As many as 10,000 people took to the streets of Rome in protest at proposed cuts in education funding.
Demonstrators fear the cuts will result in the loss of 86,000 teaching jobs. Another 44,000 administration posts could also be lost, amounting to a 17 percent reduction in the number of jobs in education across the country.
Two thousand six hundred schools with less than 500 pupils will be forced to close and the guidelines for classroom numbers has been raised to 30.
Teachers’ unions point out that Italy already spends much less than the European average on education.
Also, a controversial scheme to create special classes for immigrant children has been approved by the lower house of Italy’s parliament.
Foreign children would be required to pass a special test before being admitted into schools, a plan denounced as xenophobic by opponents.
Protest organisers wanted to focus on the benefits of education. Students’ union leader Piero Bottale said: “As an example of good education, I was in Barcelona and I wanted to stay there because there was a desire for high quality. It taught me some wonderful things.”
The protests were mainly peaceful, although there were some complaints about roads being closed. Another demonstration is planned for October 20.