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Italy’s Political Constitution of 1948, which remains in force today, establishes the duty of parents to maintain, instruct, and educate their children, even if those children were born out of wedlock,[1] building on the traditional responsibility and right of the father to determine the manner in which his children were educated, a tradition codified in the Italian Civil Code of 1942.[2] 

The Constitution also establishes the right to receive instruction at a public institution and enjoy a level of instruction adequate to each person’s capacity.[3]  In addition, the Constitution mandates compulsory primary education for the first eight years, free of tuition.[4]  All “capable and deserving students,” regardless of their financial resources, have a constitutional right to attain the highest levels of education.[5]  To that effect, the state must establish a system of scholarships, allowances to families, and other benefits, which are to be assigned through competitive examinations.[6]

The Constitution additionally provides for the right of workers to training and professional advancement.[7]  Further, disabled persons enjoy the right to receive education and vocational training,[8] which must be provided by entities and institutions established by the state or supported by the state.[9]

According to the Constitution, the state establishes the general rules for education and the functioning of state schools in the country.[10]  Entities and individuals also have the right to establish schools and institutions of education, at no cost to the state.[11]  In addition, the Constitution indicates that when setting out the rights and obligations for nonstate schools that request parity, the law must “ensure that such schools enjoy full liberty and offer their pupils an education and qualifications of the same standards as those afforded to pupils in state schools.”[12]

The Constitution indicates that state examinations must be “prescribed for admission to and graduation from the various branches and grades of schools and for qualification to exercise a profession.”[13]  Higher education institutions, universities, and academies have the right to “establish their own regulations within the limits laid down by the law.”[14]

A legislative decree provides that the right of children to be educated and the corresponding duty of the parents applies not only to Italian citizens, but also to immigrant children who are present in the national territory, independent of the legality of their presence in the country.[15] 

According to one scholar, minors’ tribunals have recently developed the concept of the right to education of minors in the context of adoption law.[16]  The judicial role includes the power to remove a child from its biological parents and to entrust the child to another family who would better care for the child’s education.[17] 

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Prepared by Dante Figueroa
Senior Legal Information Analyst
May 2016


[1] Costituzione [Cost.] [Constitution] art. 30 para. 1, English translation published by the Parliamentary Information, Archives and Publications Office of the Senate Service for Official Reports and Communication, at https://www.senato.it/documenti/repository/istituzione/costituzione_inglese.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/N3ZV-FRZN.

[2] Anna Maria Caruso, La Costituzione e il diritto all’educazione [The Constitution and the Right to Education], in Francesca Mazzucchelli & Lino Sartori, Emergenza educazione: Costituzione e diritto formativo20 (2009).

[3] Cost. art. 34, para. 1.

[4] Id. art. 34, para. 2.

[5] Id.

[6] Id. art. 34, para. 3.

[7] Id. art. 35, para. 2.

[8] Id. art. 38, para. 3.

[9] Id. art. 38, para. 4.

[10] Id. art. 33, para. 2.

[11] Id. art. 33, para. 3.

[12] Id. art. 33, para. 4.

[13] Id. art. 33, para. 5.

[14] Id. art. 33, para. 6.

[15] Decreto Legislativo 25 luglio 1998, n. 286, Testo unico delle disposizioni concernenti la disciplina dell’immigrazione e norme sulla condizione dello straniero [Legislative Decree No. 286 of July 25, 1998, Consolidated Text of Immigration and Provisions Regarding Foreigners] art. 38, Gazzetta Ufficiale della Repubblica Italiana, Aug. 18, 1998, n.191, http://www.normattiva.it/atto/caricaDettaglioAtto?atto.data PubblicazioneGazzetta=1998-08-18&atto.codiceRedazionale=098G0348&currentPage=1, archived at https://perma.cc/Z8CB-2H3N.

[16] Caruso, supra note 2, at 28.

[17] Id.