Portugal. Educational Policies and Autonomy in Portuguese Schools
School Autonomy, Organization and Performance in Europe
While striving to join the Euro zone and further participating in the enduring process of Europeanization (Featherstone and Kasamis, 2000), Portugal featured among countries with the lowest levels of growth, productivity and competitiveness, besides expressing historical and latent structural problems. Portugal has a sizable proportion of individuals with low levels of qualification, along with a progressive retraction in its demographic configuration – a declining younger population and increasing elderly people – with direct impacts on the labour market structure, namely depressing the activity rates. Although the most recent OECD´s Education at Glance reports that the attainment of tertiary education has increased remarkably, it remains a considerable challenge as only one-third of young adults achieved this level of education (OECD, 2017). Portugal shows a non-linear trend in the evolution of education outcomes, despite the continuous, but irregular, improvement in this field since the 1970s. In the last decades and particularly since the 2001 Lisbon Agenda, there has been a notable effort to evolve within a pathway of substantive recovery. Portugal had been following a route of convergence towards European standards, more intense up to the eruption of the financial crisis, where policies were marked by lines of continuity in the demand for these results and consequent convergence. During the last decade, we highlight the increase of compulsory education to 12 years of schooling; a positive trend in fighting against early school leaving and dropout; the reinforcement of adult education and training options, adult educational attainment; the development of vocational and training courses and special needs education. At the peak of the crisis and with the entry of a new executive in 2011, which coincided with Troika in Portugal, profound transformations were carried out in education, both in the policies and consequent educational outcomes, interrupting the convergent trends and setting a clear recession. Some of these changes can be generically listed: ending Adult Education options (which was until then, one of the main domains of national policy, even recognized and distinguished by several international partners); modifying the inclusive policy of Special Education; implementing further national examinations (made compulsory at Primary level (ISCED 1), for instance); increasing class size; more state incentives to private schools, and less to public schools; promoting early tracking with the creation of vocational courses at the end of Lower Secondary education (ISCED2), contrary to all recommendations from international bodies like the OECD; closing all the Regional Education Authorities, therefore reducing progress made in decentralization, among other measures that turned it into a more centralized system, more focused on external evaluation, and less focused on pedagogical processes and practices, on schools, students and social inequalities. At the centre of the discussion of the 124 Portuguese scientific community was the key question: are we facing an attempt to turn education into yet another instrument at the service of a conservative and neoliberal agenda? With the elections in 2015 and the entry of a new government, many of the measures and policies prior to 2011 were reinstated, with the political drive once again focused on the need to promote school success, social equity and access to public education assured for all – children, youth and adults, with and without special educational needs, with and without economic resources. Vocational courses were ended, national examinations in Primary education (ISCED1) were replaced by benchmarking tests, class sizes were reduced, and several programmes are underway aimed at boosting success and equity. The Portuguese school system has a comprehensive matrix mostly of French inspiration, seen however as a highly centralized system with low levels of autonomy. This is a sensitive and widely debated topic, mostly because schools and school principals have been claiming more autonomy in financial and pedagogical management and in some respects in school and class organization. Teachers’ organizations, namely unions, tend to be against some dimensions of school autonomy, mostly because this may represent a visible restructuring in system management. Local governments have been fighting for decentralization, but under the condition of fair funding of the new responsibilities to be assumed, while negotiating the division of areas of responsibility with the actual schools. Nevertheless, autonomy and decentralization are currently considered two of the main priorities, and a number of steps can be identified since the development of the “democratic school” during the 1980s. In particular, most recently, national programmes such as “Flexibilization and School Autonomy” and “More School”, that are encouraging schools to take over the management of various pedagogical processes and control of their resources.
Classificação Fields of Science and Technology
- Sociologia - Ciências Sociais