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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
National reforms in vocational education and training and adult learning


14.Ongoing reforms and policy developments

14.3National reforms in vocational education and training and adult learning

Last update: 27 November 2023
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Qualifica Centres

The Qualifica Centres overseen by public basic and upper secondary education school clusters (SC) or non-clustered schools (NCS) represent approximately 37 % of the entire national network, which has over 300 centres. As such, they play a key role in the Qualifica Programme and the strategy to mobilise the adult population for lifelong learning.

These Centres should benefit from the schools' educational assets and resources, as well as the synergies created with local communities. Here, it is important that rules are defined for allocating human resources to those Qualifica Centres overseen by the abovementioned SC/NCS, thus facilitating the tasks entrusted to them in the areas of information and guidance, referral, training, recognition and validation of competences and certification.

To this end, Despatch No 8271/2023, 14 August was published. This determines the rules allocating weekly hours for teachers working in public schools that oversee or are partners of Qualifica Centres. The legislation also establishes the rules allocating the number of guidance and competence validation professionals (GCVP) to the Centres.

Basic level specialised artistic course in drama

Despatch No 7736/2023, 26 July 2023 approved the Essential Learning document of the specialised artistic training subjects of the basic drama course, taking as a reference the basic curriculum model contained in Annexes IV and V to Decree-Law No 55/2018, 6 July.

Based on the Essential Learning documents for educational and training provision, including basic level specialised artistic courses, work began on constructing the Essential Learning (by cycle) for the subjects on the basic drama course, such as: acting (2nd and 3rd cycles) improvisation (movement) 2nd and 3rd cycles, voice (2nd and 3rd cycles) and theatre production techniques (3rd cycle).

These new Essential Learning documents for specialised artistic training subjects (basic drama course) will take effect next academic year, 2023-2024, and can be consulted in the "Documents" area, under "Essential Learning".

In terms of general education subjects, adhering to the same logic as the other specialised artistic courses, the basic drama course is subject to the Essential Learning documents of the subject areas and common subjects of the basic curriculum model of general basic education.

Recognition, Validation and Certification of Competences Framework (RVCC) for Level-5 Qualifications

As part of making the National Qualifications System (SNQ) more flexible, the first nine level-5 vocational RVCC reference frameworks have been included in the National Qualifications Catalogue (CNQ).

As such, adults with unrecognised and uncertified professional experience can remedy their situation. The level-5 reference frameworks were designed together with a number of IEFP protocol vocational training centres and a higher education body.

Being able to obtain a level-5 qualification through RVCC makes this process more flexible and complementary in terms of other NQS education and training types, as well as improving people's qualifications in Portugal.

For more information, see the ANQEP, I.P. website.

Specialised Technology Centres (CTE)

The creation of 365 Specialised Technology Centres by 2025 represents a 480-million-euro investment funded by the Recovery and Resilience Plan (PRR), which aims to modernise education and vocational training provision. This is done via the acquisition of technological educational resources (equipment), as well as the modernisation and renovation of the facilities and infrastructure of public schools and colleges offering vocational courses and vocational schools, public or private.

After setting up the first 104 centres, there was a second submission phase between 31 March and 23 June 2023.

For more information, visit the Specialised Technology Centres website.

National Qualifications Catalogue - short and medium-length courses in the digital area

Creating short and medium-length courses in the digital area has had a very positive impact on young people and adults seeking to improve their skills. Courses on programming, digital marketing, data analysis and no-code visual programming, created in 2021 as part of the "Young + digital" programme, have over 15,000 enrolments and 11,000 certificates.

Also in the digital field, but more geared towards adults with low digital literacy, the pathways created via the "Digital Skills Certificate" programme are attracting many adults. Since their creation in 2021, over 24,000 people have enrolled on these courses, and more than 17,000 have been certified.

ANQEP’s training provision not only helps meet the growing demand for professionals with digital skills from the business community, but also gives workers the opportunity to acquire new skills.

Financial support for vocational education

In August, following demands from schools teaching vocational courses, the Council of Ministers approved a draft resolution making financial support possible for private vocational schools in the the Algarve and Greater Lisbon Area.

Expenditure for the new training cycle is €59,224,354.98, which constitutes an increase of around 8%, boosting the potential number of students attending these courses.

Read here for more information.

