The night before the exams: data on the political debate on school

Education has become a complex issue for the Government during the pandemic crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced concerns over distance learning, the psychological well-being of children, and the effects of digitized learning on society.

There have been many clashes in Parliament on how to best handle these issues. Using data collection tools and proprietary text analysis algorithms, we have analyzed 1637 legislative documents from March 1, 2020, most of which were discussed in the Chamber.

Many issues emerged in relation to teaching during the pandemic crisis. Some of the most discussed topics include competitions, school rankings, health issues, economic recovery, the digitization of educational activities, and teaching disciplines. Party members from the Northern League are the greatest number of signatories for education-related documents. These members primarily consider the management of competitions, maintaining school transportation, and the harmful effects that limiting social activities may have the psychological well-being of students.

Many other politicians share these worries over the mental effects distance learning can have on children, including the Democratic Party. Other parties, like Spazio, worry that distance learning and remote working may harm “Italian culture”, but they recognize the potential need for digitization.

The growing popularity of discussions on education in Parliament have also reignited conversations about other topics related to schools. Members of the Five Star Movement and “champions” of education issues, mainly the Honorable Paola Frassinetti (Brothers of Italy) and Senator Paola Binetti (Forza Italia), have questioned what can be done to improve upon special education needs. Meanwhile, members of the Northern League and Brothers of Italy are also taking ahold of the political moment to push back against the introduction of gender theory and LGBTQ+ education in schools.

Overall, the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted an overhaul of education in Italy. Parliamentary debates since March 2020 have introduced new terms such as “distance learning” and “integrated digital teaching”, highlighting how educative practices must be re-evaluated. Perhaps, when COVID-19 diminishes from being an epidemic, economic revitalization and investments from the National Recovery and Resilience Plan can be more central in the conversations.