same significance everywhere: school days have different rhythms, and going to school does not have the same flavour everywhere. School systems in the European countries demonstrate many differences, and in substantial aspects of both teaching and organisation.

In reality, one of the few equivalences lies in the duration of obligatory schooling, which lasts from 6 to 16 years of age in a good number of European countries, with exceptions that go as high as the age of 18 (for example, in Belgium, Holland and Hungary): exceptions which, in any case, are becoming always more a common objective.

Another equivalence is the gratuitousness for the time of the obligatory nature foreseen. It is, however, interesting to point out that, in many countries – such as Germany, for example - the formative obligation is resolved only at age 19, and not only in the schools, but also in other structures, thanks to the experience of training apprenticeships in firms.

As regards the duration of the school year, the European average is of 186 days of lessons against the 200 of Italy, Holland and Denmark, which represent the maximum threshold. Germany accounts for 188 days, France registers approximately 180 days a year, Spain only 175. The original character of the choice of Latvia, Lithuania and Bulgaria should be noted: there, the age of the students makes the duration of the school year vary, in a crescendo that starts from 155 days up.

Other examples of differences School days have different cadences, and the duration of the individual lessons also varies. While in Italy they last for 60 minutes, elsewhere they may even last as little as 45 minutes. In Germany, then, for example, the intervals are longer: never less than twenty minutes. In England and France (also in Italy, but not everywhere) each day of school consists of two half- days of lessons, interposed by a break for lunch. In Sweden, there are never more than 3 subjects taught each day, and school also means going to libraries and gymns.

And the textbooks? In Greece and in Sweden, they are free of charge to and sundry. However, Greece again, together with Cyprus and Malta, is the only country to impose textbooks on the teachers and in which the choice of textbooks is found to be centralised. On the contrary, elsewhere the teachers are freer to choose the texts. In any case, the general trend is an increase in the use and appeal of digital supports and of alternatives to manuals made of paper.

And with regard to holidays? These range from a minimum of 6 to a maximum 13 weeks. Let us look at the details. If you were born in France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Lichtenstein, Norway, Poland or in the Czech Republic, the summer holidays are certainly not as long as they are in Italy, Turkey, or Latvia. The statistical experiment reports, however, that in places where the summer holidays are shorter, the scholastic weeks are lighter and are compensated for by holiday periods, even if these are shorter. In France, for example, every 6 or 7 weeks of lessons, two weeks of holidays are taken, with the aim of greater performance. Not to mention the “Petites Vacances” (short holidays): namely, short but enviable winter holidays in February…

Which school system is famed for being the best, the most performative? With a unanimous voice, all of Scandinavia would seem to obtain this reputation. And there appear to be many reaons for this. Given the various and important motives and the large number of countries involved in the classifications, it will be a good idea to examine these in detail. To do this, a useful site may be Eurydice, the European information network that provides analyses and comparisons on instruction. It originated in 1980 at the initiative of the European Commission, and has its main offices in Bruxelles.

Gabriella Santini

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