The 2013 CoSN International Delegation to Portugal had the opportunity to meet with Professor Jose Manuel Canavarro, Member of the Portuguese Parliament, President of the Employment Committee and Former Secretary of State for Education to discuss the major educational innovations that are taking place in Portugal.
Portugal is a country of approximately 10 million people. The eSchool project has reached 1.7 million teachers and students by providing laptops, infrastructure upgrades and massive professional development. Forty-two percent of the Portuguese population has directly benefited from this program. Included are 200,000 adults in training programs for literacy and career and technical education, even to the point of reaching out to students who have left school prematurely. However, investment in technology in education has been instituted long before this program. The eSchool program was planned and implemented over three years. The lesson for all of us is…..Just get started and then begin to understand and fix the problems and issues. Truly, we can’t wait until it is all perfect. The Portuguese began with 10th grade students since that is when students can decide if they want to drop out of school. This program became the incentive to keep students in school. Interesting enough, Portugal has leveraged the funding for this program by the state providing 27% of the costs and telecommunication companies contributing approximately 42%.
As the result of this impressive program, Portugal students now rank number one in the European Union in self confidence in using ICT. They also are now ranked number one in use of multimedia presentations. Additionally, Portugal has been recognized with the fastest growth in innovation for five years in Europe. In 2010 they were number one in e-government services and presently, they are number seven in the world in use of mobile broadband. There were so many people saying…we cannot do it, but they had the political will to pull bipartisan groups together and locate the resources to provide the needed support. The public/private partnerships were extremely impressive. Infrastructure upgrades required extensive planning and required them to build much technical expertise. One of the key components was exceptional leadership and extensive political will.