The following OECD assessment and recommendations summarise Chapter 3 of the Economic Survey of Portugal 2006 published on 20 April 2006.
The performance of the education system needs to improve
Despite substantial progress in the past decades, a large share of the young leave school before completing upper secondary education and the achievements of students in PISA are among the poorest in the OECD. In addition, the education system has not been able to limit the repetition of low education from one generation to the next and to foster inter-generational mobility as fast as other countries. The factors behind the poor performance of the education system have been well identified. Below average outcomes do not result from a lack of spending on education, but from the low efficiency of the system.
Educational attainment of the working-age population
Population with at least an upper-secondary qualification, 2003 1
1. Per cent of each age group. 2002 for Czech Republic, Iceland, Italy and Netherlands
Source: OECD, Labour Market Statistics database.
The authorities’ strategy goes in the right direction
The authorities’ key objective is to reduce school failure and early drop-outs by increasing the quality and relevance of education services without endangering fiscal consolidation. Efficiency gains are being sought by closing very small schools and making better use of teaching staff, but more needs to be done to rationalise the system and achieve better quality without spending more. To reduce incentives to dropouts, the social contribution rebate for companies that hire young workers has been eliminated unless they have completed 12 years at school or are in training. New programmes have been launched to improve teachers’ training in core topics, modernise the curricula, strengthen vocational and technological streams and make them more attractive, and provide individualised support to low achievers. The new administration has announced its determination to go further in giving autonomy to schools ("putting schools centre stage") which is in line with the growing presumption that the devolution of responsibilities to schools brings efficiency.
… but additional measures are necessary to reap potential gains
from school autonomy
The recently launched programmes rely on initiatives that should be taken at the school level to adapt curricula and teaching practices to local needs and support students at risk of school failure. However, schools have made little use of their autonomy so far. This reflects for a large part the lack of leadership in schools that stems in particular from the way school principals are selected and trained, and the lack of incentives and information for teachers to play their new role. More needs to be done to address these issues and ensure an effective use of recently devolved autonomy by schools and teachers. Efforts are needed to improve evaluation systems and channel the results to both the providers of educational services (teachers, school principals) and the users (children and parents).
Better awareness of parents and students of the returns to finishing school
would also contribute to raising education outcomes.
The relatively low value of school for society at large is also an issue. In an economy that until recently created plenty of unskilled jobs, education was not highly valued by the labour market. And still today, although private returns to education are high, the often uneducated and poor parents and their children do not always fully appreciate potential benefits of more education. Raising the perceived value of schooling for the students and their families is desirable. Revamped education and career guidance services could play an instrumental role by increasing awareness that more schooling can provide high long-term private returns. They could at the same time ensure a better school-to-work transition for those who decide to leave school and inform them of the possibilities to reengage in studies later on.
How to obtain this publication
The Policy Brief (pdf format) can be downloaded. It contains the OECD assessment and recommendations, but not all of the charts included on the above pages.
The complete edition of the Economic Survey of Portugal 2006 is available from:
For further information please contact the Portugal Desk at the OECD Economics Department at firstname.lastname@example.org. The OECD Secretariat's report was prepared by Bénédicte Larre, Stéphanie Guichard and David Haugh under the supervision of Wilhelm Leibfritz.