One in three Portuguese teachers who sat December’s government-set aptitude test failed. This translates into hundreds more teachers next year facing dole queues, as anyone who failed is now unable to show the aptitude they may have for their chosen subject(s) and cannot apply for teaching position next scholastic year.
But before anyone takes the news on face value, it is worth looking at just two of the questions set and deciding for oneself whether the teachers “failed” or whether it is the government who is failing – not just thousands of university graduates who spent years studying for what they considered a noble profession, but children too who are now being deprived potential mentors on the basis of politics.
The questions that failed most teachers are these:
A national football coach called 17 players to the first game. Of these 17, six remained on the bench as reserves. Supposing that the coach can choose his reserve players without any restrictive criteria, we can affirm that the number of different groups of reserves is:
1. Inferior to the number of different groups of effective players
2. Superior to the number of different groups of effective players
3. Equal to the number of groups of effective players
4. It has no relation to the number of groups of effective players
An airline company transports passengers in economy class and executive class. Rows A to C, with two seats on either side of the central corridor, belong to executive class. Economy is made up of rows D to M. On one side of the corridor, each one of these rows has two seats; on the other side, three – with the exception of rows G, H and I which do not exist this side of the corridor. There are four emergency exits, two on the wings between rows J and K, and two at the front of executive class before row A.
The plane’s evacuation plan allows for half a minute, on average, to evacuate one passenger per emergency exit. Each place corresponds to an emergency exit – determined by the row and each side of the corridor. On one flight, 20 passengers travel in the first six rows of the plane, half on either side of the corridor. If the need arises, these passengers will have to be evacuated from the emergency exit located at the front of economy class. The 24 passengers that travel in the other rows, 12 on one side of the corridor, 13 on the other, will be evacuated from the emergency exit that is located on the wing of the place. The four exits function simultaneously.
How long will it take to evacuate the 45 passengers from this flight?
1. 22 mins 30 s
2. 22 mins 50s
3. 6 mins 30s
4. 6 mins 50s
While the Resident welcomes readers’ responses, these two sample questions saw huge numbers of applicants “failing”. The question has to be, does this make them bad teachers?
Education minister Nuno Crato has been delighted to confirm that there is a “set of basic prerequisites” to becoming a teacher, and the high failure-rate of over 34.3% of applicants was, he claims, compounded by spelling mistakes.
The fact that the government changed the accepted spelling of the Portuguese language only three years ago – with devastating consequences for schoolbooks which still today print errors, leaving children perplexed and unsure which spelling is correct, was not, apparently taken on board.
As Público points out in its article featuring three of the questions that most tripped up the 2,490 applicants, journalists asked for examples of the spelling errors – and queried whether they had anything to do with the new Acordo Ortográfico (Spelling Agreement) “but it was not possible to obtain this data” as the educational evaluation institute (IAVE) “refused to divulge it”.
Reacting to the bottom-line that yet another government-set test had left almost 900 teachers with less than five years experience with the trauma of having nowhere to go, teachers’ union president Mário Nogueira said: “These results simply confirm that this test is completely idiotic from the point of view of any kind of evaluation designed for teachers.
“It is completely useless,” he added, “just as the Education Minister is useless for education in Portugal.”
Nuno Crato nonetheless stays in his post – “cutting back expenditure” in the name of austerity.
As a teacher who asked to remain nameless told us, “we are nothing. We are numbers. We are fodder to fill spaces. There has been a systematic policy of demeaning/devaluing teachers to the point that society is in rapid decline.
“Today it is the teacher who is worth nothing – tomorrow it could be the policeman, even the judge.
“Politicians are not looking at the implications of their actions. They are simply looking at money.”
By NATASHA DONN [email protected]