Spotlight on Portugal

Whilst the Portuguese economy struggles, the country has recently had something to smile about – increases its international ranking in the latest PISA tables of educational performance.

Whilst any education improvement comes from sustained and integrated initiatives, it’s interesting to see that a major part of the effort to improve results focused on the use of ICT in schooling. A €1.5 billion investment has put 1.3m internet connected PCs in the hands of students and teachers across Portugal. Recent surveys have shown that 98 per cent of pupils say they are using computers and 78% of Portuguese children had access to the internet – a major improvement form 2005 when only 31% of households used the internet.

As you’d expect with a project of this scale, there are a number of moving parts. Firstly, the e-escola scheme is providing every secondary student with access to a laptop and broadband. “E-kindergarten”, is an equivalent project for primary students. At the same time, the “e-teacher” scheme is providing all school teachers with laptops and training.

These schemes are executed through the e-scolinha programme. This in turn is funded by Foundation for Mobile Communications – a consortium that includes Vodafone Portugal, Portugal Telecom and Optimus (Orange). Some of the funding comes from cellular network licence tariffs, and student’s families contribute also according to their means.

Overall 40% has come from the secondary student’s families (laptops are free for primary school children); the mobile companies contributed another 40% from cellular network licence tariffs; and the government contributed 20 per cent.

Secondary students can purchase mid-high spec notebooks, whilst primary school children use locally produced Magalhães (“each child an explorer”) hardware based on the Intel Classmate made available under the Magellan initiative. Click here to see how Magellan PCs are helping primary students in rural areas.

The cost to secondary student’s families can vary from €20 to €50 a month depending upon income, and the initial cost of the laptops was €150. For those on the lowest incomes it is free.

Microsoft has been a key partner in this project, along with Intel and other major technology players – both local and multinational. To support this initiative Microsoft delivered a “Learning Suite“, knowledge-transfer, and training to teachers, ensuring that users could use Windows 7 and Office 2010. Click on these links for more information on Micrsoft’s involvement e-escola and e.escolinha.

Portugal has proved that its possible to deploy a 1:1 programme across an entire country. The key ingredients have been:

  • Public Private Partnerships
  • Cross-Ministry collaboration (the Ministry of Transportation and Telecommunication provided the impetus for this initiative)
  • Inclusiveness – making sure that teachers were on-board, trained and equipped.

For more information, click on these links:

(Thanks to Adelaide Franco and Erik Goldenberg for contributions)