PON scholarships are a very important opportunity for Italian secondary students. With generous EU funding and on the basis of their merit, students have the opportunity to go on a study abroad experience and explore a foreign culture completely free of charge.
In a series of posts, we are going to share with you PON insight from our Italian partner agencies. You will learn important facts and common issues to consider before receiving PON students to your school!
Communication, communication, communication
One well-known challenge with the PON initiative is a certain lack of communication between the Italian Ministry of Education (MIUR), and the entities who work together on the projects. These include Italian secondary schools, Italian agencies or tour operators and international language schools.
Italian secondary schools receive guidelines from MIUR on how to organize tenders and write PON projects. However, these guidelines sometimes do not take into full account the reality of the destination countries. This lack of consideration can pose challenges for Italian schools when they start writing their projects. It also poses challenges to Italian agencies who have to match the school’s needs and requests with a satisfactory offer.
On the surface, accommodation may not seem the most central element of a PON project. However, it is the one where we very often find a missing point of connection.
For example, Italian schools are particularly interested in sending students to international colleges. The reason is that Italian students can in this way experience how international students live and study abroad. However, some colleges and their campuses are not open throughout the whole year. If an Italian school is not aware of this detail, but has submitted a project including only college as an accommodation option, the intermediary agency may have difficulty responding to such request.
Therefore, Italian schools need more and better guidelines not only on how to write PON projects, but also on what is available abroad. There are many international institutions with a great variety of programmes, strong competencies and excellent facilities. However, Italian schools still have difficulties recognising where quality is – and accommodation is only one aspect.
International schools also need to know what it means exactly work with PON groups. It’s much more than hosting 15 Italian students for a language learning experience. It means also granting them quality accommodation, safety, but beyond all – a cultural experience.
Over the course of 3-4 weeks, Italian students need to be engaged in activities offering rich cultural immersion. This doesn’t mean taking them around for walks or sending them to famous tourist attractions like the London Eye. It means for example taking them to a local festival, community or sports event, visiting a government body or a museum, having a movie or a theatre night, or introducing them to traditional local cuisine. All of these activities should occur with continuous assistance and access to IT facilities, as Italian teachers need to log daily reports into MIUR’s dedicated PON platform.
Speaking about culture and cuisine, there is another important aspect you need to be aware of when working with Italian students, and this is quality of food. There are many nations and cultures where food is not such a central element. Italians, however, are famous for their high standards and attention to what they put in their mouths.
Therefore, if your food options involve packed or processed meals, you are in trouble! Italian students will not accept such a menu, and neither will their families or teachers back home, especially for a period as long as 3-4 weeks. If your school or college does not have its own canteen, it is a good idea to partner with the catering sector in order to meet the needs of those Italian students!
Stay tuned as we continue to share PON insight in our next posts!
Looking to network with Italian agencies and receive PON groups to your school? Join our dedicated PON, INPSIEME & ITACA Focus Workshop on 1-2 March 2018 in Naples, Italy. Secure your seat now and take advantage of our Early Bird rates: