Liceo classico

Liceo classico

Liceo classico is a secondary school type in Italy. It lasts 5 years (about 14-19 years age students).

Until 1968, this was the only career that allowed the student to access to any university; a lot of Italian and foreign people believe Liceo Classico is the excellence school in the Italian scholastic system; nowadays it has still the fame of a highly formative school and it is one of the few European secondary school where ancient languages (Latin and ancient Greek) and their literature are compulsory.


Liceo classico has a wide selection of subjects, but the main ones are those related to literature; several hours are dedicated to the study of history and philosophy, but mathematics and scientific subjects are also taught at a good level.

The characterizing subjects are Latin and ancient Greek. In Italy, Latin is taught in other kinds of schools as well, even if using fewer hours per week: traditional Liceo scientifico, socio-psico-pedagogico and few linguistic specialization; ancient Greek is taught only in Liceo Classico.

Another peculiarity of Liceo Classico is how the years of course are called: in all the other Italian 5-years secondary schools, the years are referred to with increasing numbers from 1 to 5; in Liceo classico the first two years are called "Ginnasio", the name comes from the Greek "gymnasion", that means "gym"; the first year is called "4th year of Ginnasio"; the second year is referred as "5th year of Ginnasio", because those years are seen as a completion of the 3 years of the previous school (called "scuola media inferiore"). The remaining 3 years of Liceo Classico are referred as "1st, 2nd and 3rd year of Liceo".

This odd behavior about names is due to the "Gentile reform" (name after an Italian politician), who had planned an 8-year school career (5 Ginnasio and 3 Liceo) that could be accessed passing a test after the 5 year of primary school. There was also another test between the Ginnasio and the Liceo. Several reforms changed the Italian school in about 1940 and 1960, the first three years of Ginnasio were separated and became an independent kind of school, in 1968 the test between the Ginnasio and the Liceo was abolished, so Liceo Classico got the structure it has today, even if the names of the different years were never changed.

In the traditional version of the school, students follow a specific pattern of courses that covers a large range of disciplines:
*Italian language and literature (all 5 years)
*History (all 5 years)
*Latin and ancient Greek grammar and language (the 2 year of Ginnasio)
*Latin and ancient Greek literature and language (the 3 years of Liceo)
*Mathematics (all 5 years)
*Philosophy and Art history and Chemistry and Biology and Natural science (3 years, during the Liceo)
*Physics (2 years, during the Liceo)
*a foreign language, typically English, French or German (all 5 years)
*Catholic Religion Instruction (optional)
*Gymnastics (all 5 years)
*Geography (2 years, during the Ginnasio)

Several variants of the school have been introduced in the years, those are called "experimental" Liceo Classico ("Liceo Classico sperimentale") and now are more common than the traditional version. In those variants, some subjects may be dropped in favor of others, some subjects are studied for more or fewer hours per week or years. For example, nowadays it is common to find a Liceo Classico offering courses in one or more foreign language and literature for all the 5 years or art history for 2 hours a week every year. It is common to have more science courses, too, including computer science.

At the end, students must pass the "Esame di stato" (until 1999 denominated "Esame di maturità") to obtain their certificate.


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