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One on One interview: Education

Posted by on Wednesday, May 31, 2017 in Blog posts.

I did a one on one interview with a woman named Caterina from Bagheria, and she has been a teacher for 15 years. She teaches Italian at Cultureforum (mostly to Germans and English speakers) and typically teaches a very small class. She decided to become a teacher because she had studied English and German at the University, but chose to teach Italian to non-native speakers because, in her opinion, the Italian students are lazy.

I was curious as to the reputation of teachers in Italy, because in the United States, there is often a negative connotation to being a teacher. While they are valued by the students (most of the time) and the negative connotation may be fading, there definitely used to be an “if you can’t do, teach” mentality in America. In reality, our society would not survive without teachers because they provide the knowledge needed by the students in order to invent new things and progress society. Caterina said that there is a positive view of teachers in Sicily, and I think this may stem from the importance of education on the island. She also explained that education is extremely important and that barely any of the students have jobs when they go to school. This is very different from what we see in the United States. There are many cases in which education is not prioritized, and even when it is, sometimes the need for money overpowers the need for an education. Many students drop out of school because their family needs extra money and the task gets delegated to the child to help out. This creates an unfortunate cycle because education is now imperative to getting a job that provides a decent salary, but the students lose their chance at an education because their family needs immediate money. School districts have even had to make changes to their systems because the amount of students with jobs is growing. For instance, in Nashville, MNPS schools no longer allow homework to contribute to a student’s grade because there was an unfair advantage for students who do not have jobs in terms of being able to finish and do well on their homework. Caterina explained that in order to get a job in Italy, education is vital and, because of this, there are few students who go to school and have a job.

They do have both public schools and private schools in Italy, but the public schools are typically better. This is a huge difference from the United States where, most of the time, the private schools are better. This comes down to funding, as private schools have their own funding and the public schools are funded by the government. Because of this, the public schools have less resources and often have more turn over in teachers, something that is proven to be harmful to students. Caterina explained that the private schools in Italy are worse because the students are lazier and don’t want to study, so their parents pay and, in the end, they have their certificate. However, university is different. Private universities have a better reputation than public universities, but they are very expensive. This is true in the United states as well, although some public universities have reputations that rival private universities. Caterina also explained to me that many students go to college because, as stated before, it is vital to find work. We learned that the unemployment rate for young people is about 45%, so without a college education, it seems as though there is virtually no way to get a job. I do believe that getting a college degree is just as important in the United States, but in Italy, they do not put the burden of money on the child.

Lastly, I wanted to discuss whether or not education was as hot of a topic in Italy as it was in the US. When I asked about the recent election and whether or not education was a platform for the candidates, she said that education was not a main topic, and that the most important topic is always jobs. This is not surprising given the unemployment rates in Sicily. In the United States, public education is always a huge topic because our system needs a lot of changing. In the past years, common topics were the Common core and public funding in general. Apparently in Italy, what gets taught in the classroom is at the discretion of the school itself, and I wonder how that works in terms of generalizing education for all students. Caterina said that while education has not changed in a long time, it does need to because their system is very flawed. I think that no system is ever perfect, and education is a very touchy topic. Everyone wants the best for their child, and you can never make everyone happy, however I think constant education reform is important. Both the children and the job market are constantly changing and we need to tailor the schools in a way that gives the students the best chance at being successful. With little education reform, I find it hard to believe that the school system would be setting the children up in the best way possible for today’s ever-changing job market and economy.

If you want to listen to the whole interview, click here!

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