Surrounded by castles and classic military architecture, teachers, school directors, parents and education workers recently convened in a in a city known for its medieval charm to set their focus on the future of education.
In an effort to revamp education for the 21st century, 200 stakeholders, ranging from teachers, school management to parents and education support personnel met in Santa Maria da Feira, 30 km south of Porto, on 7 May for the fourth annual Convention of the National Federation of Education (FNE), the National Confederation of Parents’ Associations (CONFAP), and the National Association of Directors of Public Schools (ANDAEP). The FNE is an Education International (EI) affiliate.
By bringing together the three partners, the conference assembled a group of experts to discuss the future of education in Portugal, set against the backdrop of educational challenges of the present and the future. The country’s educators continue to struggle due to low salaries and a shortage of young people taking up what is an aging profession.
Education for a New Century
While the picturesque setting displayed Portugal’s past, all of Convention’s focus aimed at bringing the future of information and communications technology (ICT) into the classroom.
Working under the theme of “Education for a New Century - What educational responses? What curriculum? What school organization?”, João Dias da Silva, Secretary General of FNE, highlighted the struggle to ensure quality public education for all. “Good solutions in education are only good if they are built in partnership,” he said referring to CONFAP and ANDAEP. The Secretary General also stressed the importance of social dialogue in order to pave the way toward a better education system.
Integrating ICT into the classroom
The conference paid special attention to the needs and challenges of introducing ICT into classrooms.
During João Cunha’s presentation of “How Schools Can Innovate the Classroom,” the school leader showed how the introduction of ICT into rural classrooms has opened students’ worlds. Through the Microsoft Project Office 365, students have the opportunity to be a part of a worldwide network of interconnected schools.
However, taking a more cautious position, Antonio Osorio, an ICT researcher from University of Minho, focused on society’s dependence on technology and how daily life is being shaped by it. “How should we prepare for the future is indeed a highly speculative issue.”
The conference concluded with the three organisations renewing their commitment to work together for a more effective education system in Portugal, through the constructive mobilisation of teachers, parents and school leaders.