Immigration to Portugal started to increase significantly in the late 90s and early 2000s, increasing from 1.3% in 1991 to 8.3% in 2015 (Eurostat, 2016). In 2017, the percentage was 13,9%, with a total number of 480.300 residents with legal status (SEF/GEPF, 2018). The countries of origin with the highest percentages are Brazil (21,9%), followed by Cape Verde (7,2%), Romania (6,4%), Ukraine (6,1), UK (5,5%), China (5,5%), France (4,1%), Italy (4,1%), Angola (3,9%), Guinea (3,4%) and a percentage of 3,4 % for other nationalities (SEF/GEPF, 2018).
The Governing of Education is under the Ministry of Education (MoE), which has the mission to conceptualize, conduct, execute and evaluate national policy concerning the education system, from preschool education, to basic and secondary education, as well as extra-school education . Other organizations under government action or outside this scope play an important role in promoting formal and non-formal education.
There are laws that try to support the integration of migrants, but are not specific to immigrant children’s education: Decree-law nº 6/2001 of 18th January, which ensures basic education for all, no matter their nationality, and the integration of the curriculum of education for citizenship; implementing order nº7/2006 which defends the recognition and respect for the individual needs of all students and ensures the support to learn the Portuguese language; in July 2005, the Guidance Document for Portuguese as Non-Mother Tongue was published.
Concerning the migrant population, the High Commissioner for Migration (HCM) is articulated with the MoE in the field of education. The HCM is a governmental institute, dependent of the Council of Ministers, which promotes public policies that favour social inclusion, equal opportunities and diversity appreciation. Worthy of note, at this level, is the Strategic Plan for Migrations, aimed at fostering answers to address complex problems, towards the development of a modern and fair migration policy. As mentioned on the website of the HCM: “The High Commission for Migration, Public Institution, directly dependent of the Presidency of the Ministers Council, has the mission of collaborating on determining, executing and assessing the public, transversal and sectorial policies concerning migrations, which are relevant for the integration of migrants in the national, international and Portuguese-speaking contexts, for the integration of the immigrants and ethnic groups – in particular, the Roma Communities – and for managing and valuing the diversity between cultures, ethnicities and religions” . Under the aforementioned strategic plan, there are specific measures to promote intercultural education and to address school abandonment.
Under the promotion of social inclusion of children and young people from vulnerable socio-economic contexts, there was the creation of the Programa Escolhas [Choices Program], a national governmental program with the central mission of promoting social inclusion of children and young people from vulnerable socio-economic contexts, including migrant children and young people.
Educational policies for immigrant children
Under the promotion of social inclusion of children and young people from vulnerable socio-economic contexts, there was the creation of the Programa Escolhas [Choices Program], a national governmental program with the central mission of promoting social inclusion of children and young people from vulnerable socio-economic contexts. This is done by involving children and young people in after school programs to enhance their engagement in informal educational activities, aiming to also promote school engagement among at-risk children and young people, as well as promote several activities, such as computer learning, language learning, sports, etc. The Choices Program is applied in vulnerable socio-economic contexts, not exactly schools, but in connection with schools that serve those contexts. Students in many schools from those contexts attend this program.
An ‘Intercultural School Stamp’ policy initiative has been developed since 2012, involving the General-Directorate of Education (MoE), the HCM and the Aga Khan Foundation, and it evaluates schools and assigns them to different levels, depending on how school practices 1) promote the recognition and value of diversity as an opportunity and source of learning for all; and 2) implement specific strategies/actions to promote interculturality, equal opportunity and educational success for all. This framework also aims to provide means for schools to critically examine and improve their practices toward interculturality, and to motivate schools to share knowledge and experience (Szelei et al, 2019: 179).
Another joint initiative to promote Intercultural Education in Schools is the Intercultural Schools Network.
The Intercultural Schools Network is a program also promoted by the HCM,I.P., the General-Directorate of Education and the Aga Khan Foundation, to support the capacity building of schools and the sharing of good practices in intercultural education. The Network is composed of schools committed to promoting the reception, integration and educational success of all children and young people, regardless of their cultural or national origins, and to promoting a culture and practice of opening up to difference and establishing positive interactions between students and other members of the educational community from different cultures.
Participation in the network means to integrate intercultural education practices in the School Education Project and the Annual Plan of Activities in the following areas: culture of the School; Curriculum (content, resources and didactic activities) and Community engagement; to provide intercultural training sessions to different actors of the educational community; to participate in mentoring, supervision and monitoring activities and to share practices and resources using a collaborative platform. In 2017-2019 the network involved around 120 schools.