Economic difficulties affecting school results

By TPN/Lusa, in News · 13-12-2019 01:00:00 · 1 Comments

Economic difficulties continue to have negative effects on both the school results of Portuguese students and their expectations.

25 percent of disadvantaged students in Portugal, with good marks end up failing to complete their higher education, according to a leading international study.

The socio-economic origin of Portuguese students is a “strong indicator” of their results in reading, mathematics and science, according to the PISA report 2018, released by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development.

The PISA report is drawn up every three years by the OECD and measures the performance of 15-year-olds in skills such as reading, mathematics and science, while also assessing other issues such as the school environment and equity conditions in learning.

The PISA results are in terms of points. In reading skills, for example, Portuguese students recorded an overall result of 492 points, in line with the average of OECD member countries.

However, the report indicates that the results of pupils from better-off backgrounds in Portugal are 95 points above those who have greater economic difficulties.

That differential is larger than the OECD average for this comparison, which is 89 points.

In 2009, the differential resulting from the socio-economic origin of Portuguese students was 87 points, in line with the OECD average.

Among students with the top performances in reading skills, 16 percent come from better-off backgrounds and only 2 percent from disadvantaged families.

Still, PISA 2018 notes that 10 percent of less well-off Portuguese students had results among the top 25 percent in reading, which for the OECD means that poverty does not necessarily condemn students to poor results.

The results also indicate that one quarter of the poorest students who have good academic marks do not aim at completing a higher education course, whereas among the most well-off students this is a goal for almost all of them.

Girls outperform boys in reading in Portugal, but boys are better at maths. In science there are no gender differences of note, the report finds.

The gender differential in reading skills has also narrowed over a decade: in 2009 it was 38 points but in 2018 it was just 24.

As far as careers go, engineering and science remain the preferred areas for boys, while health-related professions are the primary choice for girls. Careers in the area of information technology attract fewer than 10 percent of Portuguese students, mostly boys.

PISA 2018 also analyses equity for immigrant students, whose numbers grew from 5 percent in 2009 to 7 percent in 2018.

One in four students of foreign origin have economic difficulties; at the same time 17 percent of students with an immigrant background achieved results among the highest 25 percent.


Of course poverty is no obstacle to good academic performance. What is an obstacle to students from these backgrounds is poor parenting and a lack of interest of their parents in their children's education. They make no effort to encourage their children to do well at school, because they themselves have not done well and ended up in a dead-end job. This conclusion is not just valid for Portugal, but for the entire western world. It is not poverty holding back students, it's lack of ambition and the feeling of entitlement, that there is something for nothing and a lack of understanding that only effort and hard work can generate good results.

By Billy Bissett from Porto on 13-12-2019 06:20
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