Cascavelos State School

How Portugal is pushing educational boundaries

According to the PISA report, Portugal is the only country to have improved its educational standards.

See the full video here.

Joao Maroco, Director:

Although we have gone through different political movements and ideologies over the past 15 years, with governments leaning more to the left or the right, the Ministry of Education has continued to implement its policy to improve excellence and rigor in education. This has meant that it has been able to establish certain targets and objectives as regards curricula and to run educational programs that are well-founded and have been scientifically proven. Furthermore, the bar has been set higher as regards what students need to achieve in each school year, while standards have also risen for teachers with respect to what they should be teaching.

In spite of some challenging conditions such as families with less economic, social and cultural power, a weaker economy, schools with fewer facilities, and less-qualified teachers, if you compare Portugal's social, economic and cultural environment (in terms of families and schools) to Finland's, you can see that Portugal is making more headway.

Those working within the system, as well as teachers, parents and students all clearly understood that the bar had been raised as regards standards and the use of examinations, which in turn meant that teachers were more motivated to complete programs and achieve targets and that students were more motivated to learn. In terms of Portugal's progress, I believe that accountability has helped the country to improve its results.

"Students are not set any homework. However, they are required to study at home"

Isabel Flores, educational researcher:

Portugal continues to improve its PISA results in all areas, including languages, science and math. In 2015, Portugal's results were expected to be worse due to the crisis, but they weren't. The nation continued on its upward trend as regards results and this caught people's attention.

The reasons we were able to do this, which I believe need to be recognized, are as follows: universal access to preschool education, as well as more ambitious families and young people who see school as an important resource.

Portugal is a poor country, but its teachers are willing to help students. One of the PISA indicators that denotes socioeconomic and cultural status is established using student surveys. This indicator does not count towards a country's average score; however, Portugal scored 40% below average. In an OECD context, Portugal is a poor country.

One aspect that has changed a lot in Portugal in recent years is the number of schools that have produced good results, even in difficult social environments. This has happened without a great deal of investment or major policies from government. I honestly believe that the trends seen in schools like Carcavelos will become more frequent and that the number of schools capable of achieving these standards will increase. A change is happening, albeit quietly. By the time we notice it, it will already have happened.

Rather than the policies implemented by any government, change is being driven by a real sense of motivation within school communities and their surroundings, including companies and associations, etc., based on the idea that school can change a person's life.

Cascavelos Public School is just one example of the country's progress in the area of education. Indeed, Portugal is the only country to have improved on its PISA report results since the year 2000. Some of the measures taken include having no classes on Friday afternoons, not making students repeat years before the third year of the ESO compulsory education level, banning homework and helping students to learn the skills they need to speak in public and collaborate with classmates.