Students’ external assessment: new rules for completing upper secondary education

Following the reflection and public discussion held on this subject a few months ago, Decree-Law No 62/2023, 25 July, approves the new rules for completing upper secondary school and access to higher education. This involves the new regime of student assessment, which establishes a new examinations model in upper secondary education. The list of compulsory final exams has changed, with all students taking three national exams, thus consolidating the core nature of internal and continuous assessment. The Portuguese language exam remains compulsory for all, with each student being obliged to take two other exams of their choice, according to their individual learning path and further studies.

The same decree-law alters the legal framework for inclusive education, extending the special conditions of assessment tests all students with any specific language disorder, which was previously applied only to students with dyslexia.

These changes will only come into force for students enrolled the 12th year for the 2024/2025 school year.

For more information, see the Government website

New 23|24 Escola+ Plan

Having considered the monitoring and evaluation results of the 21|23 School+ Plan, as well as the knowledge, experience and lessons learned from its implementation, the 23|24 School+ Plan (approved by Resolution of the Council of Ministers No. 80-B/2023, 18 July 2023) provides schools with a set of specific measures for the 2023/2024 school year. This involves the construction and implementation of schools’ own learning recovery plans, which aim to counter the learning deficits that remain due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 23|24 School+ Plan is divided into the following areas:

a) Area 1 - Reading and writing.

b) Area 2 - Curricular autonomy.

c) Area 3 - Educational resources.

d) Area 4 - Family.

e) Area 5 - Assessment and diagnosis.

f) Area 6 - Inclusion and well-being.

g) Area 7 - Supporting educational communities.

These areas take the form of measures applied to education and training provision in basic and upper secondary education, including vocational schools, both public and private.

The abovementioned resolution also extends the mandate of the Mission Group for Promoting School Success (created by the Resolution of the Council of Ministers 23/2016, 11 April) for another two school years. This group is responsible for monitoring the plan, in tandem with representatives from all the Ministry of Education departments.

"Border schools project" memorandum

On 15 March 2023, in Lanzarote, Portugal and Spain signed the "Border Schools Project" Memorandum, boosting bilateral cooperation between the two countries. The initiative, which targets young people, reflects values like exercising full citizenship, solidarity through cultural diversity and democratic debate, among others.

During the bilateral meeting, it was also agreed to collaborate in the field of vocational training, creating a joint technical committee to work on vocational certification and student internship exchanges, strengthening the internationalisation of vocational training in both countries. A commitment was also made to promote civic and democratic values in Europe, especially with regard to gender equality of girls' access to training areas in STEAM - science, technology, engineering, arts/humanities and mathematics.

For more information about the Bilingual and Intercultural Schools Project "Border Schools" visit the DGE website.

Additional information about this project can be found in subchapter 14.2. National reforms in school education.

Green skills and jobs programme

Green Jobs & Skills is a vocational training programme in the field of energy (Ordinance No. 21/2023, 6 January). Its strategic aim is to provide vocational training and retraining for workers at companies and other employers directly or indirectly affected by the increase in energy costs. In doing so, it seeks to reduce the risk of unemployment, promote job retention and creation, accelerating transition and energy efficiency.

The Agência para a Energia (ADENE) and Associação Portuguesa de Energias Renováveis (APREN), in conjunction with the Agência Nacional para a Qualificação e o Ensino Profissional (ANQEP I. P.), are responsible for identifying the respective skills and training needs. Using their technical expertise and capacity to mobilise the sector's different bodies, they develop and update short and medium-length training pathways to be integrated in the National Qualifications Catalogue (CNQ), as part of energy transition and efficiency during the programme’s life.

ANQEP recently included four new training pathways in the areas of environment and energy in the National Qualifications Catalogue (CNQ), responding, as such, to the need for new green skills.

New training pathways in the areas of environment and energy

ANQEP recently included four new short and medium-length courses in the National Qualifications Catalogue, responding to specific skills in the area of environment and energy (new green skills). These pathways consist of a set of short training units lasting a maximum of 375 hours:

Green hydrogen – fundamentals and technologies (300 hours)

Renewable energies – solar thermal (325 hours)

Renewable energies – solar photovoltaic (375 hours)

Renewable energies – wind (375 hours)

The green hydrogen fundamentals and technologies training pathway was developed in partnership with ADENE – Agência para a Energia  (Energy Agency), the Direção-Geral de Energia e Geologia  (Directorate-General for Energy and Geology) and the Instituto de Emprego e Formação Profissional, I.P. (Institute for Employment and Vocational Training).

Contributions were also made by the Conselho Setorial da Energia (Sector Council for Energy), namely the Agência Portuguesa do Ambiente - APA (Portuguese Environment Agency) and the Instituto de Soldadura e Qualidade - ISQ.

