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Portugal: promoting equal opportunities for VET learners

Following successful public consultation, the government has approved a new decree-law (Decreto-lei no 55/2018, de 6 de julho), which defines the new organisational principles of primary and upper secondary education curricula. It covers specific VET programmes: professional, art education, and education and training programmes for young people. The government’s priority is to guarantee equal opportunities and success for learners both in general and vocational education.

Many schools have already been successful in combating education failure by adopting measures tailored to the specific needs of their learners and their socio-economic context. The order (despacho) 6478/2017 of 26 July offers schools the opportunity to adapt curricula to local needs to enable learners to reach the competences foreseen in the exit profile of students leaving compulsory education.

The new decree-law increases the autonomy of schools, reinforcing their flexibility on how to deliver curricula. Up to 25% of a curriculum basic programme in general education can be adjusted to local needs; flexibility can be even greater in VET programmes.

This decree-law also introduces the subject Citizenship and development in general and VET programmes. At upper secondary education, schools can offer this subject either as autonomous or as a transversal competence incorporated in other school subjects.

According to the new decree-law, programmes in lower and upper secondary education will become more flexible. VET learners will have the option to modify their education path by following subjects included in general education programmes and vice versa. Students of art education programmes can replace one of the subjects of the scientific training component with a relevant subject from professional or general education programmes. In the case of professional programmes, a subject can be replaced by an equivalent one from an art education or general programme.

To promote equal opportunities, the government agreed to abolish existing discriminatory requirements for VET learners wanting to access higher education. Until now, professional and art education programme graduates were obliged to take exams in subjects that were not part of their programmes. With the new decree-law, VET learner final grades are no longer affected by national exams since they take them only if they wish to access tertiary education.

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Decreto-Lei n.º 55/2018 de 6 de julho
Despacho n.º 6478/2017