Curriculum of Initial Teacher Education in Portugal: New Contexts, Old Problems

Nov. 01, 2011

Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, Vol. 37, No. 4, November 2011, 461-470.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article will examine the major trends in the recent ITE curriculum in the Portuguese context, as a consequence of the Bologna process, which has been in place in European universities over the past few years.

The Portuguese case: policy context and the teaching profession

Over the past few years, Initial teacher education (ITE) in Portugal has been subject to restructuring under the Bologna process. Among main features of this process are the mobility of students and academics in order to promote the free movement of human capital in Europe;; the adoption of a two-cycle structure of university studies: undergraduate and graduate; and the quality assurance of higher education systems.

Unlike many European countries, in Portugal teacher surplus and unemployment among the new teachers are two intertwined realities that characterise the teaching profession.
Theses issues have implications for the recruitment of student teachers in higher education institutions and for new teachers’ job expectations.
Along with these factors, more recently, a profound financial and economic crisis has been affecting Portuguese society at various levels, including the teaching profession and ITE.

Further difficulties in ITE programmes are the lack of student teachers’ motivation due to unemployment and lack of social recognition of the teaching profession; the lack of funding, leading to the definition of national priorities for in-service teacher education, transforming teachers’ centres into ‘government agencies’ to implement central policies, reinforcing bureaucracy and centralisation.

In recent years, a number of policy texts have been issued in Portugal regulating the teaching career and teacher qualifications as well as ITE:

1. New Teacher Career Statute
Two key initiatives were introduced within the new Teacher Career Statute.

One initiative relates to the conditions for accessing a teaching career.
An ‘exam’ on ‘knowledge and competencies’ is to be required for all those entering the teaching profession.

The other one consists of the inclusion of a ‘probationary year’ to verify the abilities of the new teacher regarding the requirements of the profession, during which the new entrant is accompanied by a senior teacher with specialised training in educational organization and curriculum development, pedagogical supervision and teacher training.

2. Professional profile and qualification
Following the Bologna process, a new policy on ITE was issued in 2007, aiming at contributing to valuing teacher socioprofessional status and to improving the quality of teachers in order to face the challenges of training and education of Portuguese society.
Key assumptions of this new policy are higher professional qualifications, in which teachers are required to get Master’s degree, curriculum based upon leaning outcomes in the light of teacher performance, research-based qualifications, the importance of teaching practice, school–university partnerships, and quality assurance of teachers’ qualifications and of ITE.

Changes and challenges in initial teacher education in the Portuguese context: final thoughts

Changes resulting from the Bologna process in ITE in Portugal can be seen as both an opportunity and a challenge to improve the quality of teachers and the quality of training provided to them.

However, in order to face the old problems that remain in the new contexts of ITE in Portugal, a number of possible issues may be identified:
(1) the need for an effective research-based ITE;
(2) the valuing (and institutional recognition) of the pedagogical dimension of the faculty and of the ITE programmes;
(3) the awareness of the role of teacher educators; and
(4) the need to create a culture of collaboration and reflection within ITE programmes which may include structures that foster the building of a project-led view of training.

Issues such as the link between theory and practice and university context and school context, the recruitment and training of mentors and supervisors, and the developing of a training project with and within schools are also areas for further concern.

Updated: Feb. 06, 2013