Education

   In Portugal's early history, education was firmly under the control of the Catholic Church. The earliest schools were located in cathedrals and monasteries and taught a small number of individuals destined for ecclesiastical office. In 1290, a university was established by King Dinis (1261-1325) in Lisbon, but was moved to Coimbra in 1308, where it remained. Coimbra University, Portugal's oldest, and once its most prestigious, was the educational cradle of Portugal's leadership. From 1555 until the 18th century, primary and secondary education was provided by the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). The Catholic Church's educational monopoly was broken when the Marquis of Pombal expelled the Jesuits in 1759 and created the basis for Portugal's present system of public, secular primary and secondary schools. Pombal introduced vocational training, created hundreds of teaching posts, added departments of mathematics and natural sciences at Coimbra University, and established an education tax to pay for them.
   During the 19th century, liberals attempted to reform Portugal's educational system, which was highly elitist and emphasized rote memorization and respect for authority, hierarchy, and discipline.
   Reforms initiated in 1822, 1835, and 1844 were never actualized, however, and education remained unchanged until the early 20th century. After the overthrow of the monarchy on the Fifth of October 1910 by Republican military officers, efforts to reform Portugal's educational system were renewed. New universities were founded in Lisbon and Oporto, a Ministry of Education was established, and efforts were made to increase literacy (illiteracy rates being 80 percent) and to resecularize educational content by introducing more scientific and empirical methods into the curriculum.
   Such efforts were ended during the military dictatorship (192632), which governed Portugal until the establishment of the Estado Novo (1926-74). Although a new technical university was founded in Lisbon in 1930, little was done during the Estado Novo to modernize education or to reduce illiteracy. Only in 1964 was compulsory primary education made available for children between the ages of 6 and 12.
   The Revolution of 25 April 1974 disrupted Portugal's educational system. For a period of time after the Revolution, students, faculty, and administrators became highly politicized as socialists, communists, and other groups attempted to gain control of the schools. During the 1980s, as Portuguese politics moderated, the educational system was gradually depoliticized, greater emphasis was placed on learning, and efforts were made to improve the quality of Portuguese schools.
   Primary education in Portugal consists of four years in the primary (first) cycle and two years in the preparatory, or second, cycle. The preparatory cycle is intended for children going on to secondary education. Secondary education is roughly equivalent to junior and senior high schools in the United States. It consists of three years of a common curriculum and two years of complementary courses (10th and 11th grades). A final year (12th grade) prepares students to take university entrance examinations.
   Vocational education was introduced in 1983. It consists of a three-year course in a particular skill after the 11th grade of secondary school.
   Higher education is provided by the four older universities (Lisbon, Coimbra, Oporto, and the Technical University of Lisbon), as well as by six newer universities, one in Lisbon and the others in Minho, Aveiro, Évora, the Algarve, and the Azores. There is also a private Catholic university in Lisbon. Admission to Portuguese universities is highly competitive, and places are limited. About 10 percent of secondary students go on to university education. The average length of study at the university is five years, after which students receive their licentiate. The professoriate has four ranks (professors, associate professors, lecturers, and assistants). Professors have tenure, while the other ranks teach on contract.
   As Portugal is a unitary state, the educational system is highly centralized. All public primary and secondary schools, universities, and educational institutes are under the purview of the Ministry of Education, and all teachers and professors are included in the civil service and receive pay and pension like other civil servants. The Ministry of Education hires teachers, determines curriculum, sets policy, and pays for the building and upkeep of schools. Local communities have little say in educational matters.

Historical dictionary of Portugal 3rd ed.. . 2014.

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