Equal opportunities for VET learners

After a favourable process of public consultation, the government approved legislation that defines new principles for organising the curricula from primary to upper secondary education. This legislation establishes as a priority the implementation of an educational policy that guarantees equality of access, promotes success and equal opportunities for general and VET learners. In what concerns VET, it covers three programmes provided by the education ministry: Professional; Specialised art; and Education and training programmes for young people.

It is quite well known that some schools are having success in counteracting the principal indicators of educational failure by adopting measures appropriate to social-economic contexts and specific needs of their learners.  In light of this, the government considered fundamental to grant the curriculum as a tool that schools can locally use to manage and develop, enabling their learners to reach the competences foreseen in the exit profile of students leaving compulsory education. Within this frame, the new decree-law increases the autonomy of schools’ in managing the curricula and reinforces the curricula’s flexibility, that will allow learning development and enrichment. This autonomy can reach up to 25% of the curriculum base-programme, and it can be higher for double certification offers (VET).

This Decree-Law introduces the subject of ‘citizenship and development’ in general and VET curricula starting in the 5th year of schooling (2nd cycle of basic education). At upper secondary education, schools can decide how to implement this subject, ranging from offering it as an autonomous subject to a transversal theme among other school subjects. Compulsory education, extended to 12 years of schooling, from six to 18 years old since 2009, will have more flexibility.

It also grants learners from general and VET programmes the possibility to adapt their educational paths by exchanging school subjects with other programmes. At Specialised art programmes, learners can replace one of the subjects of the scientific training component for a corresponding subject from Professional or General programmes; while in the case of Professional programmes, the substitution can be for an equivalent subject of Specialised art or General programmes.

To promote equal opportunities, the government agreed to exclude requirements considered as discriminatory to VET learners that want to access higher education. With this, the conclusion of upper secondary education will be dissociated from the access to higher studies. Until now, learners from General programmes had their final score preserved whether or not they pursued higher studies while learners from Professional and Specialised art programmes had their grades changed. For the latest, if they wanted to pursue tertiary education, 30% of their grade would not be considered and they were obligated to take exams of subjects that were not part of their programmes. With the new diploma, the final grade of VET learners is no longer impaired by the national exams since they only attend them if they wish to pursue tertiary education. This process does not apply to learners wishing to enter the labour market.