The Italian Almanac

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outside the high school

Wonders of Technology

Technology is catching up with school-skipping teens in Italy who are about to find themselves up against a wall of digital surveillance that will notify their parents when they cut class, education officials said. The pilot project, set to launch at a Rome high school next year, will see students donning electric tags that register automatically with scanners around the entrances. The ''digial roll call'' will upload to a web page, where parents can make sure their children are in school, see their grades and find out how they're behaving. When students aren't where they should be, the system will send out an text message to alert their parents.

Over 500 other schools are in line to have the equipment installed, which will also include palm pilots that teachers can use to turn in grades or note bad behavior. The network was one of several innovations touted last year by Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini and Civil Service Minister Renato Brunetta, reviled by some state employees for his zero-tolerance crackdown on ''truants'' in the public sector.

According to data collected by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, one out of five Italian high school students cuts class on a regular basis. Published in an October issue of the education magazine Tuttuoscuola, the study showed Italian teenagers in 8th place out of 30 for habitual truancy. The study also showed that Italy had a drop-out rate of 30.9%, considerably higher than the OECD average of 20%.