Italians to limit number of foreign pupils in each classroom

ITALIAN schools are to impose a 30 per cent limit on the number of foreigners in classes.

Education minister Mariastella Gelmini, of the right-wing People of Freedom Party, said it would reduce cases where classes consisted entirely of immigrant students who spoke barely any Italian.

She said the limits would start from September, the beginning of the next academic year, and would initially cover the lower years before being expanded. She said it "would avoid ghetto classes made up of foreign pupils".

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There have also been cases in Italian cities with high immigrant populations where parents have refused to send their children to school because they fear they are being held back as a result.

Ms Gelmini said: "This move is not racism. Schools should be places of integration and our education institutes are ready to accept children from all cultures and from all over the world.

"At the same time, Italian schools must maintain with pride their historic traditions and continue to teach the culture of our country. Citizenship classes are a step in the right direction as they teach respect, history and laws of the Italian culture."

Ms Gelmini said immigrant children would learn more Italian if they mixed with more local students and that pupils over the limit would be provided with free transport to nearby schools.

Two years ago, the xenophobic Northern League party put forward a proposal to introduce classes exclusively for immigrants instead of allowing them to enter directly into the Italian system.

There are some 690,000 foreign students from 190 different countries in Italian schools, the majority from Albania and Romania.

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