Assessment is an integral part of educational practice, enabling the systematic collection of information essential for making appropriate decisions to improve the quality of student learning.
According to Decree-Law No 55/2018, 6 July, student assessment includes formative and summative assessment.
- Formative – continuous and systematic, it employs a variety of information collection mechanisms suitable for the variety of learning and the circumstances in which it occurs, allowing the teacher, student, parent/guardian and other people or bodies legally entitled to obtain information on learning, to adjust processes and strategies.
- Summative – consists of an overall assessment of students’ learning, for the purposes of classification and certification, including:
- the internal summative assessment at the end of every term is the responsibility of teachers, as well as school academic management and administrative bodies.
- external summative assessment, which is the responsibility of the respective Ministry of Education (ME) services and bodies. This involves final exams in Grade 9, which are based on the content defined in the syllabuses and adhere to the curriculum standards of the third cycle, in the subjects of Portuguese and mathematics and, in the case of Portuguese as a foreign language, regarding the content defined in the respective syllabus guidelines.
External assessment of learning, which is the responsibility of ME services and bodies, consists of two types of standardised tests given to all pupils:
- low-stakes testing/standardised tests (provas de aferição)
- basic education end of cycle exams.
Standardised tests are administered in grade 2 (first cycle), grade 5 (second cycle) and grade 8 (third cycle) (Ordinance No 223-A/2018, 3 August and Legislative Order No 3-A/2020, 5 March), in order to assess curriculum development in basic education and provide regular information for the educational system, schools, students and parents about learning development.
The subjects that are subject to standardised tests vary each year, which allows the periodic assessment of all curriculum areas, including the performative, such as artistic or physical education. These tests also include combinations of curricular knowledge (e.g., mathematics and sciences).
Students’ and schools’ results and performance in standardised tests are recorded in the Individual Testing Report (relatório individual da prova de aferição – RIPA) and the School Testing Report (relatório de escola de prova de aferição - REPA).
The RIPA describes the student's performance, considering the relevant parameters of each of the subject areas, subjects and domains assessed.
The REPA describes the performance of the class group and the school in each of the areas or domains assessed. Due to its descriptive and qualitative nature, the RIPA and REPA are support tools for students, parents/guardians, teachers and the school, enabling pedagogical and didactic intervention strategies that focus on overcoming the difficulties diagnosed in each of the areas assessed.
These reports support autonomy and curricular management, as well as schools' decision making, according to the specific characteristics of its students.
Internal summative assessment in the first cycle of basic education is descriptive in all areas, as well as a qualitative assessment (Very good, good, satisfactory and unsatisfactory).
In the second and third cycles, all the information resulting from summative evaluation is presented on a scale of 1 to 5 in all subjects, where 3 is the minimum grade to pass.
Until the beginning of the academic year, the school’s pedagogical council defines the assessment criteria for each cycle and academic year using proposals from different subject departments, in accordance with the Ministry of Education's curricular guidelines.
Internal summative assessment is done at the end of each term and is the responsibility of the teachers and school management bodies, with special responsibility for the class form tutor in the first cycle and teachers that are part of the class council in the second and third cycles.
End of cycle exams in the third cycle (grade 9) of basic education in mathematics, Portuguese, Portuguese as a second language (for students who follow the bilingual syllabus in benchmarked schools) and Portuguese as a foreign language (for students at beginner proficiency level A1, A2 or intermediate proficiency level B1) assess students' learning outcomes in this cycle of education.
At different times during a student’s school life, and whenever students demonstrate learning difficulties in any subject, the different types of assessment facilitate the definition of strategies and decision-making.
The measures envisaged include, among others, drafting plans that consider students’ characteristics, study support, teaching assistance in the classroom, temporary teacher exchanges in the first cycle, the implementation of tutorials or temporary formation of groups of students according to their needs and/or capabilities.
The project (External Assessment Dematerialisation - DAVE), which was launched by IAVE, foresees national tests and exams in digital format, having already started for this school year (2022/2023), encompassing standardised tests for the 2nd, 5th and 8th grades in digital format for all students, with the exception of artistic expression and physical education. During the following school year (2023/2024), students in the 9th grade of basic education will take the final cycle exams in digital format, while students in upper secondary education will take part in this new practice in 2024/2025.
