"In 2020, two very worrying things happen. The regional rate is three times the national average, on the one hand, and, on the other, it unfortunately becomes the highest rate among all the regions of the European Union", he said, speaking to journalists in Angra do Heroísmo, on the sidelines of the Education Forum, part of the Education System Coordinating Council.

According to the sociologist, the stagnation of the early school leaving rate for education and training between 18 and 24 years is especially "worrying", which in 2020 reached 27 percent in the region, when the country's average was 8.9 percent.

"Until 2017, the Azores was following the national trend in a very parallel way of decreasing this rate, but from 2017 onwards the national rate continues to fall and the regional rate stabilises," he explained.

"The other regions continue to fall and French Guiana, which was the highest, is already slightly below the figure for the Azores," he added.

At stake are young people between the ages of 18 and 24, "who have already left the education system and have not completed at least the 12th grade".

For the sociologist, it is important to study the causes of this phenomenon and promote school success to stop it.

"The problem is to get these young people to be more successful at school, so that when they reach the age of 18 and are thinking of leaving school they already have the 12th grade, or even continue a little longer," he argued.

The specialist recalled that the Azores are "the Portuguese region where there are fewer people with higher education".

The Regional Government's proposal to create an Education strategy for the decade is seen with good eyes by Fernando Diogo, who warns nevertheless against the danger of the programme focusing too much on infrastructures and the working conditions of teachers.

"A first threat is to become hostage to the labour claims of teachers, which are very important, obviously, but which very easily overlap with everything else thanks to the dynamic claims and public intervention capacity of the unions," he stressed.

The researcher also criticised the "excessive focus" on school construction, claiming that the sums allocated to Education in the Region's Plan and Budget are practically dedicated to infrastructures.

"It is good to have good schools, but this is not at all important, nor decisive, for the fundamental issue, which is the construction of academic success of students in its various components," he pointed out.

Fernando Diogo proposes a strategy focused on students and for this he advocates a greater focus on the "organisation of schools, in the after-school training of teachers and in the supervision of teachers' work".

"The work of teachers is totally decisive for the academic success of students, in a context in which we also know that the main predictor of academic success of students is the mother's schooling," he said.

"In the context of an autonomous region where school levels are low, we can expect low results from students and if we want to break this problem, it will have to be through the work of teachers and the organisation of schools", he added.

When questioned about the Pro-Success programme, implemented by the previous Regional Government, the sociologist acknowledged that it had "numerous positive and important things".

"It is indeed necessary above all to organise better, and not so much to throw away a job that has already been done, because starting again will be even worse," he appealed.