Tiago Brandão: "You do not have to be tax: when you trust schools, they respond" | Society



With 38 years, the biochemist Tiago Brandão Rodrigues (Paredes de Coura, 1977) left his position at the University of Cambridge forever to become the youngest Minister of Education in the history of Portugal. I had no political experience, no socialist card, but a strong social commitment. The international press today describes Portugal as the "emerging star in education" for its progress in the PISA Report. At the turn of the century, they were in the queue and in the latter he achieved 501 points in Science (493 Spanish students), 498 in Reading (496) and 492 in Mathematics (486). And the country also stands out in the autonomy of schools, pedagogical innovation, free textbooks or intense teacher training. But, since the summer, teachers have protested to be recognized for seniority that was frozen with the crisis. The minister, in perfect Spanish [vivió siete años en Madrid], granted an interview to EL PAÍS at the Education & Skills Forum in Dubai, to which this newspaper came invited by the organization.

Question. Unlike Spain, they have achieved the key political consensus for improvement.

Answer. The backbone of the education system is 30 years old. There is a political and social consensus on the need to increase its quality so that there are equal opportunities and serve as a lever for economic growth and cultural democratization. That's why there is continuity in the investment [Portugal gasta un 5,1% de su PIB en educación, frente al 4,7% de media de la UE], with a break with the crisis between 2011 and 2016. The budget fell more than 1,000 million and we have managed to recover.

P. Its progress is the result of many incentives, not a day.

The country is known as the rising star for its advances in PISA

R. Yes. The free preschool system, the national reading plan, the mathematics program or the curricular enrichment ... The children from 1st to 4th grade of primary school have two free and voluntary extracurricular hours each day, to learn an instrument, another language or go to a science club. In addition, there are 130 groups of priority intervention schools, from depressed areas, that receive extra resources.

P. Says the director of PISA, Andrea Schleicher, that the teachers of Spain "They work like in a chain of production". The Portuguese model is the opposite.

R. Within the national curriculum we allow schools to work 25% of the program with their own strategy. They usually merge subjects -History and Geography, or Mathematics and Physics-, work experimentally or design annual projects. I was in a class where the professors of Biology, Chemistry and Philosophy were rotating in small groups to comprehensively address the issue of drugs and doping. You do not have to be taxable, schools see that you trust them and have responded very well.

P. Autonomy with control.

R. University experts and inspectors visit the school for a week and issue a report. No classification is done, it is just a kind of audit to help in the pedagogical project.

"The schools had neglected art and psychomotricity. Now it is evaluated "

P. Portugal presents a large gap between social classes in academic results.

R. Yes, there are very notable differences and we must work on it. Portugal comes from a dictatorship in which education was not a central issue. Many adults still have great qualification deficiencies and they have to be trained.

P. The reduction of the early abandonment rate is surprising.

R. Yes. Spain in the year 2000 was in 29.1% and now in 17.9%, while Portugal has gone from 44% to 12.6% [aún por encima de la media europea del 10,6%]. The closer you get to the end, the harder it is to get it down, you have to do a refined job to work with each student.

P. Subsidies for subsidized centers are on the way to disappearing in your country.

"The little ones have two hours a day of free voluntary extracurriculars"

R. There were 79 charter schools that consumed 140 million a year and the law says that they must exist where the public school does not fulfill its function. We have removed the subsidy for the next course to 49 of them and we will spend 45 million. In Santa María de Feira, 30 kilometers from Oporto, there was a private center that received almost six million euros and next to it four public schools almost deserted. We do not have an exclusive desire, we only comply with the law.

P. In Spain, one third of the families would protest in the street.

R. [Sonríe y no contesta].

P. Why do they spend so much in preschool?

R. By my doctorate in neurochemistry I know that the stage of three to six years is crucial for knowledge and access to collective values, citizenship or inclusive education. A child does not discriminate by default, we adults work to make it happen. And the preschool is an instrument of equity: if the child is at home, his environment may not stimulate the learning and values ​​that he would learn at school.

P. The preschool teachers in their country take a master's degree (five years of preparation, one more than in Spain). In Spain, the initial training of teachers is in the debate.

R. Yes, and one of the three pre-Masters teaching courses of two years, is devoted almost entirely to tutorized classes. In 1975 we had 120,000 children entering 1st grade of primary school in Portugal and now 87,000. That is bad, because critical mass is lost, but it has allowed us to better train teachers during their career and to convert 8,000 teachers into civil servants.

P. In Spain there is a consensus that children study too much and with little depth. You have already taken action.

R. We have thinned the curriculum almost without changing it. It is not a revolution - it would have been a mess with the textbooks - but we give coherence to the best international practices. A former Minister of Education, Guilherme d'Oliveira Martins, and a group of academics has produced a report on the values, skills and abilities that must be acquired upon completion of compulsory education. Now the artistic and psychomotor expressions, which had been neglected in the schools to focus on Portuguese and Mathematics, the subjects examined externally, are also evaluated in the national tests. Many children did not know how to do the cartwheel.

P. Portugal is also advanced in the inclusion of children with special needs in ordinary schools. The UN has criticized Spain for its delay.

R. 97.5% of these students are already in ordinary schools. We started in 1992, almost before anyone in Europe. Now we have created a diploma for inclusion, because human rights are fulfilled are not deferred. It is hard to change the way you look at these students. They are seen clinically and not pedagogically. The important thing is that they can be more and more in the classroom to facilitate their transition to working life. We are training the workers of the centers and there is a guide that supports them, it is not a task only of the special education teachers.

P. Many of his ideas would be supported by the Spanish minister.

R. Yes, I've talked a lot with Isabel [Celaá] and we saw it carefully in the summit of Salamanca.

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