Italy

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The most known Italian peace pedagogue is certainly Maria Montessori (1870-1952). The child-centered Montessori method is today worldwide used in schools and institutions.


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Major Branches of Peace Education Observed in Italy. (click for details)
  • Conflict Resolution Education
  • Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)
  • Global Citizenship Education (GCED)
  • Nonviolence

Significant Approaches and Themes of Peace Education in Italy. (click for details)
  • Anti-Bias Education
  • Anti-War / Abolition Education
  • Civic Education
  • Conflict Resolution Education (CRE)

Historical Context

Italy is a country located in the Southwestern part of Europe. It is a peninsula with a  geography composed of a variety of landscapes. It has a population of over 60 million inhabitants and due to its location, it has been for many centuries the birthplace and home of several civilizations. Indeed, after the end of the Roman Empire, Italy was divided for many centuries in a system of several small countries and city-states. This lasted until 1861, when the country was eventually unified under the monarchy of the House of Savoy. During the monarchical period, the priority of Italian politicians was to strengthen the industrial, economic and socio-cultural modernization of the country. At this time, great economic differences started to emerge between regions in the North (more industrialized) and those in the South.

The events that took place in Europe at the beginning of the XX century led to the outbreak of WWI. Italy, which aimed to expand its territories, joined the conflict supporting the German empire and the Austro-Hungarian empire, but in 1915 it switched to the side of Great Britain, France and the United States, contributing to the victory of the Allies. 

Economic issues and not acquiring the desired territories were however the outcomes of the Great War, which left Italians disappointed. It is during the years between WWI and WWII that the fascist political party in Italy, based on nationalistic ideals and expansionist ambitions and led by Benito Mussolini, took power. The popularity of Mussolini grew to the extent that in 1922 he was appointed First Minister by the king Vittorio Emanuele III, a decision that paved the way for an informal dictatorship. 

In 1939, Italy allied itself with Nazi Germany and Japan, and WWII broke out.

During the war, fascist Italy committed several major crimes, such as creating concentration camps, killing civilians based on political ideology, race and religion, and carrying on out an actual ethnic cleansing. The war lasted until 1945, when Mussolini was killed and the last fascists groups were eventually defeated.

WWII left tragic consequences on the Italian economy and political structure. As a result, in 1946 a referendum was held that eventually led to the birth of the Italian Republic. During the 1950s and 1960s, Italy was the subject of strong economic growth: great socio-economic development, industrialization and major migratory flows from the poorest areas of the country to the most industrialized cities such as Turin, hometown of FIAT, and Milan characterized this period. The economic differences between North and South were exacerbated as the workforce migrated to the Northern part of the country. This allowed organized crime, including Mafia groups to increase their power in the South of Italy. 

The 1970s and 1980s are indeed known as “the Years of Lead.” It was a period of great political tensions and social troubles. Two main political groups were leading the country: the Christian Democrats (which remained in power for almost fifty years) and the socialists. A revolutionary sentiment inspired violent actions and terrorist attacks of several extremist political groups (both of right- and left-wing), leading to the killing of politicians, judges, journalists and writers. At the same time, organized crime groups in Southern Italy  began kidnapping people for ransom, in order to increase their economic resources for the illicit traffic of weapons and drugs, expanding their power. In particular, Italian organized crime (Mafia, Cosa Nostra, ‘Ndrangheta, Camorra, etc.), became so powerful to the point of establishing collaborations with the major political parties, getting inside the Italian political system and ensuring they would take positions of power in society through a system of kickbacks. 

Indeed, between 1992 and 1994, a maxi-trial known as “Tangentopoli” uncovered the complicity between organized crime and politics. During this time, Italy faced once again major terrorist attacks, especially by the Mafia, whose members killed among others two famous anti-mafia judges, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.   

The trial marked the beginning of the so-called “Second Republic”, giving way to the change of the Italian political structure. During the Second Republic, both center-left and center-right parties took turns in governing the country, and leading figures such as Silvio Berlusconi and Romano Prodi emerged.  

During the last ten years, Italy has faced several issues: the economic crisis of 2009 has led to a political crisis. As a result, in 2011 a caretaker administration was established, which however did not reflect the needs of the population. Unemployment and in particular the youth unemployment rate increased. Major flows of immigrants from the African continent via the Mediterranean Sea and from Eastern European countries have increased. At the same time, the number of Italians leaving the country for more powerful and economically stable countries (Germany, the United Kingdom, France and the USA) has also increased, depriving Italy of precious human capital. 

