Adult Education in Portugal

Gonçalo Xufre

What is meant in the country when you talk about Adult Education?
Adult education can be defined as the set of learning processes, formal or otherwise, whereby adults develop their skills, expand their knowledge and enhance their technical or professional qualifications or reorient them in such a way as to satisfy their own needs and those of society. (Source: INE, UNESCO available at, 01-09-2015)

What is typical for Adult Education in the country?
The following adult education opportunities are available in Portugal: Recurrent Education Courses; Certified Modular Training; Adult Education and Training Courses;  Processes for the Recognition, Validation and Certification of Competences (RVCC)  academic and professional level; Pathways for the completion of secondary education; the Basic Skills Training Programme; Qualifications suited to people with disabilities, and  Continuing Training for people in work as prescribed in the Labour Code (35h per annum).

Legal basis
Recurrent Education Courses
Decree-law no. 139/2012 of 5 July, amended by Decree-law no. 91/2013 of 10 July and by Decree-law no. 176/2014 of 12 December
Directive no. 242/2012 of 10 August

Certified Modular Training
Decree-law no. 139/2012 of 5 July, amended by Decree-law no. 91/2013 of 10 July and by Decree-law no. 176/2014 of 12 December
Directive no. 230/2008 of 7 March, amended and  republished by Directive no. 283/2011 of 24 October

Adult Education and Training Courses
Decree-law no. 139/2012 of 5 July, amended by Decree-law no. 91/2013 of 10 July and by Decree-law no. 176/2014 of 12 December
Directive no. 230/2008 of 7 March, re-issued by Directive no. 283/2011 of 24 October

RVCC  processes
Decree-law no. 396/2007 of 31 December
Directive no. 135-A/2013 of 28 March

Pathways for the completion of secondary education
Decree-law no. 357/2007 of 29 October, rectified by Rectifying Declaration no. 117/2007 of 28 December
Order no. 6260/2008, Diário da República (Official Gazette) no. 46, series II, 5 March 2008

Basic Skills Training Programme
Directive no. 1100/2010 of 22 October

Qualifications suited to people with disabilities
Decree-law no. 290/2009 of 12 October
Resolution of the Council of Ministers no. 97/2010 of 14 December 2010

Continuing Training for people in work as prescribed in the Labour Code approved by Law no. 7/2009 of 12 February with the amendment introduced by Law no. 23/2012 of 25 June, subsequently corrected by Rectifying Declaration no. 38/2012 of 23 July, Article 131, Paragraph 2.

Responsible public bodies / ministries
The Ministry of Education and Science (MEC) and the Ministry of Solidarity, Employment and Social Security (MSESS) are responsible for policy implementation in the field of adult education.
The National Agency for Qualification and  Vocational Education and training (ANQEP) is the  body under suprvision of  both these ministries, tasked with coordinating policy implementation in regard to vocational education and  training of young people and adults, and ensuring the development and  manging of the RVCC system.
The Directorate-General for Education (DGE) is responsible for ensuring the implementation of policies pertaining to the pedagogical and didactic aspects of pre-school, basic and secondary education and  extra-curricular education, providing technical support in terms of formulation and overseeing and assessing implementation; coordinating the planning of the various tests and exams; and designing, organising and executing measures for risk prevention, safety and control of violence in schools.
The Directorate-General for  Schools (DGEstE) has the task of ensuring regional implementation of administrative measures and the exercise of peripheral responsibilities regarding the duties of the MEC, without prejudice to the responsibilities of the other central services, ensuring guidance, coordination and oversight of schools and promoting greater autonomy for the same. It is further responsible for liaising with local authorities and public and private bodies with regard to intervention in the education system with a view to expanding local interaction and supporting the development of good practice in the activities of local and regional education bodies, as well as ensuring the legal and litigation-related services arising from the execution of its mission.
The Institute  for Employment and  Vocational Training (IEFP) is the national Public Employment  Service, and is responsible for promoting the creation and the quality of jobs, and fighting unemployment by means of active employment policies, in particular  vocational training.
The  Working Conditions Authority (ACT) is a government agency with the aim of promoting improvements in working conditions throughout mainland Portugal, by monitoring compliance with labour legislation in regard to private labour relations, and by promoting health and safety in the workplace in all private business sectors.
The Directorate-General for Employment and Labour Relations (DGERT) contributes to the quality of  vocational training in Portugal by means of rigorous assessment of educational practices. It is the agency responsible for certification and quality assessment of training providers.

