News, procedures, and students’ impressions
In these days Italian Schools and students, in Italy as well as abroad, are preparing State exams: a major milestone with a strong symbolic value, both an arrival and starting point.
State exams, indeed, assess the skills acquired at the end of the two education cycles provided for by the Italian system, that is, at the end of lower secondary school and of upper secondary school courses. At the same time, passing the State exams at the end of the latter cycle allows students to continue their studies and access university education.
State exams abroad
Procedures provided for State exams abroad are nearly the same as for the Italian State exams, with exceptions and adjustments yearly defined by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in agreement with the Ministry of Education. Such exceptions and adjustments mainly refer to the composition of the exam boards.
The ‘Diploma di maturità’ (High School Diploma) awarded by the schools of the Italian network around the world has the same legal value as the same qualification issued in Italy, and allows students to continue their education in both Italian and foreign universities.
Students of the Italian departments in foreign schools who decide to enroll in an Italian university are exempted from the Italian language exam; moreover, they and considered regardless of limits generally established for foreign students.
The State exams procedures are managed by The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Education. Specific tasks of the Farnesina concern the appointment of the State exam board chairs and external commissioners, for Italian State schools as well as Italian state-authorized private schools. Moreover, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs handles all aspects involved with sending the written tests through the so-called telematic envelope. Such procedures have been partially modified due to COVID-19 pandemic (see below).
Moreover, concerning Italian departments of foreign schools, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs manages the appointment of Italian observers, who preside over State exams in order to assure their coherence with goals of the bilingual curriculum.
News about the present school year
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, in the 2019/2020 school year some adjustments had been made for State exams abroad. Also for the present school year, a decree of the General Director for the Country Promotion sets specific adjustments with regard to the managing of the State exams.
Such adjustments concern, for example, procedures for the appointment of the State exams board chair who, according to laws provided for the Italian territory, are ‘external’. As established for the past year, the decree specifies that such chairs are ‘external’ with respect to the class, not necessarily with respect to the school. This avoids school personnel’s movements from one country to another.
Moreover, the decree specifically disciplines the possibility to organize an on line procedure for the State exams abroad. Indeed, the head of the Consular Office can arrange the State exams via electronic communication, in the consular district of reference, considering the specific situation of the territory and the laws in force in the Country.
Another innovation concerns the ‘Curriculum dello studente’ (Student’s curriculum). It is a digital document, attached to the Diploma di maturità (High School Diploma), that attests studies, certifications, extracurricular activities, competences acquired in formal and non-formal contexts. The Curriculum presents the student to the State exam board; it is also a tool for orientation with regard to university and work.
The floor to the students: State exams in Belo Horizonte and Paris
With the approach of State exams, we heard from two students who are preparing for the exams in two Italian schools abroad: Marina Cavalcanti, from the Fondazione Torino Italo-Brazilian Bicultural School, where the oral exam will be taken on line; and Mathis Lelieur, from the Comprehensive Italian State School of Paris, where the oral exam will be taken in attendance.
Let’s sum up this school year: which are strength and weak points of the distance teaching/learning?
Marina: It is necessary to consider that distance teaching allowed continuity in learning, even if in an adapted way. Surely, it is hard to keep in touch via technology for hours, as the ability to concentrate decreases. Moreover, the personal contact among students and with professors – that is a crucial feature of school – is extremely limited.
Mathis: Strength points of distance learning are lower levels of stress, anxiety and tensions, along with a higher level of comfort. Some people experienced a significant improvement in their life, because they live very far from the school and had to get up at dawn every day to get there. Main weak points concern the necessity to spend many hours in front of a computer, which sometimes causes headache. And it is more difficult to follow distance lessons, since they are not immersive as traditional ones. Moreover, we lack sociality, that is very important for us also from a psychological point of view – a kind of sociality that we can’t get back.
How are you preparing for the State exams?
Marina: State exams preparation is always an intense and important moment for a student. It is demanding and stimulating at the same time. For me, it’s time for anxiety, expectations, and curiosity. This experience is complicated by the fact that we had distance teaching for a year and a half: we can’t end the path with our colleagues and professors. Moreover, even if State exams are adapted to the pandemic context, we are unusually tired, mainly because of the general situation.
Mathis: It has been very difficult and stressful at first, because it was a new situation for us. Moreover, until recently I had not so much time to work intensely on it, because daily schoolwork is still quite demanding.
It is the second year that the written exam has been replaced by an oral exam…
Marina: This is a matter of personal preference. I think it is a positive adjustment of the State exam to present world situation. It makes feasible to get an objective evaluation via electronic communication. Personally, I prefer interviews than written tests.
Mathis: I think that the oral exam is necessary this year too, because another kind of exam is not possible at present time. It is difficult to imagine taking an exam that has been designed before the COVID-19 pandemic. It changed the world. On the other side, oral exams can be beneficial for some students, and not for others.
You will take an on line oral exam. What do you think of it? Do you believe it can influence the final evaluation?
Marina: As I said, the on line modality is necessary and related to present needs. It can influence the evaluation, but not in a significant way, because the structure and contents of the distance interview are the same as those used for a traditional oral exam.
You will take the oral exam in attendance. What do you think of it? Do you feel reassured by this traditional modality?
Mathis: I am more comfortable, because I experienced a similar situation in the final exam of lower secondary school. On the other side, an on line interview also could make me feel at ease, because of the distance and the possibility to stay in a familiar setting.
Tell us about your plans for the future. Do you want to continue studying, in the country where you live now, in Italy, or elsewhere?
Marina: I think I will continue my studies in the country where I live now. I will probably study Medicine, or Psychology, at the university.
Mathis: I will continue my studies, hopefully in the field of Earth Science and Energy. I am undecided on where. I have enrolled in some French universities, but I will enroll also in Italian ones.