These four courses can be completed through certified modular training, enabling autonomous certification.


Qualification for Internationalisation Programme

A 275-hour short and medium duration course on "Internationalisation - fundamentals" was designed as part of the "Qualification for Internationalisation" Programme.

For more detailed information, see Subchapter 14.5 Reforms in the areas of transversal competences and employability.

Adult education and training key competences reference framework - basic level

The adult education and training key competences reference framework - basic level was updated primarily to improve adult competences, particularly those considered necessary to obtain basic-level school qualifications, attempting to satisfy multiple demands regarding citizenship, work and lifelong learning (LLL).

This reference framework includes:

  • a new key competences area in digital skills, whose certification confers a level of proficiency according to the Dynamic Digital Competence Reference Framework
  • communicating in other languages, in addition to Portuguese, in the area of culture, language and communication
  • introducing scientific literacy with mathematics, sciences and technology and
  • updating citizenship and employability (EC) to meet the new challenges of Portuguese, European and global society.

This reference framework highlights some of the soft skills most valued in the labour market through the creation of an area specifically dedicated to personal, social and learning skills. However, this is not compulsory for obtaining school certification.

Valorizar Social Programme

As part of the «Valorizar Social» Programme, five short and medium duration courses were designed to respond to new demands in the areas of management and finance, leadership and innovation, consisting of a set of short-term training units lasting 25 and/or 50 hours, with a maximum duration of 350 hours.

For more detailed information, see Subchapter 14.5 National reforms related to transversal skills and employability.

National Qualifications System: updates

Portuguese as a Host Language

Ordinance No 184/2022 21 July broadens the eligibility criteria for these courses to include citizens aged 16 years old or over, as well as citizens applying for international or temporary protection, and citizens holding a short-term visa for seasonal work, temporary stay or residence, thus focussing on the training and integration of migrants in the labour market and in Portuguese society.

Basic level specialised artistic course in drama

Ordinance 65/2022, 1 February created the basic level specialised artistic course in drama for 2nd and 3rd cycles of basic education, thus consolidating artistic training that already covered music and dance.

Qualifica Centres

To improve qualification policy for the population, particularly adults with few qualifications, it was necessary to bolster the Qualifica Centres’ role as a gateway to provision for adults. To this end, Ordinance No. 62/2022 was published on 31 January, which gives Qualifica Centres greater autonomy and accountability, emphasising a proximity with the public that is based on territorial or sectoral partnership. The same Ordinance creates the assessment and certification commissions, which are key to better conclusion rates for incomplete qualification pathways in the adult population.

Recognition, Validation and Certification of Competences (RVCC)

For the first time, Ordinance No 61/2022, 31 January makes the recognition, validation and certification of competences processes independent of the bodies that implement them. It is possible to obtain a level 5 NQF through a RVCC process, as well as give a financial incentive to adults who obtain a school or vocational certification through the Qualifica Accelerator.

The level 5 NQF qualification can now also be obtained through certified modular training (Ordinance No 66/2022, 1 February) and the Aprendizagem+ Courses (Ordinance No 70/2022, 2 February). This same Ordinance also extends the age limit for apprenticeship courses to 29 years old.

Adult Education and Training Courses

Ordinance No 86/2022, 4 February enables access to several types of basic level adult education and training courses according to the level of schooling they have completed, thus shortening the qualification pathway.

Specialised Technology Courses

Decree-Law No 39/2022, 31 May alters the regime of Specialised Technology Courses, which are primarily focussed on vocational reskilling and retraining, boosting professional competences and the consolidation of initial training pathways, professional qualification and specialised technical competences, while encouraging further studies.

Following this Decree-Law No 39/2022, Ordinance No 206/2022, 19 August defines the operational conditions for specialised technology courses, as well as the template and conditions for issuing the respective certificates and diploma.

Specialised Technology Centres (CTE)

On 17 June 2022, the  Tender for Specialised Technology Centres was announced. This was part of the Qualifications and Skills Component of the “Recovery, Resilience and Investment Plan: Modernisation in education and vocational training establishments.”

The tender aims to establish and modernise 365 Specialised Technology Centres in public education establishments offering vocational courses and in public or private vocational schools (115 industrial centres, 30 renewable energy centres, 195 computer centres and 25 digital and multimedia centres). This investment involves modernising and refurbishing existing premises and infrastructures, as well as acquiring technological educational resources (equipment).

