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Teaching and learning in vocational upper-secondary education

Portugal

6.Upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary Education

6.5Teaching and learning in vocational upper-secondary education

Last update: 8 June 2022

Curriculum, subjects, number of hours

Decree-Law No 55/2018, 6 July, defines the basic curricular model for vocational and specialised artistic education courses, as well as teaching time for the three years of the dual certification upper secondary education training cycle. These courses are regulated by their own ordinances. Own curriculum courses are regulated by the ordinances that create each course in private education.

Vocational courses

Decree-Law No 55/2018, 6 July defines a total workload of 3 100 to 3 440 hours in the basic curricular model for vocational courses. 
Regulation by Ordinance No 235-A/2018, 23 August specifies that the number of hours stipulated in the basic curricular model for the different training components will not exceed 35 hours per week and seven hours per day.

The courses being run cover several education and training areas, which are published online in the Education and Training Provision Portal.

The curricular matrix/structure of these courses is divided into subjects and short-term training units (Unidades de Formação de Curta Duração - UFCD), which offer greater flexibility and allows for the different learning paces.

The curricular matrix of vocational education courses includes the following training components: socio-cultural, scientific, technological and training in a work context). 

The socio-cultural training component involves a total timetable of 1,000 hours and aims to contribute to building students’ personal, social and cultural identity and includes the following subjects:

  • Portuguese: 320 hours
  • Foreign language I, II or III: 220 hours
  • Integration area: 220 hours
  • ICT - Information and communication technologies: 100 hours
  • Physical education: 140 hours.

The scientific training component includes two to three subjects with a total workload of 500 hours and aims to provide scientific training consistent with the professional profile associated with their qualification.

The technological training (known as the technical training component for the courses that started before 2018/2019) are designed for the acquisition and development of learning, knowledge, skills and technical skills defined for the professional profile associated with their qualification, according to the National Qualifications Catalogue (Catálogo Nacional de Qualificações - CNQ) framework.

With the new legislation (Decree-Law No 55/2018, 6 July) this training component (which, until 2017/18, included three to four subjects and lasted 1 100 hours) is now divided into short-term training units lasting between 1 000 and 1 300 hours, in order to respect each training framework.

The FCT (training in work context) component, lasting between 600 and 840 hours, is undertaken in companies or other organisations as work experience and designed for the acquisition of technical, relational and organisational skills relevant to the professional qualification.

The total workload in the three-year training cycle is managed by the school, as part of its pedagogical autonomy, safeguarding the balance of the annual timetable, in order to optimise modular management and training in a work context.

The total workload of those vocational courses varies between 3 100 and 3 440 hours.

According to the abovementioned decree-law, and regarding the National Strategy for Citizenship Education, the basic curricular model for vocational courses includes the citizenship and development component, a transversal area with an interdisciplinary approach, using contributions of different training components, subject areas, subjects or short-term training units.

The curricular matrix also includes the subject moral and religious education, whose provision is compulsory but attendance optional. It has a workload of 81 hours taught over the three years of the training cycle, which is added to the total of the basic curricular matrix.

Specialised artistic courses

These courses are regulated by Ordinance No 232-A/2018, 20 August (visual arts and audio-visuals) and Ordinance No 229-A/2018, 14 August (Dance). This legislation stipulates that schools establish how the teaching time of the different training components is organised, to facilitate strategies to achieve previously established objectives.

The general training component, which aims to help construct a learner’s personal, social and cultural identity, is the same in the four courses and includes the following subjects:

  • Portuguese: Grades 10 and 11 – 180 minutes a week; Grade 12 – 200 minutes a week, per grade. Total of 242 hours.
  • Foreign language I, II or III: Grades 10 and 11 – 150 minutes a week per grade. Total of 130 hours.
  • Philosophy: Grades 10 and 11 – 150 minutes a week, per grade. Total of 130 hours.
  • Physical education (except for the dance course): Grades 10, 11 and 12 – 150 minutes a week, per grade. Total of 195 hours.

The scientific training component helps students acquire and develop a body of knowledge and basic skills of the respective course.

In the visual arts and audio-visual areas, this component is identical to the courses of communication design, product design and artistic production, including the following subjects:

  • History of culture and the arts: Grades 10, 11 and 12 – 180 minutes a week, per grade.
  • Descriptive geometry A: Grades 11 and 12 – 270 minutes a week, per grade.
  • Biennial subject option (image and sound B; mathematics; school provision): Grades 11 and 12 – 180 minutes a week, per grade.

The scientific training component is common to the secondary courses of music, singing and Gregorian chant, including the following subjects:

  • History of culture and the arts: Grades 10, 11 and 12 – 180 minutes a week, per grade.
  • Image and sound A: Grades 11 and 12 – 270 minutes a week, per grade.
  • Biennial subject (descriptive geometry B or mathematics or school provision): Grades 11 and 12 – 180 minutes a week, per grade.

In the case of music, it is the same on the following four courses: dance, music, singing and Gregorian chant, and includes the following subjects

  • History of culture and the arts: Grades 10, 11 and 12 – 135 minutes a week, per grade.
  • Musical training: Grades 10, 11 and 12 – 90 minutes a week per grade.
  • Composition Analysis and Technique: Grades 10, 11 and 12 – 135 minutes a week, per grade.
  • Complementary provision (optional): Grades 10, 11 and 12 – 90 minutes a week, per grade.

