What have we been up to?

Our Projects

We have projects that cover a great variety of topics on economics of education concerning several educational stages.

Ongoing Projects

In this Policy Brief we frame the future recruitment needs for new teachers, as well as some characteristics of the current teachers in comparison with other education systems. We also present some summary statistics on the recent evolution of the portuguese students' achievement which should be present in the moment of defining educational policies with the goal of recruiting new teachers. Finally, we list several education policies that have been presented and considered in order to mitigate the problem of lack of teachers. We also identify in the scientific literature past sudies about similar policies implemented in other education systems, pointing out the evidence of their impact on the recruitment of teachers and student achievement.

Coordinator: Luís Catela Nunes

Team: Luís Catela Nunes, Ana Balcão Reis, Pedro Freitas, Diogo Conceição

Duration: 2022

Outputs: Midterm Report (currently only available in Portuguese)

This project aimed to create a database of easy and direct use by Nova SBE’s researchers wishing to work on empirical studies in the topic of education. The project details the several procedures carried-out in the rearranging, harmonization and merging of the numerous datasets made available for research purposes by the Directorate-General for Statistics on Education and Science (Direção-Geral de Estatísticas da Educação e Ciência) with anonymized information on students, teachers, classes, and schools, both public and private, in mainland Portugal. This database contains information on pre-school, basic, and secondary education between the school years 2006/07 and 2017/18.

Coordinator: Luís Catela Nunes

Team: Luís Catela Nunes, João Firmino, Gonçalo Lima, Pedro Freitas

Duration: 2019-2022

Partner: Social Sciences DataLab http://datalab.novasbe.pt/

Sponsor: FCT https://www.fct.pt/index.phtml.en & Social Sciences DataLab http://datalab.novasbe.pt/

Outputs: Presentation

Educational systems have the potential to break the cycle of poverty enabling children from low socio-economic background to move up in the distribution of income, reducing the intergenerational correlation in income and decreasing inequality. Assessment methods affect the learning process and the academic progression of students and thus, have an important role in this process. Using a difference-in-differences approach, we aim to study the impact on learning, high-school graduation rates, and access to higher education of different choices regarding assessment methodologies. Also, we want to study how the impact of these choices depends on students’ gender, socio-economic status (SES), or being an immigrant. A highly debated policy regarding students’ assessment is the existence of national standardized exams. We exploit a policy reform that introduced, for a short period of 4 years, national exams at the end of the 6th grade, in Portugal, studying how this changed teacher grading standards and evaluate how this policy impacted students’ learning and the likelihood that students fail a given school year.

Coordinator: Ana Balcão Reis

Team: Ana Balcão Reis, Luís Catela Nunes, Pedro Freitas, Catarina Angelo, Gonçalo Lima

Duration: 2022 - 2024

Sponsor: Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia https://www.fct.pt/index.phtml.en

The number of students from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds completing higher education in Portugal is low. A possible reason for these low numbers is the lack of educational aspirations of these students, who have limited contact with college graduates in their daily lives. This project implements a randomized controlled trial to test the hypothesis that an intervention as simple as a one-day visit to a university campus can increase the educational aspirations and academic performance of disadvantaged students. This type of campus visit is common internationally but has not yet been investigated in the context of educational decision-making. This is a low-cost intervention that is easy to replicate on a large scale and can potentially contribute to reducing the problem of educational inequality in countries with significant immigrant, ethnic and linguistic minorities in contexts that undermine educational aspirations.

Coondinators: Ana Balcão Reis, Cátia Batista

Team: Ana Balcão Reis, Cátia Batista, Pedro Freitas, Wayne Sandholtz, José Tavares, Vitor Cavalcante

Duration: 2021-2022

Partners: NOVAFRICA Knowledge Center https://novafrica.org/?lang=eng & Economics for Policy Knowledge Center https://www2.novasbe.unl.pt/en/economics-for-policy

Sponsor: Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia https://www.fct.pt/index.phtml.en

This project aims to understand how the activation of leadership skills, community spirit and participation in the educational community can impact the development of self-esteem, autonomy, interpersonal relationships, and critical thinking. The intention of this project is also to assess if there is a causal connection between gains in this set of soft-skills and their academic performance.

Coordinator: Ana Balcão Reis

Team: Ana Balcão Reis, Luís Catela Nunes, Pedro Freitas, Miguel Nunes, David Costa, Gonçalo Lima

Duration: 2020 - 2023

Sponsor: Associação Mentes Empreendedoras https://www.mentesempreendedoras.com/

This project aims to monitor and measure the results from the implementation of the ISA FJN, a conditional loan program which finances long and short term academic degrees. This assessment is made through surveys to candidate beneficiaries of this support. It will also involve a benchmark exercise against similar international programmes.

Coordinator: Ana Balcão Reis

Team: Ana Balcão Reis, Pedro Freitas, Francisco Vale, Bernardo Marques Vedor

Duration: 2020-2022

Sponsor: Fundação José Neves https://joseneves.org/pt/

This project aims to implement a randomized impact evaluation of the mentoring intervention that promotes a better adaptation and success of students from the Países Africanos de Língua Oficial Portuguesa (PALOP) into Portuguese higher education institutions. The project will inform public policies promoting investment in human capital and the productive integration of immigrants – issues that are becoming more and more relevant, particularly in contexts of ageing population.