Quality assurance systems aligned with the EQAVET framework

The pool of external experts, created via protocols established between ANQEP and 35 higher education institutions, was expanded to 173 individuals. This was done to respond to EQAVET verification requests submitted by the operators whose alignment processes involved support from the POCH programme (vocational schools, upper secondary schools and public schools offering vocational courses or own-school curriculum courses).

The EQAVET conformity verification processes undertaken by external experts have enabled ANQEP to award 442 EQAVET labels so far.



Inclusive education in VET

Working in conjunction with ANQEP, DGEstE and DGE, the Moita Vocational Technical School has continued the Pilot Project - Inclusive Education in Dual Certification Provision, which aims to create an operational guide to inclusive education in dual certification provision. Using working sessions with consultants and document analysis, it focusses on phase 2, which aims to answer the following questions: what are the main objectives? What is the scope of curriculum management? In terms of classroom practices and assessment, what learning situations need to be identified and how are they operationalised? This step is fundamental for the subsequent testing phase.

Young + Digital Programme (cont.)

As part of the "Young + Digital" Programme (Order No 250-A/2020, 23 October), 15 new training paths in the digital area were designed for unemployed young adults. These are made up of short-term training units of 25 and/or 50 hours.

For more detailed information, see 14.5 Reforms in the Areas of Transversal Skills and Employability.

Learning outcomes-based qualifications 2021

In April 2021, the National Agency for Qualification and Vocational Education (Agência Nacional para a Qualificação e o Ensino Profissional, I.P.) launched a public and international tender to update the National Qualifications Catalogue. The aim was to create a set of sectoral studies that analysed and anticipated qualifications and skills needs and the development of respective qualification benchmarks, mapped by competence units (CU) and described in terms of learning outcomes. This work is expected to be completed in 2023.

Quality assurance in adult education and training

In April 2021, the Strengthening Quality Assurance in Adult Education and Training in Portugal guide was published. It was written by OECD as part of a European Commission technical support programme for Portugal and offers recommendations in two areas: recognition and certification of adult education and training providers; and the monitoring of adult education and training providers and of adults’ outcomes. For the first dimension, two recommendations were suggested: developing a quality label to verify core, common certification standards; and centralising all the relevant information about certification processes. For the second dimension, the guide also identifies two recommendations: developing a common monitoring framework; and tracking outcomes in adult education and training.

In terms of quality assurance, a quality charter for the Qualifica Centres is being prepared, which aims to: (i) cover all areas of Qualifica Centre intervention, from initial adult entry to the monitoring of qualification paths, inside or outside the Qualifica Centre; (ii) counter the logic that activity should focus exclusively on lifelong guidance and RVCC processes; and (iii) improve referrals and the completion of adult qualification paths, focussing such paths on the candidates' profile. The quality charter also aims to establish benchmarks for procedures and outcomes and to set standards through examples of good practice and "Centres of Excellence".

#Home study for vocational education

Considering the success of the #HomeStudy project for students attending basic education and secondary education pupils on science-humanities courses temporarily unable to attend classes or as a complement to the study, the National Agency for Qualification and Vocational Education (Agência Nacional para a Qualificação e o Ensino Profissional) decided to support the development of thematic, audio-visual teaching content for specific vocational course disciplines. It also played an active part in developing common content for science-humanities, artistic and vocational courses.

Adults Incentive: National Adult Literacy Plan and the Qualifica Accelerator

In terms of the investments set out in the Recovery and Resilience Plan, approved in 2021 and to be implemented between 2021 and 2026, key actions include the modernisation of training provision, educational establishments and vocational training, as well as the Adults Incentive programme, which boasts complementary mechanisms for promoting lifelong learning. Two of them are part of the Qualifica Programme: the National Adult Literacy Plan and Qualifica Accelerator.

Targeting working-age adults with low-level qualifications, both employed and unemployed, it is predicted that 225 local projects promoting level B1/B2/B3 qualifications will get off the ground by 2025, thus helping to implement the National Adult Literacy Plan. Additionally, support will be given to adults currently involved in RVCC processes, with a target of 100 thousand adults becoming qualified this way by 2025, via the Qualifica Accelerator.

