Stranger than fiction

Portugal bans remote learning for private schools to level playing field

Expat children unable to learn from home after criticism of state school online teaching

The Portuguese government has blocked private schools from offering remote learning for at least a fortnight to avoid their pupils gaining an unfair advantage over state-educated children.

The minority Socialist-led government of Prime Minister Antonio Costa said earlier this month that schools would remain open, but was forced to announce last Thursday that schools would be closed from the next day amid rising Covid infections.

When schools were closed, a decree forced “all schools to take a two week holiday”, The Times reports, with the Portuguese government claiming that “allowing private institutions to teach remotely would put state-school pupils at an unfair disadvantage”.

The ban extends to all international and private schools, meaning that British children studying for GCSEs or A-Levels cannot by law be taught for two weeks.

Fee paying schools will be forced not to pivot directly to online learning after remote learning in state schools was criticised as “patchy” during Portugal’s first lockdown, the Daily Mail says. The ban will last for a minimum of two weeks to allow state schools to prepare to teach online, The Portugal News adds.

It is estimated that 200,000 students currently do not have access to the necessary tools to participate in distance learning.

A Portuguese parent has set up a petition against the ban, which has gathered more than 13,000 signatures so far, while The Association of Private Schools in Portugal said it was unconstitutional to prevent students from learning. 

One parent, who has two daughters at an international school, told The Times that parents are “all very shocked because we are following a completely different educational system to the Portuguese one... the idea of disadvantaging everybody as a solution for the few kids who haven’t got computers is crazy”.

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