Education in Italy is free and compulsory for eight years (for children between the ages of 6 and 14). Primary school lasts 5 years and secondary education (Scuole medie) is further divided in two stages: Medie Inferiori, which correspond to the middle school grades, and Medie Superiori, which correspond to the secondary school level. Middle school lasts 3 years and Scuole Superiori lasts another 5 years. Every tier involves an exam at the end of the final year.
Secondary schools are of different types and allow students to choose alternative career paths depending on their interests and aptitude. There is the Liceo, the Istituto Tecnico (technical institute) and the Istituto Professionale (professional institute). The Liceo includes secondary schools oriented towards the study of the arts and sciences.
The Licei are again divided into four types: Liceo Classico, which offers Latin, Ancient Greek, Italian, History and Philosophy as its most important subjects; Liceo Scientifico, where the emphasis is on scientific and mathematical topics; Liceo Linguistico, which focuses on languages; and Liceo Artistico, which is oriented toward the arts.
The university system in Italy is akin to that of the United Kingdom and students concentrate on one subject throughout their degree. Courses consist of the Laurea (roughly equivalent to a bachelor's degree) and the Laurea Specialistica (roughly equivalent to an master's degree). There are 41 state universities and 15 other universities, colleges, and higher learning institutes, including the University of Bologna (founded in the 11th century), the oldest in Italy and the University of Rome, which is the country's largest.