Vocational training and qualification agreement

Entitled “A strategic goal for people, companies and the country”, the agreement mentions, among other measures, "a review and update of the regulations applicable to different training types" and the creation of an inter-ministerial commission to coordinate the VET system, as part of the National Qualifications System. This agreement also includes a set of measures designed to improve the quality of the system, its mechanisms and response capacity, such as: creating training paths "in response to specific sectoral needs of the labour market"; studying the flexibility of short-term training unit workloads; strengthening the role and dynamism of the Sector Qualification Councils, as well reviewing and re-launching the Technological Specialisation Courses and the extension of the Apprenticeship System to level 5 of the National Qualifications Framework.

The Qualifica programme is key to this agreement, based on an understanding regarding (i) the revision of Qualifica Centre regulations; (ii) the expansion and consolidation of separately regulated RVCC processes; (iii) the expansion of the Qualifica Centres network; (iv) greater emphasis on the role of the Qualifica Passport; (v) the expansion of the Qualifica AP programme, and (vi) a greater focus on the role of the Qualifica Centres as a gateway to lifelong learning paths for adults.

Also linked to the Qualifica programme, the agreement specifies greater efforts to reboot education and training for people with incomplete paths; the launch of a programme (Qualifica Entrepreneur) designed for entrepreneurs and managers of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises with low qualification levels, and another - More Entrepreneur - for higher education. Another measure includes the greater role of companies in the Qualifica programme.

Qualifica Passport App

As part of the administrative modernisation strategy (SIMPLEX), a range of solutions have been developed to facilitate citizens’ interface with the educational system, as well as the management of student information within it. Initiatives include a Qualifica Passport mobile phone application, developed in recent months, and designed for adults in the qualification process and young NEETs, (not in education, employment or training). It is a native app for Android and IOS systems in accordance with the official website.

The Qualifica Passport records qualifications and competences acquired or developed throughout an adult’s life, guiding learning pathways through the simulation of different possible qualification routes for obtaining new qualifications and/or academic and professional advancement, according to adults’ profiles and interests.

“Young + Digital" Programme

As part of the "Young + Digital" Programme (Ordinance No 250-A/2020, 23 October) 13 new training pathways in digital skills were designed for unemployed young adults, made up of 25 and/or 50-hour short courses.

For more detailed information, see Subchapter 14.5 National Reforms Related to Transversal Skills and Employability.

The qualification needs forecasting system (SANQ) – network planning

As part of SANQ, the regular update (every three years) of this mechanism took place in November/December 2020 at central level. The following changes were made:

  • Inclusion of new qualifications, change of name and exclusion of qualifications according to the National Catalogue of Qualifications.
  • Inclusion of "Identification of Qualifications Needs 2020 Survey" results, drafted by Statistics Portugal (INE) in conjunction with ANQEP and DGEEC (e.g., "Table 3 - Number of workers to be recruited over the next two years, according to non-higher education qualification and geographical location of employment vacancy (NUTS II)".

The new central SANQ model was made available to intermunicipal communities (CIM) and metropolitan areas (AM) to update their qualification needs analysis.

Between December 2020 and February 2021, the CIM/AM developed the regional development module and defined the relevance proposals (NUT III) for level 2 qualifications, education and training courses (CEF), and for level 4 qualifications, vocational courses (CP), according to regional and territorial characteristics.

There was an increase in the total number of CIM/AM that undertook regional development (from 19 in 2020 to 20 in 2021).

Quality assurance systems aligned with the EQAVET framework

Between January and November 2020, there were five training sessions for external experts to develop EQAVET compliant verification processes regarding the quality assurance systems implemented by the operators.

The pool of external experts, created via protocols established between ANQEP and 35 higher education institutions, was expanded to 173 individuals. This was done to respond to EQAVET verification requests submitted by the operators whose alignment processes involved support from the POCH programme (vocational schools, upper secondary schools and public schools offering vocational courses or own-school curriculum courses).

The verification processes carried out by the external experts allowed ANQEP to award 251 EQAVET seals in 2020 and 40 EQAVET seals in 2021 (by 20th February).

2020/2021 school year: exceptional and temporary measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Faced with the epidemiological situation in Portugal, the Portuguese government updated the measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 with Decree No 3-C/2021, 22 January. This legislation suspended face-to-face training and determined that, exceptionally, face-to-face activities could be substituted by distance learning if the right conditions are met.

In terms of vocationally oriented provision for young people (specialised artistic and science-technology courses), the measures used in the first confinement were resurrected.

Exceptionally, face-to-face training for adults, particularly that at Qualifica Centres, should be replaced by distance learning if the right conditions exist. To this end, ANQEP re-implemented the guidelines on "Exceptional and temporary measures due to the COVID 19 pandemic - Adult qualification" made available in March 2020.