The educational system during the Estado Novo period from the 1930s to the 1974 revolution was characterized by stagnation and strong centralization. Illiteracy was higher than in most other European countries. The educational reforms introduced by the 1986 School Act involved democratization, decentralization and modernization. In 1989, a school development program was adopted with three objectives: 1) All children should have access to education of a general and vocational type. 2) The infrastructure would be modernized, not least teaching materials and premises. 3) Quality would be improved, including through teacher training.
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At the beginning of the 1990s, as many as 58% of professionals had gone to school for a maximum of 4 years and only 38% for 5-11 years. 3% had longer education. 13% of the adult population was illiterate. According to the new school law, all children must go through a 9-year primary school, divided into three so-called cycles. The first includes grades 1-4, and the teaching is managed by class teachers. In grades 7–9 there are two lines, one theoretical and one vocational preparation. The secondary school comprises grades 10–12 and leads to a certificate. It has a university preparation and a vocational preparation line, between which exchange can take place. Teaching is provided by the subject teacher. The higher education consists of 4–6 years of university studies which are completed with a licentiate degree and 3 years of education at polytechnic institutes which are completed with bacharel.
In the second half of 2014, the country left the EU crisis program because the economy was reportedly on the right track. Public debt was then at 134% of GDP – higher than at any previous time. Before the start of the EU crisis program, debt was 95%. In other words, the EU’s cutbacks policy had only drastically worsened the situation.
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In September 2014, the country was subjected to a periodic review of human rights in the UN Human Rights Council. Many countries noted that the government’s severe cut-off policy put human rights under pressure as more and more people did not have the opportunity to work, receive education or housing. At the same time, it was noted that the country’s prisons were overcrowded with negative consequences for both inmates and staff. The police frequently use excessive violence against detainees and prisoners. Amnesty International recommended that the government set up a council to investigate regular reports of torture. Finally, discrimination was a growing problem – both racial discrimination and discrimination against LGBT people.
Police violence continued to be a serious problem. In May 2015, a policeman was filmed at the Guimarães football stadium while knocking a football fan in front of his 2 children and father. The man was beaten to the ground and knocked with police staff while his two children were detained. Subsequently, the policeman gave his father two fists when he tried to intervene. The Interior Ministry then suspended the policeman for 90 days pending a disciplinary hearing.
The country kept a low profile during the refugee disaster in Europe in 2015. It committed to receiving 4,574 refugees as part of the EU refugee distribution program, but by the end of the year it had received only 24.
The October 2015 parliamentary election was a staggering defeat for the right-wing government based on the right-wing Social Democracy PSD and the bourgeois CDS. They declined from 50.4% of the vote in the previous election to 38.6% and lost 25 seats. The coalition was punished by voters for the harsh austerity(cut) policy it had implemented on behalf of the European Union and the European Central Bank. But the coalition was still the largest in parliament. It was followed by the Social Democracy PS which went from 28.0% to 32.3%, giving rise to 12 mandates. However, the big victor of the election was the left-wing coalition Bloco de Esquerda (BE), which doubled its voting share to 10.2%. Closely followed by an alliance of the Communist Party PCP and the Greens that went 0.4% to 8.3% of the vote. Nevertheless, the president declared that he was handing over government formation to the right-wing coalition. That government only lasted a few days. In November, it received a vote of no confidence against it, resigned and paved the way for a government led by PS with support from BE, PCP and the Greens. One half of the government members were from PS, the other half were independent.
The January 2016 presidential election was won already in the first round by Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa of the right-wing social democracy. He got 52.0% of the vote. The Left wing alliance Bloco de Esquerda gained 10.1% and the Communist Party PCP gained 3.9%. Sousa was posted to the post in March.
Also in January, half of the country’s approx. 600,000 public servants on strike demanding reinstatement of 35 hours per week. The strike lasted 24 hours, especially affecting courts, schools and hospitals. As part of the previous government’s cuts and austerity in the labor market, the weekly working hours were increased from 35 to 40 hours. The new Social Democratic government promised the strikers to reduce working hours to 35 hours from July, when the EU slackened on its stringent economic demands on the country.
In April, Minister of Culture João Soares was forced to resign after posting on Facebook that he was looking forward to awarding two “serious banks” to two journalists. The comment sparked sharp criticism from the public, the opposition, politicians and journalists. Prime Minister Costa publicly criticized him for then firing him. The detroned culture minister initially defended his comments in response to “insulting personal attacks”, but later apologized.
While the government of Denmark was aiming to increase CO 2 emissions through the removal of renewable energy subsidies and support for gasoline cars and air traffic, Portugal focused on the development of renewable energy sources. In May 2016, through 4 days, the country produced more renewable energy (wind, solar and hydropower) than it consumed.
Prison guards in October 13 arrested prisoners in Carregueira prisons in Lisbon while inspecting their cells. 3 prisoners had to be treated at the hospital. Prison conditions were alarming. The hygiene and quality of the food was extremely poor.