This new system was tested in 2018 in an 8th-grade maths standardised test, which was taken in both digital and paper format with around 2,500 students completing it via computer. In 2019, another pilot project took place in some schools, where standardised tests were digitalised and grading took place electronically. In 2021, the "diagnostic study of learning for 3rd, 6th and 9th-grade students" also took place in digital format.
Progression of pupils
According to the legislation in force, basic education students progress according to their level of achievement in relation to knowledge and abilities stipulated in the syllabuses and curriculum documents.
Student progression or retention is indicated by the terms passed or not passed at the end of each year, and approved or not approved, at the end of each cycle. The decision to pass to the next year of schooling is a pedagogical one, and retention is considered exceptional in non-terminal grades of each cycle. The decision to retain a student can only be taken after pedagogical monitoring, applying measures designed and implemented to resolve difficulties detected.
In grade 1, no student is retained, except when the class teacher makes this decision after having exceeded the number of unjustified absences permitted.
At the end of the first cycle, a student does not progress and obtains a not approved grade if they have obtained unsatisfactory in Portuguese or PLNM or PL2 and mathematics; unsatisfactory in Portuguese or mathematics and unsatisfactory in two other subjects.
In grades 2 and 3, the decision to retain a student can only be made after the student is given pedagogical support and occurs exceptionally. There may also be grounds for retention if the student exceeds the number of unjustified absences, if the class council so determines.
A student retained in the first, second or third year of schooling can be return to the class to which he belonged by decision of the head teacher, on the proposal of the class teacher.
At the end of the second and third cycles, students do not progress to the next cycle when they receive marks under three in Portuguese (or PNNL/PL2) and mathematics or in three or more subjects.
Retention in basic education means that the student will have to repeat the grade, attending every subject in the curriculum.
Schools must ensure parents’ or legal guardians’ involvement in their children’s learning assessment. The conditions of this involvement are defined by each school.
In situations when students demonstrate exceptional learning abilities and the appropriate degree of maturity they can progress more quickly, as they can complete the first cycle at the age of 9 (until the 31 December of the current year) and/or they can progress sooner to another grade one single time during the second or third cycles (see Ordinance No 223-A/2018, 3 August in its current wording).
Student evaluation on specialised artistic education courses includes end-of-cycle exams (external evaluation) at the end of the 9th grade to complete the cycle. Successful completion of subjects in the vocational training component are not considered in relation to retention during general primary education or end-of-cycle exams in grade 9.
Any grade lower than three at the end of the final term in any of the specialised artistic training component subjects in basic dance, music or Gregorian chant courses prevents progression in those subjects, without preventing progression in the remaining subjects of that component.
These courses culminate in the presentation and defence of a project (Artistic Aptitude Test before a panel, in which students demonstrate the technical-artistic knowledge and skills they have acquired and developed throughout the course.
Regarding education and training courses, the conclusion of basic education depends on passing all training components and the final evaluation test. This test consists of a project that must be presented and defended before a panel in which the student must demonstrate the skills and knowledge developed throughout the course.
Students who successfully complete grade 9 are awarded a basic education diploma and a certification that details the completed subjects or modules with respective grades, as well as the results of the end-of-cycle exams (in basic education).
Regarding specialised artistic education courses, learners who successfully complete primary level courses in dance, music or Gregorian chant are entitled to a diploma and a certificate, which confer a level 2 qualification in the National Qualifications Framework (Quadro Nacional de Qualificações - QNQ).
Certificates of the qualifications acquired, discriminating subjects completed and results of the assessment can be issued at the request of interested parties, at any moment during the student’s time at school.
Certification is the responsibility of the school management bodies. In the case of education and training courses (CEF), students obtain dual certification - basic education and vocational certification - at the end of the course, conferring a level 2 National Qualifications Framework qualification (Ordinance No 782/2009, 23 July).
With the publication of Ordinance No 194/2021, 17 September, which defines the models of electronic diplomas and certificates for basic and upper secondary education and training provision, those relating to basic education began to record participation in projects and activities, such as school sports, sports days, Erasmus projects or projects in the artistic area. Other mentions include representation of students in school bodies, being class delegate, member of the student council or student representative on general councils, and participation in Citizenship and Development projects.