Teachers to be given powers to create new subjects as report shows “significant reduction” in pupils who like school

Education minister Tiago Brandão Rodrigues is hoping to “motivate teachers and pupils” by introducing “profound changes” in the country’s education programme for the next academic year.

The news comes as a report by the Conselho Nacional de Educação (CNE) has produced new data to show there has been a significant reduction between 1998 and 2014 in the number of pupils who say they like school.

Said CNE president David Justino, attitudes are still “positive in the main” but compared to data collected during the 90s, “some disenchantment” has been detected, with a “significant reduction” in the number of pupils willing to say they like school “a lot”.

Justino also alerted to concerns over the use of Ritalin in schools, as a means of controlling disruptive pupils, or those with attention deficit issues.

But Rodrigues’ reforms owe more to structural problems of the education system, than the CNE’s latest report.

Explains national tabloid Correio da Manhã, there has been intense debate on how Portugal’s system has failed to move with the times.

For example, the musical education programme still talks about the “use of a gramophone player”!

Secretary of State for Education João Costa explained the problems. “There is a social perception that pupils today need to learn the same as I learnt at school.

“We have a curriculum based on the logic of stacking: knowledge advances, and it is all piled on pupils at school” when perhaps a better strategy would be to define the “essentials” of each subject, and “go from there”.

“Flexibility” is the new buzzword being bandied about, designed to “give schools the possibility of defining their own educational projects, and create interdisciplinary projects” as well.

For now, schools will be given a “25% allowance for autonomy in curricula” but the government “wants more”, explains Costa – stressing the status quo sees teachers “demotivated as they have been transformed into executors of programmes in which they have no belief”.

“If they were invited to create their own, they would be happier”, with the chance that pupils too would get much more out of their educational experience.

Giving examples, Costa said: “If there is a lack of art, or oral ability in languages then a subject like ‘English theatre’ could be created.”

Costa has already visited a number of schools where artistic and scientific programmes outside the regular State curriculum have had positive results, says CM, while a working group set up in July, led by Guilherme Oliveira Martins, is still considering material that should be considered ‘essential’ in mandatory education programmes.


Photo: Education minister Tiago Brandão Rodrigues plays table football with pre-primary and primary schoolchildren in Amadora earlier this month