Education and Child Poverty in Times of Austerity in Portugal: Implications for Teachers and Teacher Education

September, 2016

Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, Vol . 42, No . 4, 404–416, 2016
(Reviewed by the Portyal Team)

This article aimed to examine recent policy documents and other reports on the education sector. It also analysed the ways in which initial teacher education (ITE) deals with poverty issues, within the post-Bologna context, through the voices of student-teachers who have finished their practicum at school.

The participants were 19 Student-teachers enrolled in ITE programmes for preschool and primary schools at Portugal.
All participants were female. Eleven participants were studying for a Master’s degree in preschool and 7 a Master’s degree in both preschool and primary school.

The authors collected relevant documents about education in Portugal. They also asked the student-teachers to complete a written narrative focusing on a number of questions that sought to explore their beliefs, conceptions and experiences of poverty during their practicum at first-degree level (initiation to professional practice) and at Master’s degree level (supervised teaching practice).

The authors identified three main ideas from the data.
First, the findings pointed to the deterioration of working conditions at school for teachers and, as a result of the economic and social crisis, greater challenges and pressures have been put into them. The participants reported evidence of increasingly complex demands placed upon schools and teachers who, apart from teaching, have to deal with social issues such as child poverty, lack of motivation and scarcity of resources.

Second, the authors argue that the strategies used by teachers to face poverty situations have made student-teachers more aware of their lack of preparedness to deal with teaching in such a demanding context. The authors found examples of strategies employed by the teachers, such as providing individual personal and financial support, and creating alternative approaches to responding to shortages of resources.

Finally, the authors found that there is a need to reinforce the social and cultural dimension of ITE, since it plays a key role during these demanding times in Portugal. It was found that the participants highlighted some areas in which ITE needs further improvement. Most of these areas related to social and cultural issues.

The authors suggest that ITE can play a pivotal role in addressing the attitudes and experiences that lie behind social differences in education. The authors also suggest that it is important to pay attention to pupils’ voices, through listening to their own views and experiences about the ways in which the school and the curriculum affect their lives, their learning and their motivation.

Updated: Jul. 03, 2018