Algarve has one of the highest school dropout and retention rates in the country
Urban pressure, socio-economic challenges and teacher shortages are key indicators of school success, says the president of the National Association of School Leaders. Retention and dropout rates have never been lower, but both the Algarve and the Lisbon Metropolitan Area remain above the national average.
There have never been so few students dropping out or being held back a year in school nationwide. The rate of students held back continues to be higher in the latter stages of education compared to earlier years of schooling, reaching 13.6% in 2017-2018, while in the 2008-2009 school year it was 18.7%.
In early education, school retention dropped from 7.6% to 5%. But there are still regions of the country which reach values ??above the national average. This is the case for the Algarve region which has the highest retention and dropout rate in the country, as well as the Lisbon Metropolitan area, according to data from the Directorate-General for Education and Science Statistics (DGEEC).
The statistics “are a reflection of the community” and the “lack of teachers in these areas,” explains the president of the National Association of School Leaders (ANDE). Regarding basic education, in 2017-2018 it was the Algarve that the highest overall percentage of students being held back a year.
And “it is no coincidence that Lisbon and the Algarve are also, at this time, the regions of the country with the most teacher shortages,” says ANDE leader Manuel António Pereira, pointing to the scarcity of staff as one of the biggest causes for the bad statistics. One can’t really say the blame lies with the teachers though, as their work conditions aren’t exactly renowned for their attractive qualities.
About two months ago thousands of students returned to classrooms, and yet there are still thousands of students without assigned teachers. The National Education Federation estimates the national shortage to be at over ten thousand.
Not only are there a shortage of candidates for the profession, largely due to the aging profession, but those who are willing to apply choose not to do so in certain parts of the country because of the lack of financial means to pay high rents, an issue what has been highlighted for years in the Algarve.
This is ultimately the reason that it is in the Algarve that the teacher deficit is greatest, where low salaries do not compensate for housing expenses. The capital, for example, also continues to rank highly among European cities in which the disparity between disposable income and rent values ??is widening from year to year, according to a study released this year by Deutsche Bank. Thus the capital also suffers from similar teacher shortages to the Algarve.
In the Algarve, the only solution for some displaced teachers in the past has been to live in campsites. In an interview back in August, the president of the Southern Democratic Union of Teachers, Josefa Lopes, recalled that this is a problem that “has been getting worse due to the volume of tourism in the area”, which is also “each year less seasonal “.
The lack of accommodation alternatives, which is scarce, or at tourist prices, leads teachers to give up the jobs in which they were placed. “They run away from work where they do not earn to enough cover their expenses,” adds the ANDE manager.
Mr. Pereira points out that teacher shortages aren’t exactly a new problem, and “tends to worsen over the years if solutions are not implemented due to the aging of individuals within the profession.
“Schools are full of white hair,” he says, reiterating the findings of DGEEC’s “Education in Numbers 2019” report, which showed that there are only 1217 teachers left in the country who are under 30 – when two decades ago this number was as high as 27121.
But it’s not only the lack of teachers which justifies this effect on the Algarve being at the top of the dropout table, “it can’t be said that there is a direct relationship with the lack of teachers, because it is a result of a set of factors”, explains Mr. Pereira. Among them what he describes as “urbanistic pressure”.
“These are zones of great urban pressure, where schools naturally have many students, integrated into social areas with many difficulties. And, as we all know, all social problems are reflected in the school,” explains the head of ANDE.
The same is true of the Algarve. “We tend to think of an Algarve that lasts only four months throughout the Summer. But it is much longer than that. It is an area with economic and social problems, with many migrants and displaced people, decisive factors for school failure,” he says.
Schools only succeeds “if the community succeeds” because “schools do not exist alone”, adds Manuel António Pereira. Therefore, he considers, “we need to look upstream, to find ways to support families”.