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The “Scuola Social Impact” Program

Changing The Concept of School in Italian Society

Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia

Toolkit of Ideas for the “City-School”

Western countries are by and large mounting similar lockdown and healthcare policies to fight the current pandemic. They differ, however, in the choice of whether to keep schools open or not. During the first lockdown at the beginning of 2020, almost every country chose to close schools and introduce distance learning, where social and infrastructure conditions allowed. But after three or four weeks, almost all Europe’s school-aged children went back to the classroom. There were many problems, especially in Spain and France, but on the whole these were overcome thanks to a concerted effort. In Italy, however, classroom teaching was suspended from the end of February until June.

While the overwhelming swiftness of the pandemic confronted every country with its own shortcomings - especially in the welfare and education sectors - it is also true that Italy has had a “school problem” that has been simmering for decades, well before the current
public-health crisis.

Every country adopts policies for its school buildings that are rooted in their culture, geography and identity. As early as the 1970s, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) had examined the question in a Forum, which subsequently became a permanent research initiative. It was a time when the major concern was to ensure all children received an education, which meant that school buildings were seen as the effective means of assembling children in order to provide schooling for all. Very rapidly, however, that focus changed to how schools related to their local communities. The OECD responded with its Program on Educational Building (PEB) at end of the 1980s with the aim of sharing ideas, information, research and experience. In the following decades, this research made great strides, in keeping with the general technological, social and economic developments occurring at...

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