The studies carried out by the Directorate-General for Education and Science Statistics (DGEEC) analysed the school results of students in the 2nd and 3rd cycles, that is, from the 5th to the 9th grade.
Looking at the students who passed the year with negative grades, most managed to recover during the following year and in some cases the success rate reached almost 90 percent.
In a comparison between the effect of holding back the student or letting them pass the grade, differences in results are also few, according to data from the two reports, which analyse grades for eight academic years (between 2011/2012 and 2019/2020).
For example, among students who in the 8th grade were failing Social Sciences, but who passed the year, 87 percent managed to pass in the subject in the following year, in 2019/2020.
Among those who failed and for that reason returned to Social Science classes - a subject that had been failed-, the success rate was 88 percent, that is, just one more percentage point in relation to those who passed with negative.
The exception is Mathematics in the 6th, 8th, and 9th grades of schooling, where recovering learning and succeeding seems to be more difficult.
In a statement, the Ministry of Education considers that the results of the studies confirm "the low effectiveness of retention as a measure to improve results, and encourage other interventions".
Over the past eight years, there was a trend towards improvement in grades and less negative grades for all subjects. For the Ministry of Education, this phenomenon “shows a progressive and consistent improvement in the Portuguese education system”.
Looking at the students who failed, more than 90 percent were negative in Mathematics, according to the two studies now published.