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Do we have the knowledge to design the school of the future?

Do we have the knowledge to design the school of the future?

gift A career without magic and no improvement in sight

They are tired, they earn little, and 24 hours a day is not enough for everything. This phrase captures the current reality for Portuguese teachers, but it could have been taken from any news item from 2000, 2010 or 2020 – years pass, problems continue. In some cases, it gets worse. It is necessary to regain “respect,” points out Maria Rosario Azevedo, a high school teacher. “Respect includes government policies, but also a community that believes in its teachers, and does not put them in danger.”

But if it’s not about salary or social recognition, why would someone decide to choose teaching as a professional path? For many, this is a “social obligation” and a sense of helping to create future citizens, workers and leaders, Professor Carlinda Light attests. The answer must be to ensure a “stable career” with better wages, especially in the early years of the profession, says Domingos Fernández, president of the National Council of Education. The problem pointed out by several experts interviewed by Expresso is not the expected total of €1,589.01 in the first step of a career, but the barriers to getting there: it takes five consecutive years of full-time work. “When we talk about teachers who have been unstable for 20 years, it means that this teacher has not been able to do those five consecutive years,” Carlinda Light explains.

All of this hinders the ability to attract and retain teachers. A Nova School of Business and Economics (Nova SBE) study on staffing needs concluded that if nothing is done, there will be a shortage of more than 34,000 teachers by the end of this decade. To replace those retiring, the country needs to train more than three thousand professionals annually, but in 2022, only half of them have completed a master’s degree in teaching.

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However, if we shift the focus to students, we conclude that there are also challenges to be solved. The recovery of education after two academic years affected by the pandemic is one of the key factors, say experts, who warn of the potential harmful effects on the most socially and economically vulnerable young people. However, there is a lack of data to understand the scope of the impact in Portugal. “Studies in Germany and Switzerland show that from the age of 12 to 13 there is no loss of learning. There are some relatively small losses in basic education, especially in mathematics and the mother tongue,” he explains.

future More digital classrooms and rooms with less inequality

There will always be differences between those who have more and those who have less, but the country’s goal should be, Pedro Freitas believes, to mitigate the effects of social inequality on students’ academic performance. The data show that students who receive social support at school have more negatives in Portuguese and mathematics in years four, six and nine, compared to the rest. We will need to “create more diverse schools”, bringing together children from different contexts and promoting communication between them. “This is important because the literature shows that the whole network of connections we make in childhood and adolescence has repercussions on the labor market and throughout life,” explains the Nova SBE researcher.

In fact, the integration of young people into the labor market is one of the concerns expressed by education economist Pedro Martinez, who believes that “investing in the quality of courses” in vocational and higher education is essential. Better adaptation of curricula, more harmonious and in line with the needs of companies, could make it possible to recover salary revenues from education: in the last ten years, the salary difference between those who have only a secondary education and those who have completed higher education has decreased by 50%.

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Neuroscientist Joanna Ratto also warns of the importance of rethinking the learning model in schools to address “attention issues.” Teachers say 90-minute classes “don’t work” for the TikTok generation, whose “ability to concentrate has been dramatically diminished.” The school of the future must not only adopt new pedagogical strategies, but also change teacher training to update scientific knowledge. One solution might include popularizing projects such as Teach for Portugal, an initiative that brings “mentors” to schools to support teachers in classrooms and help students develop skills “such as emotional intelligence, resilience or the ability to plan.” Maria Azevedo, co-founder of the project.

Here, digital technology can also play an important role and forms part of the investments expected in the Recovery and Resilience Plan, which allocates €559 million to “educational and pedagogical innovation.” Ludmila Nunes, a researcher in cognitive psychology, talks about “redefining the traditional school of physics,” which must be done in an organized way, based on scientific data and without compromising equal access to technological means.

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is reading On the Expresso website Articles containing answers to the big questions related to five decades of democracy

Five decades of democracy

Until 2024, Expresso and the Francisco Manuel dos Santos Foundation (FFMS) will discuss the last five decades of democracy in Portugal, looking to the future. 10 topics will be discussed – from economics to society, including health, politics and the environment. Follow us in the coming months on Expresso and SIC Notícias.

Texts originally published in Expresso on September 22, 2023

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