Improving education is President’s priority .jpg

Improving education is President’s priority

THE CHRONIC deficiencies in the Portuguese educational system were the target of the President’s annual October 5 Day speech, which celebrated the 97th anniversary of the Portuguese Republic.

Addressing the public, the President of Lisbon Câmara and the Prime Minister, Aníbal Cavaco Silva said that after nearly a century since the birth of the Republic in 1910, it had to be accepted that Portugal had not yet managed to solve the main causes for her structural backwardness: the deficiencies in the Portuguese educational system for both children and young people.

“After 30 years following the installation of democracy, the problem still persists and sets us apart from other European countries,” he said.

According to surveys carried out in 2001, 45 per cent of the population between 18 and 24 failed to continue beyond obligatory schooling, neither did they take any professional or vocational training.

“Over the past 100 years, we have lost far too much time correcting errors practised in the past. We have treated schooling as the government’s problem and that of the ‘regime’ and we’ve concentrated our attentions too much on the relationship between the state and school without paying attention to the role and responsibilities of civil society.”

Social innovation

The President said that while some effort had been made to “make up for lost time” in recent years, the country had still “not quite found its way” with regard to education.

“On this occasion, I would propose to the Portuguese a new and innovative way of looking at schooling,” he said.

Innovation was not, he said, the exclusive realm of the country’s companies; it was possible to innovate on a social level, in various fields, including education. “We should start by affirming that a Republican school is an open and pluralistic school, one that promotes understanding between the most diverse beliefs, convictions and ideologies.”

Calling for the adoption of a new attitude towards schools, he added that it was there that the most important elements of the future were to be found.

Cavaco Silva stressed that parents themselves had an important role to play in their children’s education and motivation. It wasn’t enough to simply buy books and manuals, for parents to attend parents and teachers’ meetings, or take their kids to school. They had to put schools at the focus of the community.

He also said that local government câmaras needed to assume greater responsibility with regard to educational establishments. “The management of schools should gradually be handed over to the communities they serve, while new technology should be used to create a link between school and society,” he concluded.

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