Mussolini’s approach to Education

During their time in power, the Fascists revamped the education system. It became racist, biased and served as propaganda teaching children to have national pride and to be submissive to Fascist control.

Fascist Education aimed at ensuring total discipline, brainwashing and indoctrinating the youth by educating them on the good aspects and policies of Fascism in order to maintain the support and control over the entire country. Education in Italy was solely pro-Fascism.

This meant that students grew up supporting Fascism and right-wing views, and they had a strong sense of nationalism and loyalty to the Fascist state.

Religious Changes to the Education System

As a result of the Church signing various agreements with the Fascist government, there were a few changes to school life.

  • In 1923, Religious Education was made a compulsory subject for Primary School students, and this became the same for Secondary School Students in 1929.

  • Prayers were carried out two times during each school day, as Christianity was established as the national religion.

An Indoctrinating Curriculum

The government made other changes to the curriculum, largely with purposes of indoctrinating the youth and ensuring their support.

  • In 1926, 101 out of 317 historical texts were banned.

  • The Fascists introduced official, mandatory course plans into the education system

  • In 1928, a single textbook covering all subjects, for each year of elementary school, was created by the government.

  • To solidify the national Italian identity, all dialects were banned.

  • In 1935, military education was introduced to enhance national pride.

  • The subject taught about the good elements of Italian History, weapons and tactics.

  • In 1936, lessons on Fascist culture were introduced in elementary schools

  • In 1938, anti-semitic policies taken from Nazi Germany were implemented into school curriculums.

Controlling Educators

From 1925, the Fascists began to take a number of measures to control the teachers.

  • In 1925, they made it so public employees with anti-Fascist views could be dismissed.

    • As a result, in order to keep their jobs, they were forced to teach content that they didn’t necessarily agree with.

  • In 1929, after the Concordat was signed (which introduced Religious Education into Secondary Schools) teachers were required to take an oath of loyalty to Mussolini.

  • In 1931, teachers associations were combined to form a Fascist Association. It organised indoctrination courses that teachers had to take in order to achieve any promotions.

  • In 1931, professors began to receive instructions to take the oath of loyalty, with only 11 out of more than one thousand two hundred and fifty refusing, with many taking the oath with their fingers crossed as they did not agree with the Fascist party.

  • After 1933, new educators were required to be members of the Fascist Association

  • In 1934, teachers were instructed to express national pride by wearing Fascist uniforms on official occasions.

  • After 1937, all educators had to be members of the Fascist Association. They were also encouraged to become leaders on the Fascist Youth Organisation, Opera Nazionale Balilla (ONB).

  • 1938 Racial doctrines meant that Jewish teachers were dismissed and Jewish students were kicked out of their schools.

Aside from forcing professors to take oaths, they didn’t really enact any policies on universities, as long as they did not express hostility towards the Fascist government.

Fascist Youth Organisations

The Opera Nazionale Balilla (ONB)

It consisted of subgroups for boys and girls, ranging from the ages of 6 to 18. It was run by the party from 1926 until 1929, then the education ministry, until 1937 when it was replaced by Gioventù Italiana del Littorio, GIL. Similar to Nazi Germany’s youth organisations, they covered a range of activities from sports and military drills to propaganda lectures.

• Fascio Giovanile del Littorio

This was in place from 1930. It was for youths aged 18 to 21 who were not at university

• Gruppi Universitari Fascisti

This was in place from 1930. It was for youths aged 18 to 21 who were studying at university.

How effective was Fascist Education?

  • There are twenty years of students who would have experienced Fascist indoctrination.

  • Mussolini was also able to decrease the percentage of the population that was illiterate from 27% in 1921 to 17% in 1936.

  • Meanwhile, he increased government expenditure on education from 4% in 1922 to 8% between 1926 and 1935.