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Portugal: national accreditation scheme for PLE centres

The Portuguese government has begun a project to accredit privately-operated Portuguese language schools around the country after calls from the sector for sovereign support and recognition. One stakeholder believes this initiative will help boost the Portuguese language training market.

CIAL receiving their certificates in class

Accredited schools will be able to use the IC logo on their website and products as well as access virtual teaching resources

The scheme will be implemented through the Instituto Camões (IC) which previously centred solely around cultural and educational policy abroad. It  will now give Portuguese as a foreign language (PLE) centres a seal of approval, promote the schools on its website and provide best practices guides for teachers.

CIAL Centro de Linguas in Lisbon has become the first private language school in Portugal to gain accreditation under the new scheme.

“[IC] is roughly the equivalent of Instituto Cervantes for Spanish, it has a broad spectrum of activities and they have just now started to look at the teaching of Portuguese in-country,” Managing Director of CIAL Alexandra Borges de Sousa told The PIE News.

She added, “I jumped at the opportunity as soon as I saw that they had the scheme running.”

“We have always fought for the idea of having a Portuguese accreditation scheme that they decided to include in-country schools for this new scheme”

Borges de Sousa confirmed that the government was not previously focused on Portuguese teaching in-country.

“It was partly because of our own lobby – because we have always fought for the idea of having a Portuguese accreditation scheme – that they decided to include in-country schools for this new scheme,” she said.

IC is part of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is charged with implementing policies around Portuguese language, culture and teaching abroad.

Accredited schools will pay an annual fee and will benefit from being able to use the IC logo on their website and products as well as access to the virtual teaching resources previously only available to public institutions.

IC will also list the centres on its website of approved schools, which currently promotes PLE centres in France and Switzerland. Over half a dozen other certification processes are underway for centres outside of Portugal including Venezuela and Russia.

Borges de Sousa said CIAL has experienced steady growth over the past 10-12 years and believes there is “a lot of room to grow” for PLE in the Portugal market.

With the new accreditation scheme up and running, Borges de Sousa is also confident that “more schools will be able to get this accreditation, putting Portugal more on the map”.

Over half a dozen other certification processes are underway for centres outside of Portugal including Venezuela and Russia

CIAL scored 98 out of a possible 100 for its on-site inspection in January and despite 85% of its students coming from Europe, CIAL hopes the new accreditation will also add pace to its plans to expand into South America.

“We are targeting South America as our next market destination where we will do our first marketing trip in 2015 because we see a lot of potential there. So far Colombia, Venezuela and Mexico are the ones growing the fastest,” explained Borges de Sousa.

CIAL was established in 1959 as school for Portuguese citizens and began teaching Portuguese as a foreign language from the 70s.

It has now grown to over 1,000 Portuguese language students per year across its main school in Lisbon and its second centre in Faro, in the Algarve.

CIAL is also in the final stages of becoming an exam centre for the official exams for Portuguese as a foreign language (CAPLE), likely to happen by the end of the year.

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