Relevant umbrella associations and national (service) organisations
Association of the Network of Third Age Universities (RUTIS); Portuguese Association for Adult Education and Training (APEFA); Portuguese Association  of People management (APG)

Providers of Adult Education
Training providers with a public, private or cooperative structure, in particular schools,  vocational training centres,  municipalities, companies or business associations,  trade unions and associations at local, regional or national level.

The Human Capital Operational Programme (POCH) is a financial support programme of the European Social Fund. It aims to achieve the Europe 2020 targets, specifically enhancing the employability of the active population by means of qualifications in the form of secondary-level education and vocational training, a greater focus on opportunities  in line with the requirements of the labour market, greater quality of the various education and training systems and investment in lifelong learning.
Lifelong learning, whether aimed at refreshing knowledge or enhancing the skills and competences of the active population, requires all learners to continuously pursue the digital competences required for their role in the labour market, making this a relevant aspect in this regard.
The programme comprises 5 axes, notably Axis 3 – Learning, lifelong qualificationand enhanced employability. This axis responds to the need to bolster qualifications in all life stages, focussing on interventions aimed at young people and adults aged between 18 and 30 who have not completed secondary education, but also at adults aged between 30 and 55 who have not completed basic or secondary education, or have no professional qualification. The initiatives targeting adults which make up Axis 3 are:
– CQEPs ( Centres for Qualification and Vocational Education) and RVCC  processes
– Recurrent Education Courses
– Adult Education and Training Courses
The Social Inclusion and Employment Operational Programme (PO ISE) offers reinforcement to national-level instruments which will implement a strategy to promote smart growth, providing a sustained response to the challenges of employment and social inclusion. Accordingly, PO ISE pursues two thematic objectives of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) – Thematic Objective 8 (TO 8), “Promoting sustainable and quality employment and supporting labour mobility” and Thematic Objective 9 (TO 9), “Promoting social inclusion, combating poverty and any discrimination”. Certified Modular Training is financed pursuant to TO 8, Investment Priority “Labour Mobility”; Specific Objective “Enhancing the employability of the active population”.

Participation rate
According to the “Education and Training Monitor 2014”, in Portugal the percentage of adults aged between 25 and 64 taking part in lifelong learning activities is 9.7% (2013).

Quality system / insurance
Recurrent Education Courses, Certified Modular Training, Adult Education and Training Courses and Pathways for the completion of secondary education available at  schools  of the MEC are internally assessed by each school in conjunction with the external assessment conducted by the Inspectorate-General for Education and Science (IGEC) pursuant to Law no. 31/2002 of 20 December.
Law no. 31/2002 of 20 December approves the assessment system for  pre-school, basic and secondary level schools and provides guidelines for self-assessment and external assessment.  One of the objectives of this assessment system is to promote quality within the education system, improve its organisation and levels of efficiency and efficacy, support formulation and development of policy in the field of education and training, and ensure availability of information for the management of the system.
The Information and Management System for  Education and Training  Provision (SIGO) is a tool which facilitates administration of the activities of CQEPs and other education and training opportunities. Accordingly, SIGO  is a fundamental information and management tool for ANQEP, enabling it to fulfil its responsibility to “Ensure supervision, monitoring, assessment and regulation of education and  vocational training opportunities with double certification aimed at young people and adults,” in particular the activities of CQEPs, Adult Education and Training Courses, Certified Modular Training, Pathways for the completion of secondary education, the Basic Skills Training Programme and training not included in the National Catalogue of Qualifications.
The Reference Guide for Quality in CQEPs is a working tool providing guidance for CQEPs, the second part of which examines the issue of quality assurance in CQEPs.

Relevant links 
Eurydice network:
OECD Skills Strategy Diagnostic Report Portugal 2015: