From pre-school to access to higher education: Costa’s plan for Portugal’s students
Only students of the 11th and 12th years (penultimate and final year of education) will be likely be able to return, in this academic year, to take face-to-face classes, Prime Minister António Costa announced this Thursday. However,”if and when” students return to schools will only be decided according to the evolution of the pandemic in Portugal.
For the remaining students, from the 1st to the 10th year, the academic year continues on a distance learning basis, as it had until the Easter holidays so far. Up to the 9th year, distance-based teaching will now have the reinforcement of the new Telescola TV channel, which will begin to be broadcast on the RTP Memória channel from the 20th of April.
“The school year is not over,” highlighted the prime minister. The last phase of the academic year will take place in full and end “with evaluation”. “Even from a distance, the evaluation will exist and the teachers will take into account the whole educational path of the students”, guaranteed Costa.
Students from the 1st to the 9th grade will do the entire 3rd term on a distance learning basis. “The decision is made and is definitive” for these years of schooling, assures António Costa. The final evaluation of students will be made in each school by the respective teachers. Students’ grades will still be based on the work done in this 3rd term, despite this leaving many disadvantaged students with limited TV or Internet access on the side-lines. However, the Government has decided to cancel the 2nd and 5th year assessment tests, as well as the 9th year national exams, meaning that grades will only be teacher-based, and have no real effect on nation-wide exams.
-Telescola TV classes:
The “television broadcast of pedagogical content” – as the Prime Minister described the new Telescola – will “complement” the work that teachers do at a distance with their students. The broadcasts will start on April 20th, through RTP Memória, a channel that is available on cable and satellite services, but also on Digital Terreste Television, which is free and thus reaches the overwhelming majority of homes. The broadcasts will be made in blocks, divided by years of schooling, throughout the day, starting with the youngest students and ending at the end of the afternoon with the classes for the 9th grade students. RTP2 will reinforce the program for pre-schoolers also.
Exceptional support for employees and self-employed workers who stay at home to accompany their children due to the closure of schools will remain on hold until the end of the academic year. The rules are the same as for the first two weeks of suspension from teaching activities. In other words, parents of students up to the age of 12 are covered.
High school, as they are “decisive years”, the Government believes that it is “particularly important” that face-to-face teaching activities can be resumed for 11th and 12th year students, who typically take national exams over these two years. The decision as to whether they will sit their exams is still rather uncertain, depending the known data on the evolution of the pandemic. 10th grade students continue to be taught at a distance, as do peers in primary education.
-When will they return to school?:
“If and when they are going to resume” classes will be decided later, announced António Costa, who said that the Government is working on a “plan B”, which involves maintaining classes exclusively in distance learning, “if the evolution of the pandemic so demands”.
If they return to school, high school students will have to wear a mask inside the school, which will be provided by the Ministry of Education, and schools will have to ensure compliance with distance teaching rules. Teachers and other workers who are part of risk groups will be released from work.
Even if face-to-face classes are resumed, only the 22 high school subjects which are subject to national examination will be taught within schools. The rest will continue to be taught at a distance.
These exams will be postponed to allow more time for completing the academic year. Classes will be able to be extended until June 26th. The 1st phase of the national competitions to enter university, which was scheduled for the second half of June, will be held from 6 to 23 July. The 2nd phase will take place from the 1st to the 7th of September.
“Students will only take national final exams in the subjects they choose as entrance exams for the purposes of a national competition for access to higher education”. Those intended only for “subject approval and completion of secondary education” are cancelled.
The Government affirms that activities in kindergartens can only be resumed when “the current distancing rules are reviewed”. Children therefore have to remain at home. Costa assures that it is premature to define a safe time period that allows for these rules will be changed”.
-Access to higher education:
António Costa did not address the issue of access to higher education, but the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education has meanwhile announced that the timeframe for access to higher education will be fully delayed by three weeks. The results of the first phase of the national access competition will be announced on 28th September. Applications are typically made during the month of August.