Portugal: Lisbon foundation helps pupils in need with mentoring, extra lessons

The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation has launched a programme aimed at thousands of pupils who are most in need of extra support in Portuguese, Mathematics and English and, in some cases, to have maths classes again.

It is called GAP – Gulbenkian Aprendizagem (= learning) and it intends to support at least 5,000 pupils in primary and secondary education to recover lost classes in Portuguese, English and Mathematics and to develop important skills for autonomous study, the foundation said in a statement.

The pupils chosen for this project belong to the most disadvantaged socio-economic groups and attend about 120 schools in the country.

The idea is to reduce the impact of the pandemic on learning. This is because, with the suspension of face-to-face classes and the start of distance learning in March, the most vulnerable pupils are again the most affected in terms of learning.

Thus, in addition to the projects already taking place in schools, the Gulbenkian Foundation decided to promote academic mentoring, which can be carried out individually, in small groups or the classroom.

At the moment, according to data from the foundation, there is a scholarship with 30 to 60 mentors from the association “Teach For Portugal” (www.teachforportugal.org), a Portuguese non-profit organisation that belongs to the international network Teach for All.

This project was born out of the desire to reduce educational inequalities and to give children from disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunity to reach their full potential.

In Portugal, the failure rate of pupils from disadvantaged communities is about five times higher than that of pupils in a better social context.

Therefore “Teach For All” and “Teach For Portugal” have a mentorship – people with higher education – who devote their time trying to make a difference in a school.

Besides this partnership, the project also counts on the Portuguese Mathematics Society (SPM) and the Universities of Porto and Minho.

It is expected that between January and June 2021, about a thousand hours of weekly mentoring will be provided.

In addition to mentoring, the SPM will also provide classes to groups that, due to the effects of the pandemic situation, are without a mathematics teacher.

These classes will be guaranteed by a grant of voluntary teachers constituted by SPM and will start in December.

“Children and young people from more vulnerable families face more difficulty in their school career and, despite initiatives such as the distribution of computers for home study, in which the Gulbenkian Foundation was involved, the lockdown resulting from the pandemic has aggravated this”.

Between March and June 2020, these children and young people were not only deprived of the face-to-face education they so desperately needed, but they also saw the academic inequalities inherent in the difficulties of access to distance education accentuated.