Finally, extreme right-wing parties have lately gained popularity due to the general discontent of the population, provoking political and social tensions.  

Current Issues & Conflicts
  • Political tension in the country, due to nationalistic ideologies coming from extreme right-wing parties
  • Economic instability and high unemployment rate (financial crisis in 2009, 2011 and 2020) including unemployment and economic difficulties brought on by the pandemic
  • Clashes between Italian nationalistic policies and the European Union’s political directives concerning the management of migrants
  • Misinformation  
  • Discrimination against migrants and foreigners 
  • Gender inequality (pay inequality, gender violence)
  • Organized crime (illicit traffic of weapons, drugs, prostitution; imposition of protection money)
  • Aging and/or badly maintained transportation infrastructure has led to some mass casualty incidents in recent years, as well as workplace safety incidents

Additional Resources for More Context

Significant Peace Education Efforts & Approaches

In Italy, peace education efforts focus on a variety of topics and use a variety of approaches that have precise historical roots. More specifically, peace education traces its origins in pacifism. Italian pacifism, which historically began as a movement in the second half of the XIX century, focused mainly on nonviolence and abolishing war. In Italy, these topics are usually included in the peace education curriculum of many organizations, nonetheless little consideration is given in the country to Italian pacifists and peace education pioneers. 

Among those, it is worth mentioning Ernesto Teodoro Moneta (1833-1918), who together with his collaborators devoted a lot of energy to convince school authorities of the importance of Peace Education. His efforts in spreading nonviolence were indeed awarded in 1907 with the Nobel Peace Prize. 

Similarly, Aldo Capitini (1899-1961), known as the Italian Ghandi, contributed greatly to introduce in Italy nonviolence and peace theories. Part of his work focused on education, which he believed to be essential to especially eradicate fascism's residue during the second post-war period. More specifically, peace education for Capitini consisted in educating to respect diversity, educating to disobedience with the meaning of critical spirit and finally, educating to nonviolence.

The most known Italian peace pedagogue is certainly Maria Montessori (1870-1952). The child-centered Montessori method is today worldwide used in schools and institutions. It is based on the idea that schools should reflect a safe and healthy environment for the child and it gives particular attention to how teachers and educators share their knowledge with students. Such innovative methods allow children to develop independence and responsibility; it teaches them how to build healthy relations with themselves and others and finally, it enables children to approach complex topics with deep cognitive and emotional intelligence. 

Another important Italian peace educator was Don Lorenzo Milani (1923 -1967), a priest from Florence who founded the so-called “School of Barbiana”. The school welcomed youth from the poor families of the village Barbiana and had peace education at its core. Contents were totally adapted to the needs of the children. Specifically, peace education for Don Lorenzo Milani meant critical observation of the reality and responsible disobedience to unjust law (i.e. he used to promote conscientious objection, despite it being formally illegal in Italy until 1972). He developed the method of collective writing, which encourages children to work collectively in the analysis, discussion and elaboration of a text.

Finally, another important pedagogue in Italian peace education history is Danilo Dolci (1949-1997). Dolci spent most of his life in Sicily, working not only against the Mafia but especially to improve living conditions of poor Sicilian communities. He worked closely with illiterates and empowered locals through both formal and non-formal education. He developed the so-called maieutic method, based on the idea that education can boost all the capacities and knowledge that are already inside an individual. Education does not put contents in someone’s mind but rather, it helps to bring out the knowledge through dialogue.

The approaches and bios of Italian pedagogues and Peace Education pioneers are worth mentioning as they allow us to trace the historical roots on which today’s peace education efforts are built and to fully understand their role in the society. At the moment in Italy there are several peace education initiatives, but none of them are part of an institutionalized governmental plan. Because of this, peace education is usually part of non-formal education activities and projects, which are strongly influenced by the Italian political and cultural context. As the Catholic church has always had a primary role in social issues, many initiatives and projects are indeed supported by religious institutions and/or based on religious values. It is only in recent years that many non-governmental organizations and civil-society groups have joined the cause of peace education, developing and launching several city-based and region-based peace education initiatives. 

The main topics of peace education in Italy are:

  • Promoting tolerance and acceptance of the others
  • Rejecting discrimination (historical memory of WWII)
  • Conflict-resolution education and dialogue for solidarity 
  • Global Citizenship 
  • Sustainability and the Environment 
  • Nonviolence and abolishing war

These topics have a primary role in peace education efforts for several reasons. Firstly, today Italy is a landing place for thousands of migrants coming from North-African and African countries in Europe. This has also created tension between the EU and Italy during the last few years, due to the weak regional management of migrants and refugees. As a result of this, increasing misinformation and nationalistic sentiment (especially supported by extreme right-wing parties) have provoked an altered perception of “the other”, enhancing discrimination and hate toward migrants. 