In the case of the dance course:

  • History of culture and the arts: Grades 10, 11 and 12 – 135 minutes a week, per grade.
  • Music: Grades 10, 11 and 12 – 90 minutes a week, per grade.
  • Complementary provision (optional): Grades 10, 11 and 12 – 90 minutes a week, per grade.

The technical-artistic training component aims for learners to acquire and develop learning, knowledge, skills and technical and artistic competences for the desired professional profile. The training in work context varies between 273 and 1 482 hours.

  • Visual arts and audio-visual arts.
  • Drawing A: Grades 10, 11 and 12 – 250 minutes a week, per grade.
  • Project work and technology: Grades 10 and 11 – 360 minutes a week; grade 12 – 720 minutes a week (part of in-service training), per grade.
  • Biennial subject (applied physics and chemistry, arts management, school provision): Grades 11 and 12 – 180 minutes a week, per grade.

Dance and music: the subjects vary according to the vocational area of each course, as does the minimum workload:

  • Dance: 3,060 minutes a week, per cycle total.
  • Music: 765 minutes a week, per cycle total.
  • Singing: 1,305 minutes a week, per cycle total.
  • Gregorian Chant: 1,035 minutes a week, per cycle total.

The courses in the visual arts, audio-visual and dance areas also feature training in the workplace, with a workload of 132 hours.

Own-school-curriculum courses

Own-school-curriculum courses, currently designated science-technology courses are organised as follows:

  • General training component - the same as the science-humanities courses.
  • Scientific training component - made up of subjects from the specific training components of science-humanities courses, with the same syllabuses and timetables, ensuring solid basic training and national exams for access to higher education in the training area of each course, including at least one three-year course and one two-year course.
  • Technological training component - in all vocationally oriented courses, this is consolidated with the inclusion of the training in a work context (Formação em Contexto de Trabalho - FCT) component and includes a technological aptitude test (Prova de Aptidão Tecnológica - PAT).

The curriculum syllabuses and standards of science-humanities courses are those taught in the general and scientific training components.

The technological training component syllabuses are drafted by the school/educational establishment and submitted to the Directorate-general of Education (Direção-Geral da Educação - DGE) for pedagogical appreciation and approval, via the opinion of the National Agency for Qualification and Vocational Education (Agência Nacional para a Qualificação e o Ensino Profissional - ANQEP, I.P). Schools and educational establishments are autonomous when it comes to distributing and managing the overall workload/timetable detailed in the science-technology courses matrix. This is done in a flexible and optimised manner throughout the three-year training cycle, considering the necessary annual, weekly, and daily balance.

Apprenticeship courses

Apprenticeship courses have a total workload of between 3 000 and 4,000 hours. 
The apprenticeship course curriculum model includes the following training components:
a)    Socio-cultural and scientific training, which focusses on young people and adults acquiring and developing knowledge, skills and attitudes considered necessary to obtain a school qualification, according to the competence framework for those in the CNQ
b)    Technological training, which focusses on the acquisition and development of knowledge, skills and attitudes that meet what is defined in the professional profile and competences associated with the respective qualification 
c)    Training in a work context, which is designed for students to apply and consolidate the knowledge, skills and attitudes acquired through in-company activities or in other settings. 

The socio-cultural training component has a total workload between 700 and 800 hours. 
The technological training component has a total workload of between 800 and 1 000 hours.
The practical training component has a total workload of between 1 100 hours and 1 500 hours.
 

Curriculum Structure of Apprenticeship Courses – level 4

Training Components

Skills Areas

Training Areas (divided into short-term training units)

Socio-cultural

Languages, Culture and Communication

- Living in Portuguese
- Communicating in a Foreign Language
- Information and Communication Technologies

Citizenship and Society

- Today’s World
- Social and Personal Development

Scientific

Basic Sciences

- Mathematics and Reality
- Others

Technological

Technologies

- Specific Technologies

Practical

Work Context

 

Teaching methods and materials

In terms of teaching methods and materials used on vocationally oriented courses in dual VET upper secondary education, teachers can decide which method to use, although, at school level, processes and methodologies might be adopted, as well as pedagogical materials to be shared among teachers from the school or school cluster.

There are no official guidelines on homework.

Textbooks

Educational publishers devise textbooks appropriate for dual VET provision. Like science-humanities courses at upper secondary education, the design of textbooks is the responsibility of publishers. The production, publishing and distribution of school textbooks follow the principle of market freedom and competition.

Procedures for the assessment and certification of school textbooks are defined centrally by bodies previously accredited by the Ministry of Education.

Teachers/schools are free to choose and use school textbooks. 

On vocational courses, school manuals are adopted for the training cycle of the course the subject is part of (i.e., for the duration of the course and not for a specific grade), respecting the school’s pedagogic autonomy regarding the management of the teaching load.

Law No 71/2018, 31 December, extends the free school textbooks scheme to upper-secondary education. At the beginning of the 2019/2020 academic year, all students attending compulsory education in public schools received textbooks at no cost. This law allows upper secondary school students to keep textbooks until the end of the year when they intend to take national exams in the respective subject.

The Law No 96/2019, 4 September,  which provides free textbooks in public compulsory schooling, specifies that students in vocational education must return their textbooks after successfully completing the respective modules.