School, international rankings: Italy lagging behind on education

In the international comparison, university education and the world of schooling in Italy are the losers, in fact the most recent surveys, of which we will see some essential data, tell of a country late and that is struggling to keep up, even if there are excellences and good practices.

QS: the world ranking of universities

Let’s start with academia. According to the last QS ranking, which sees 16 universities in the top 20 among the British and the Americans, plus 2 Swiss and 2 Chinese, Italy and Europe do not make a good impression, with the exception of the Swiss Zurich and Lausanne. The first European university, in fact, ranks after 50th place and the first Italian is the Politecnico di Milano at 142nd.

For the record, as always, MIT in Boston is in first place, followed by Oxford. In the top 20 are the University of Chicago, the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University, University of Pennsylvania, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Yale University, University of Edinburgh, the Chinese Tsinghua University and Peking University and the two American Columbia Universities. and Princeton University.

What are the causes of the fatigue of national universities to place themselves in higher positions? Among these are the poor international projection, the low number of teachers in relation to that of students, the latter factor which has a significant weight in determining the position in the ranking. Another important element is the chronic underfunding of the university system, in Italy 0.9% of GDP, against, for example, 1.2% of that of German universities and 1.5% of French universities, up to 2% of English ones. Added to this is the scarce funding of the Research, just 1.45% in Italy, while we are talking about 2.2% in France up to 3.17% in Germany.

The only positive is what it refers to study programs, in this field recently the Roman university of La Sapienza has in fact placed first in the world, while in the QS ranking it is only 171 °.


In the world of school, things are no better. International investigations, such as OECD – PISA they describe a country lagging behind on digital skills, despite massive ministerial investments and also in this field the many excellences at local level. The pre-pandemic relevance was intended to highlight the reactions and subsequent difficulties of the Italian school world in the phase of adaptation to distance learning. According to Teaching and Learning International SurveyEXCELLENT of 2018 in Italy, on 52% of teachers reported that their formal education or training path included the use of ICT for teaching, which was below the average for the OECD countries surveyed (56%).

Training in the use of ICT for pre-service teaching of teachers may not be sufficient to ensure effective digital learning. In Italy, 68% of teachers reported that ICT skills for teaching were included in the professional development activities they participated in. At the same time, in Italy, 17% of teachers said they have a high degree of need for professional development in ICT skills for teaching, a value that statistically does not differ significantly from the OECD TALIS average. (18%). Furthermore, it should not be forgotten that in Italy strong gender stereotypes persist in the career expectations of boys and girls.

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