Since the Unification of Italy onwards, the southern question has been a fundamental theme of the country’s social and economic policies: by highlighting the causes of disparity between the South and the Centre-North and proposing different solutions, the goal has often been to build a more organic and homogeneous development of the entire nation.
The Svimez 2022 report analyses, once again, the existing gaps between the South and the Centre-North, also focusing on the “education chain”, from school to university. The picture that emerges remains worrying.
Data from the Svimez 2022 report
The report analyzes, in the first place, socio-educational services for children characterized by “an extremely fragmentary supply and by profound territorial differences in the endowment of structures and in the current public expenditure of local administrations”. In particular, it highlights how, against a 1.4% growth (from 2018-2019) of places available in socio-educational services for children in the area (the figure marks a +4% compared to the first survey of 2013-2014), the overall availability of places has remained almost unchanged (only +0.3% from 2013-2014).
The gap tends to narrow in the transition from kindergartens to kindergartens and primary schools. If the national figure for attendance of educational facilities in the 3-5 year age group (93.2%) is higher than the European average (89.6%), there remains a strong gap in the supply of services in the South, especially regarding the time of attendance. In fact, extended hours in kindergarten (offered to only 4.8% of children) and in primary school (full-time is offered to 18.6% of pupils in the southern regions) are much less widespread in the South to 48.5% of pupils from other regions). Consequently, school canteen services also show strong discrepancies. In the South, about 650,000 pupils of state primary schools (79% of the total) do not have access to the canteen service: 200,000 children in Campania (87%), 184,000 in Sicily (88%), 60,000 in Calabria (80% ). In the Centre-North there are 700,000 children without a canteen, 46% of the total.
Particular importance also assumes the infrastructural situation of the schools. In the South, for example, 66% of primary school students attend structures without a gym, with the exception of Puglia (in the Centre-North the figure stops at 54%). Again due to infrastructural shortcomings, only 18% of students in the South can access school full-time, compared to 48% in the Centre-North. “The difference – reads the report – between the last two regions (Molise and Sicily) and the first two (Lazio and Tuscany) is, on an annual basis, approximately 200 hours”. It means that, if we consider the entire five-year school cycle, “the students of Molise and Sicily lose about 1000 hours“. The only exception is represented by Basilicata.
Finally, the Svimez 2022 report underlines an overall improvement in the data relating to early school leaving, which has shown an approximately -8% from 2008 to today. However, both the objectives set by Europe 2020 (10%) and the European average (9.7%) are still far off. Just as the gap between North and South remains wide: in the south (and, above all, in Campania, Calabria and Sicily) the school dropout rate is 16.6% (year 2021) compared to 10.4% in the regions of the Center-North.
The proposals of the Svimez 2022 report
At the heart of the proposals that emerged from the report is a massive infrastructural intervention, the modernization of schools, “on the basis of capillary information, institute by institute, already available to the Ministry of Education“.
According to Svimez, these interventions, in addition to guaranteeing a higher quality of services for students, would have a multiplier generative capacity both for the labor market and for family organization. However, the report’s analysts point out, competitive access to PNRR resources could exacerbate inequalities in the Italian school system, above all due to the disparity in the administrative capacity of local authorities to participate in PNRR tenders. In this regard, they suggest the organization of a central monitoring system relating to the location of resources with the aim of equalizing school services between North and South.