Other reasons that have shaped Italian peace education efforts are: the great consideration for historical memory (especially concerning WWII), the values of the Catholic Church, based on peace, love for other living beings and compassion, and finally the significant membership in the European Union, which is built on values of democracy, inclusion and solidarity.

Finally, peace education efforts emerge also in the actions of movements against war that, especially if Italy participates militarily or logistically, often invoke Article 11 of the Italian constitution which states that Italy rejects war as a way to resolve international disputes. In addition, the nonviolent thought/philosophy grown in the country through a long tradition of pacifism has helped shaping and inspiring some peace education initiatives in the country.

Legislative and Policy Initiatives

In Italy peace education is not part of an institutionalized educational plan. Nonetheless, the national public education curriculum includes a subject known as “citizenship and constitution” (cittadinanza e costituzione) or also known as “civic education” (educazione civica) includes a range of topics aligned with peace education values, such as social inclusion and acceptance of diversity (people with disabilities and integration of foreigners). 

History is also a subject that aims to recall and to educate for the rejection of war and discrimination especially through the study of the fascist era and World War II. 

The Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research (MIUR) is a partner and supporter of many initiatives concerning non-formal peace education projects and the promotion of peace education in schools. 

Following there are some of the latest initiatives undertaken:

  • 48° Concorso nazionale nell’ambito del progetto Cittadinanza e costituzione “Civis sum” rivolto alle scuole di ogni ordine e grado (16 Jan 2020) This is a contest launched by the non-governmental organisation EIP Italia Scuola Strumento di Pace, open to all schools in Italy. Schools present individual or group projects about one of the following topics: sport as a tool for peace, human rights, environment and sustainability, solidarity, security.  
  • Scuola, rinnovato il Protocollo tra MIUR e Associazione Nazionale Vittime Civili di Guerra (28 Feb 2019) This is the renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Education, University and Research and the National Association for Civilians Victims of War. The aim of the project is to educate students to the historical memory of the country, to raise awareness about living in situations of war and conflict and to understand the impact of conflict worldwide, while continuing to celebrate the National day in remembrance of civilians victims of war.
  • Educazione ambientale e alla sostenibilità Environmental education, sustainability, dialogue and global citizenship are the main topics of this project. By launching this program, the Ministry of Education aims to foster the implementation of the 17 UN sustainable development goals of Agenda 2030,  inviting students and teachers to carry out constructive reflection about the importance of sustainability, and promoting at the same time a culture of peace, dialogue and rule of law.
  • Italian Civil Corps Peace education is one the main goals of the national service of Italian Civil Corps.
  • La Pace si fa a Scuola - National Program established by Italian Ministry of Education for the year 2007

Policy / Legislation (click for details)
  • Supportive

Teacher Training (click for details)
  • Optional

SDG Indicator 4.7.1 Data / Analysis (click for details)

No indicators currently reported. See the Istituto Nazionale di Statistica for current SDG data.

Peace Education Organizations, Projects, & Models

In Italy there are several non-governmental organizations that offer initiatives, workshops and projects related to peace education. They cover a variety of topics including human rights, sustainability, conflict-resolution education and active citizenship. 

Among these, there are:

News on Peace Education in Italy

Access the comprehensive archive of news articles related to Italy on the Global Campaign for Peace Education website.
For a more customizable search, please visit the Global Campaign for Peace Education Clearinghouse.

Research on Peace Education in Italy

Access the comprehensive archive of research articles related to Italy on the Global Campaign for Peace Education website.
For a more customizable search, please visit the Global Campaign for Peace Education Clearinghouse.

Where to Study Peace Education in Italy

Peace education per se takes place largely in non-formal learning settings as it is designed and spread mostly by non-governmental organizations and religious associations. Hence there is a very small number of educational institutes that offer peace education courses. Nonetheless,  at the same time many are the universities in the country that offer courses and programs about peace studies which aim to educate students about peace. The result is a sort of confusion between peace education and education on peace education, which contributes to the lack of programs to educate on peace education specifically.  

Currently, few Italian universities include in their programs specific courses about peace education:

Visit the Global Campaign for Peace Education Global Directory for where to study peace education in Italy and around the world.