The Portuguese experience: an ambitious policy with definite impacts

In 2007, Portugal launched its technological plan for education (TPE), intended to overcome its poor ranking on European indicators of technological modernization. The government invested €700 million over a three-year period to achieve an ambitious set of objectives: a computer for every two students, Internet connection speed greater than 48 Mbits, possession of an ICT certification by 90% of teachers hired.
Strong government involvement
The TPE had three main components. The technological component was concerned with provision of high-speed Internet access, computers, interactive whiteboards and so forth. The “content” component made it possible to set up a school management platform by connecting each school to the Ministry of Education’s official Internet portal. Lastly, the “training” component developed a certified training program on ICT utilization, designed for the entire school community.
The TPE also included an “e-escolinha” program aimed at facilitating primary school pupils’ acquisition of a first computer, duly loaded with learning content: 600,000 Magellan computers were rolled out to schools, with families contributing €0 to €50 depending on their income. A similar program, “e-escolas”, was conducted for 11- to 18-year-old pupils. The schools themselves, of course, have been well endowed with computer equipment: Portugal is now the third-ranking country in Europe in terms of school ICT equipment.
Multiple impacts
On the economic front, this government initiative had a number of impacts on the growth of high-tech firms. A particularly noteworthy achievement is the founding and success of E-xample, a cluster of 26 Portuguese companies specializing in educational and learning technologies.
The Portuguese experience proves above all that investing in digital technology within a coherent educational plan makes school more interesting and motivating, and leads to more and better-quality learning. By the same token, retraining of teachers is more dynamic. In addition, pupils’ take-up of ICT also has perceptible impacts in their households.
Lessons
The TPE is a success story that could be improved still further: the effects of investment in ICT within the education system would be amplified by the involvement, throughout the process, of the various stakeholders (teacher training and support, cooperation with partners at all levels of the country, etc.). Integrating ICT in education will thus contribute to the country’s overall development.

*José Manuel Canavarro, a member of Portugal’s National Education Council, will give a presentation during the Forum to share his country’s experience with the integration of digital technologies in education.