Primary education is the first stage of compulsory education. In the 2017/2018 school year, there were around 2.7 million children enrolled in almost 17 thousand elementary schools. On average, Italian elementary schools have 19 pupils in each class. However, regional differences are remarkable: the average number of children per class in Emilia-Romagna is 20.8, whereas a class in Aosta Valley had on average 14.9 scholars. Factors like urbanization and rural exodus could explain such differences. Indeed, Aosta Valley is a mountainous region, while Emilia Romagna is one of the main industrial centers of Italy.
Elementary education is followed by middle school. Students usually attend middle school for three years, from the age of 10 to 13. In the 2017/2018 school year, a total of 1.7 million students were enrolled in Italian middle schools. The Northern region of Lombardy counted the largest number of schools nationwide, followed by the Southern regions of Campania and Sicily. Together with the number of middle schools in the country, the average count of pupils (955536) per class has decreased slightly in recent years, reaching 20.9 children per class.
High school education follows to middle school and it has a duration of lasts five years. Generally, students can choose among three different types of upper secondary schools: lyceums, technical schools, and vocational schools. Among the different types of Italian upper secondary schools, lyceums are those most of all preparing students for the tertiary education the most. Moreover, technical high schools offer both a technical and a theoretical preparation, while vocational schools mostly focus on practical training. Nevertheless, all these types of secondary schools allow students to apply to university.
About 39.5 percent of students who graduate from high school enroll at university. In the 2017/2018 academic year, the Central regions of Italy registered the highest enrollment rate, where 44.6 percent of all high school graduates decided to attend university. In the same year, there were over one million bachelor students in Italy, accounting for about 62 percent of all university students in the country. The most popular field of study in Italy is economics, followed by engineering. The largest Italian universities are La Sapienza University of Rome, in the Capital, the University of Bologna, which also ranks as the best Italian university, and the University of Naples Federico II, the oldest public university in the world.