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School test results “disastrous”, lament school directors

Results “cannot be blamed on pandemic, or instability in schools”

Just as the prime minister hails advances in the levels of education in Portugal’s schools, the results of this year’s ‘test results’ (sat by pupils in the 2nd, 5th and 8th years in May and June) have finally been revealed – and, according to school directors, they are “disastrous”, for various reasons: first, the pass rate.

These were the first tests that the government insisted had to be done in ‘digital format’ – understandable for those already old enough to read and write fluently; not so for the early years.

But just as disastrous has been the ‘timing’. Why have the results only been delivered now, once the first term of the academic has already finished? School directors say this is the kind of information teachers need “in September”, so that they can plan strategies for the new academic year.

This doesn’t detract however from the truly abysmal results. As one teacher told Diário de Notícias, the results are “disastrous from every perspective” and “the reasons for the debacle cannot be attributed to the pandemic as the knowledge measured refers to content from the school year itself (…) Perhaps in Portuguese or Maths we can talk about the more cumulative aspect of competences, but that can’t explain everything. As for instability in schools, the minister repeated a month ago that the strikes had a residual impact…”

History and Geography teacher Paulo Guinote told DN that he suspects the depressing results stem more from pupils’ perception that the tests are ‘pointless’ and mean very little to their scholastic careers. He said he noticed when invigilating one of the tests for 8th year pupils that some did no more than write their name. Thus, in Paulo Guinote’s opinion, the tests are simply “a waste of time and resources”, while reductions in the school timetable for traditional subjects have seen the approach to them become ‘minimalist’.

“The result is that between 5 and 15 % of students are able to answer anything in the assessment tests,” he said, also criticising the application of tests in digital format “when the conditions for this (meaning even a good internet connection) were never properly assured”.

Analysing the overall results of the tests that applied to 5th – 8th grade pupils, the teacher said they “are even more worrying than those of the PISA test”, says DN.

“What the overall results of this test reveal – more dramatically than the PISA tests – is that the last few years have been a rhetorical construction of an inclusive, flexible, equitable education that has led the majority of pupils in State schools down an alley from which they urgently need to be removed”, said Guinote.

That this assessment comes ‘hot on the heels’ of the prime minister’s Christmas speech, mentioning how far education has travelled, highlights the criticism of opposition parties, who suggested that the seemingly Brussels’ bound PM was talking about an alternative reality.

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