Half of the students do not distinguish facts from opinions. Ministry admits “worrisome” difficulties

The Ministry of Education considers the reading difficulties of young Portuguese people to be worrying, but believes that it is possible to learn, with projects underway to recover reading habits and skills.

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Half of 15-year-old Portuguese students cannot distinguish between fact and opinion when browsing the Internet, according to the report “Readers of the 21st century: developing reading skills in a digital world”, released this Tuesday by the OECD, which shows that interest in reading has been declining in recent years.

“These are worrisome results when we have poor performances, but they are also sources for us to continue some paths that we had already started or to start new fronts”, said the Assistant Secretary of State for Education, João Costa, in statements to Lusa, referring to the new report from the 2018 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).

About the new projects, the official explained that a learning recovery project is underway, to start next year, and that “it is already unanimous that there must be a great effort to recover reading habits and reading skills. , which are fundamental “.

In 2018, the percentage of Portuguese students with computers and the Internet was higher than the OECD average, but this access does not always mean better learning: “It must be associated with knowing how to read on various media and the ability to create environments rich in reading”, stressed João Costa.

“We live in the midst of mountains and mountains of information, but information does not mean knowledge. The role of the school is to transform information into knowledge,” he said, stressing that “the school is increasingly a place for the validation and reliability of scientific knowledge. “.

The PISA report released today shows that young people, identified as digital natives, have difficulties in selecting information and understanding which sources are credible.

“Learning to be a reader in this different reality, in which there are no single books or unique information points, also implies working on criticism, evaluation and contrast between different sources. This is a different but urgent way of working on reading”, he explained João Costa.

On the inability to distinguish between what is a fact and an opinion, when reading a text, the governor and linguist defended that “one learns”.

João Costa gave as an example the Portuguese teachers who teach students to identify what facts and opinions are, as well as initiatives in the area of ​​information literacy and media in citizenship classes.

Also the director of the OECD for Education, Andreas Schleider, defended today “schools can change this reality”.

But, for the director of the OECD, this is a mission in which “it is not enough to transmit knowledge, it is necessary to captivate young people”, especially because when they are interested in a subject “they have infinite energy and are able to spend hours in a row involved in a theme”.

In Portugal, just over half of the students (55%) said they had received training at school on how to recognize whether or not information is biased and, contrary to the trend in OECD countries, it was students from disadvantaged schools who learned most about skills of digital literacy in schools.

The PISA study also warns that young people who read more books are better prepared to surf the Internet. The problem is that the taste for reading is decreasing among young people, warns the document.

Encouraging a taste for reading is another of the projects in the field since 2018, with essential learning in the Portuguese area.

Essential learning has made “more explicit that there are two dimensions in the curriculum itself”: on the one hand, literary education, which allows students to know different moments in the history of literature and different authors; and on the other hand, reading contracts, so that they can read what they like, recalled the secretary of state.

In the latter case, the classroom becomes a space for exchanging impressions in which one can “read the book that one feels like reading”, explained João Costa, remembering that this reading contract refers, in the first instance, to the lists of the National Reading Plan, which presents thousands of books by Portuguese authors, but also foreign ones.

The reformulation of the National Reading Plan, the formation of reading communities in schools and the network of school libraries are some of the projects to encourage reading for pleasure.

“Why is this on the programs? Because liking reading is not like liking football or chips. I want students to enjoy reading because reading skills are a condition for their freedom, citizenship and ability to succeed and a good development throughout life “, underlined João Costa.

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