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Secondary school students' opinions on the Government's proposal between praising the "balance" and the missed opportunity to end the national exams once and for all.
Among those who are militantly against the existence of national exams and those who find some “balance” in the revision of the model of access to higher education, the proposal that the Government has been discussing with partners in the sector provokes divergent reactions among students of the high school. Private universities and public polytechnics, on the other hand, warn that the number of exams foreseen can keep many students away from a higher education course.
The first response from secondary school students is one of “relief”, after the Minister of Education announced, this Tuesday, that this academic year’s exams will only serve as proof of entry into higher education, as has happened in the last three years. . “It's great that we know now”, he begins by praising Melchior Aires, president of the students' association of the Secondary School of Camões, in Lisbon. Last year, the Government only announced a decision in March.
In addition, that student leader understands that “it would not be fair” for students who, like him, are in the 12th grade and have completed the first two years of secondary education in a pandemic context, to have different rules from older colleagues. “We were also greatly affected by the confinements”, he justifies, so the solution is well received by the students.
As for the proposal to change the access model, which the Government intends to start applying in 2024, Melchior Aires sees “balance” in the solution. “Exams must exist”, he argues, although he considers that “there must be an opportunity” for students to make choices about the tests they take, questioning the pertinence of having a mandatory Portuguese test for all students, regardless of the specific area which they are studying.
There are also students who defend that an opportunity is being lost to put an end, once and for all, to national exams. “We are taught to answer the national exam and that will not change with the new model”, says Catarina Menor, a 12th grade student at Escola Secundária de Casquilhos, in Barreiro, and leader of the Voz do Estudante movement.
"It's very unfair that a three-hour test can condition the work of three years", agrees Maria Gomes, from the board of the students' association of Camilo Castelo Branco Secondary School, in Vila Real, for whom the Government's proposal, which foresees that Secondary school test scores worth at least half of the higher education entry grade “will accentuate” this dimension.
So far, it has not been possible to obtain a reaction from the National Confederation of Parents' Associations, which was also present at the meetings of recent weeks with the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education (MCTES).
The Association of Private and Cooperative Education Establishments (Aeep) was not consulted by the Government, contrary to what would be “reasonable”, assesses its executive director, Rodrigo Queiroz e Melo. Even so, private schools are “in agreement” with the Government's decision to end the role of national exams in completing secondary education. “As educators, we like it because it will allow us not to be so focused on exams.”
Aeep regrets, however, that “some form of external regulation” is not maintained in secondary education, such as benchmarking tests, which allow schools to be given important information on the performance of their students and on their own educational projects.