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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: 30 March 2024




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.