Every grade 9 pupil in Portugal has taken a Cambridge English exam at no cost to them, their parents or the government – thanks to an innovative government programme which secured funding from major companies from the financial, publishing and communications sectors in Portugal.
Cambridge English developed the Key for Schools Portugal programme by working with the national exams authority IAVE since 2012. Cambridge English completed the marking of over 100,000 school students – who are typically 15 years old – who took the tests in schools throughout the Portuguese mainland, Madeira and the Azores. Students took Cambridge English: Key for Schools – an international qualification specially designed for school-aged pupils which is widely used all over the world. The funding solution meant that the programme allowed students to gain a Cambridge English certificate with a nominal cost, or even for free, for students from less well-off families. This option will be a huge benefit to students across Portugal.
Cris Betts, who led the project at Cambridge English, said: ‘This is one of the largest programmes we have ever managed. We worked with IAVE to help them identify the test that best met the needs of their students, and to train hundreds of teachers who took part in administering and marking the tests. This is an innovative and far-sighting initiative by the Portuguese government and it provides an excellent model which other countries will want to study very closely.’
Results were issued in July and showed 19% of the pupils achieved level B1 of Common European Framework Reference for Languages (CEFR), 37% at A2, 22% at A1 and 23% below A1. During the press conference to announce the results, Nuno Crato, the Minister for Education and Science, made a major commitment to improving English language teaching, including the introduction of compulsory English lessons in primary schools and an enhanced programme of teacher training.
Also speaking at the event, Helder Sousa, President of IAVE, announced the government’s intention to set more demanding targets for students in the future. He said: ‘We need to be more demanding and to think that at the end of secondary education, three or four years from now, we could be testing all students at the level of First Certificate.’
The project was funded by a consortium of four leading companies in Portugal; bank BPI, healthcare workflow solution provider Connexall, information technology specialist NOVABASE, and the publisher Porto Editora.