We must continue to discuss calmly and deeply what secondary education we want for our country and whether or not an access system essentially dependent on exams taken at this level of education helps us to fully comply with the proposed curriculum, namely with regard to skills that are claimed by higher education, the labor market and society in general such as problem solving, autonomy, critical thinking and creativity. (Domingos Fernandes)
We can continue to discuss calmly and deeply. But the outcome is uncertain. In fact, and for many years now, “higher education is what commands the most”, as my dear teacher and friend Eurico Lemos Pires has always denounced, transforming secondary education into a kind of “minor studies” of higher education.
In fact, a set of theoretically and empirically demonstrable propositions can be stated:
I) Higher education is the one that orders the most in the ways of fulfilling the curricula, programs and evaluation of basic and secondary education.
This overdetermination negatively influences all educational practices at least from the 1st cycle of basic education, contrary to what is established by the Basic Law, which supposedly obliges the educational system to be organized according to the principle of progressive sequentiality (n.º 2 of article 8): “The articulation between the cycles obeys a progressive sequence, giving each cycle the function of completing, deepening and widening the previous cycle, in a perspective of global unity of teaching [obrigatório]”.
This would have to mean that, in concrete action, each cycle of studies should be organized to give a harmonious sequence to the learning generated in the previous cycle, naturally also applying to higher education.
Otherwise, the entire system (and the people who work in it) are hostage to the supposed interests of higher education. But even this may not be true: this mode of selection and access does not serve the purpose of attending higher education either, as it does not assess the most demanded skills.
II) This overdetermination reduces the quality and quantity of learning prescribed by the legislation in force.
Due to the weight of access, there is a wide range of skills (which, as is known, result from a combination of knowledge, skills, attitudes and values, explicitly provided for in the Profile of Students Leaving Compulsory Schooling) and which are valued and demanded for life (wherever one lives) that cannot be evaluated by exams: persistence, curiosity, enthusiasm, courage, creativity, leadership, collaboration, civic commitment, self-discipline, sense of beauty , motivation, holistic thinking, empathy, compassion, humility, sense of humor, resilience, integration and interconnection of knowledge…. are a long way from being exam testable. Well, not being evaluated by exams, they tend not to be taught. Not being taught, they tend not to be academically valued and evaluated. And the inevitable question arises: but which people and which citizens are we forming?
Incidentally, the recurrent comparisons between the marks obtained in the exams and the classifications attributed by the teachers and by the schools want to convey the idea that the teachers do not know how to assess, that the valid (and reliable and reliable) grade is the result of the exams, following the sacrosanct Gauss curve that ensures full compliance with the selective and stratifying function of the school following the meritocratic fiction (deliberately forgetting that they evaluate different objects, and therefore it is natural that they also produce different results). But, more serious than this implicit accusation and the underlying inflationist thesis, it is being complicit in a distortion of the purposes of education, and a clear impoverishment of vital learning.
III) The normative order itself introduces paradoxes and perversities in the ways of regulating action.
In fact, the Student Profile that guides all educational action (or should guide it) establishes that “this Profile constitutes a common matrix for all schools and educational offers within the scope of compulsory education, namely at the curricular level, in planning, in carrying out and in the internal and external evaluation of teaching and learning.” (Dispatch No. 6478/2017 of July 26).
Now, if that should be the case, in what way is the external assessment coherent and congruent with the normative imposition that it should follow?
But even more serious: when the president of Iave maintains that he has a platform with 211 items based on exam tests and that the “objective is for teachers to adapt their strategy [pedagógica, supõe-se] to the results of the external assessment” and explains, for the avoidance of doubt, “that is, that they start using the performance of each student (through the individual RIPA reports [das provas de aferição]) in the classroom and in addition to the diagnosis and evaluation data, Iave will provide pedagogical and didactic suggestions for each situation”.
This apology for testing and examination, this obsession with control and subordination, this professional proletarianization could be admissible in a scenario in which external tests fulfill the order to which they are obliged and do not serve for the purpose of access. But, evidently, they do not, being just one more cog in the gear of undermining teachers and secondary education.
IV) The educational projects of schools and the pedagogical projects of education professionals are strongly limited by this absurd and illegal imposition, as it contradicts a basic principle of the Basic Law of the Educational System (for all, paragraph 4 of article 2 – “The educational system responds to the needs resulting from social reality, contributing to the full and harmonious development of the personality of individuals, encouraging the formation of free, responsible, autonomous and solidary citizens and valuing the human dimension of work” and, as we have seen, it also does not comply with the referents structuring curricula.
It is concluded, therefore, that this way of regulating access to higher education removes the terminal character of secondary education, greatly reduces its autonomy and, above all, compromises the development of people, citizens, society and the qualifications for work and for life. Ultimately, it also does not serve the interests of higher education. And if so, the paradoxical question remains: what powerful interests does it serve to perpetuate itself?
The formula found – the exams count again for the completion of secondary education, students taking three exams (Portuguese and two of the students’ choice) is positive for the social credibility of teaching and for the students’ freedom to learn (which should grow further).
The drop in weighting for the composition of the secondary education classification (from 30% to 25%) is symbolic, but educationally significant.