What are Italian schools delivering?

Some days ago I reviewed the study plans of one of the ITIS (Italian Institutes of Industrial Technology) that I had been interested in when I still was not a certified IT professional.

What shocked me (and what is frightening almost everyone who is interested in becoming an IT professional in Italy) was the unbelievable gap between what students are learning at schools and what the real IT world needs from them! It’s enough to read the index of an Information Technology learning plan delivered by these institutes to realize that nobody who spends five years (or even more) in such environments will ever be prepared to work in a real IT staff, no matter what role (developer, sysadmin, sysop, …) he/she will play.
The currently adopted study programs seem to be designed for filling the student’s head with all the mathematical theories so far developed by the human race, without considering at all the main aspects of today’s Information Technology implementations.
I’m not saying that isn’t important to know about the foundations of Computer Science, nor that it is enough just to teach Active Directory designing or the Lotus Notes setup in order to create an IT professional. What I want to say is that there must be a combination of both theory and practice.

What are today requirements in preparing a good IT professional? The answer is not as complex as it might seem, obviously that is if you have a well-focused idea of what being an IT professional means!

First of all, there must be some cultural elements from which all other further analysis should start: everyone know that until a new technology can be fully understood and accepted by both users and the community of professionals, there is no chance to see it working and improving the way we live, work, play or do business. A tablet PC for today’s students must be as much as a familiar tool as pen and paper were for me some years ago (obviously while at the same time not ignoring the “old” technologies that humankind has used so far to research, learn, store and transmit knowledge).

While the first step is making new technologies part of the whole education environment, the second one is to prepare the right people for the right environment: it is important to identify as soon as possible the specialization field which best fit each student abilities and desires, and to help him or her to develop the competencies required to work in that field, in the real world.

Information Technology has evolved quickly so far and this pace is expected continue in the future. So to achieve both today and tomorrow’s goals we need not only more and more specialized skills, but also people who are ready to change and adapt their way of studying, working and living. Such an ability is only possible if they have a clear vision of what they still cannot understand, prior to what they think to know.
Every professional knows that humility is the first and single essential requirement for operating correctly and to be successful. Schools must educate before they teach and they must prepare while they train. Until trainers and administrators identify with these requirements, there will be no opportunity for Italian schools to generate what the IT world is asking for: real professionals. And they will go on producing hundreds of thousands of graduates who will never have a chance of succeeding, as is going on in this very moment while you are reading this post.
If anyone among the readers has ever had a good experience in his or her academic studies regarding this argument, I would be glad if you would let me know about it. I hope not all schools operate like the ones I have spoken about in this short review!

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