Coordinators: Ana Balcão Reis, Cátia Batista

Team: Ana Balcão Reis, Cátia Batista, Gonçalo Lima, João Firmino, Márcia Serra, Pedro Freitas, Diogo Sá, Gonçalo Gameiro

Partners: NOVAFRICA Knowledge Center https://novafrica.org/?lang=eng

Sponsor:  Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), Ministry of Internal Administration https://www.sg.mai.gov.pt/fundoscomunitarios/qfp20142020/fami/Paginas/default.aspx

Outputs: Brochure

The current challenges that education faces, particularly in the follow-up of multiple Covid-19 lockdowns motivates a deeper understanding on the differences of public vs private teachers. Such understanding is for sure crucial in developing policies that can target the identified issues and improve the Portuguese educational system, based on our findings. Thus, in this study we have compare multiple variables in order to analyse the differences between the public and private sector teachers from 2006 to 2016, in Portugal. Overall, our results have always been according to the literature, something relevant since it adds strength to the data. We compare private and public school teachers regarding gender, age, qualifications, turnover, tenure, type of contract, working hours and wages. It is of most importance to be aware of these statistics, in order to implement well thought and efficient policies.

Coordinator: Ana Balcão Reis, Luís Catela Nunes

Team (Economics of Education Knowledge Center): Pedro Freitas

Team (Nova Economics Club): Ana Marques, Daniel Silva, Henrique Santos, João Carvalho, Adriana Lopes, Tomás Duarte

Duration: 2020-2022

Partner: Nova Economics Club http://novaeconomicsclub.pt/

Output: Final Report

The educational institutions aim to define specific strategic plans and interventions that intend to promote success and prevent failure, which requires the necessary information to identify the students that are in need of these types of interventions. Unfortunately, throughout the years, the educational system has been resorting exclusively to the feedback that is given by the teachers, which has been proven to be inefficient since the identification of these students has been performed in a late stage of the learning process. Taking this into account, this research aims to contribute a better comprehension of the success and failure phenomena in primary schooling from a longitudinal perspective. In this project, it is intended to identify the factors that better explain school failure. Moreover, it will also be proposed an approach based on Data Mining techniques that aim to facilitate the identification and prioritization of the students that are more prone to fail. This identification is, thereafter, followed by the promotion of opportunities to intentionally and prematurely act on these cases, which will promote success and prevent school failure. The final results aim to clearly identify the success and failure profiles, not only validated at an empirical level, but also at a conceptual level, and create a support system to the teachers’ and school managers’ decisions.

Coordinator: Ana Balcão Reis

Team: Ana Balcão Reis, Luís Catela Nunes, Patrícia Xufre, António José Rodrigues (Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon), Catarina Angelo

Duration: 2018-2023

Partner: Centre for Research in Higher Education Policies https://www.cipes.pt/?language=en

Sponsor: EDULOG https://www.edulog.pt/

Past Projects

In Portugal, the COVID-19 pandemic led to temporary school lockdowns and a generalised move to online teaching. This article uses data from a survey administered to teachers between March 2020 and January 2021 in three rounds of questionnaires. It shows that the pandemic affected public and private schools differently and led to increased inequalities in education, as many students did not have access to computers and the Internet. The situation improved over time, especially in private schools, where students are mostly from higher-income families. Overall, teachers were able to diversify their teaching and assessment methods. However, they believed that it would take a long time for students to recover the learning losses, with public school teachers being more pessimistic. Nearly half of public-school teachers surveyed believed that this recovery would take two terms or more, whereas over a third of private school teachers made this prediction. This data was collected before the second lockdown, which started in January 2021. Teachers’ estimates for recovery time have likely increased since then.

Coordinator: Luís Catela Nunes

Team: Luís Catela Nunes, Ana Balcão Reis, Pedro Freitas, Gonçalo Lima, Diogo Conceição

Duration: 2020 – 2021

Sponsor: “la Caixa” Foundation  https://oobservatoriosocial.fundacaolacaixa.pt/en/inicio

Outputs (Published Article and Preliminary Results): Published ArticlePreliminary Results - April 2020Preliminary Results - May 2021Preliminary Results - September 2021

This project provides forecasts of the demand and supply of teachers for the 850 schools in Portuguese mainland across different subjects and school years. This is the first detailed study on teacher shortages in Portugal, predicting that around 34 thousand teachers will need to be recruited during the next 10 years. This need for teacher staff is driven by the significant share of teachers, around 40%, who will retire during this period.

Coordinator: Luís Catela Nunes

Team: Ana Balcão Reis, Luís Catela Nunes, Pedro Freitas, Miguel Nunes, José Mesquita

Duration: March to November, 2021

Sponsor: Direção Geral de Estatísticas da Educação e da Ciência (DGEEC) https://www.dgeec.mec.pt/np4/home

Output: Final Report

This project aims to: i) Identify the schools with the highest percentage of students of immigrant origin and their nationalities ii) Explain the difference of results between students of immigrant origin and native students; iii) Identify the factors that contribute to differences between schools in this phenomenon that can be considered as potential targets for intervention; iv) To identify groups of schools with considerable weight of these students and different configurations of school results; v) To deepen the knowledge about the factors of school success among the students with immigrant origin in certain schools, focusing in particular on organizational, curricular and human relations practices vi) Identify strategies of promotion of school success for students of immigrant origin in particular in the three dimensions mentioned in the previous point, also showing the bad practices; (vii) Produce recommendations for schools and educational policies.

Coordinators: Luís Catela Nunes, Sílvia de Almeida (CICS.NOVA)

Team: João Firmino, José Mesquita, Gonçalo Lima, Maria João Hortas (Institute of Geography and Spatial Planning of the University of Lisbon), Cristina Oliveira (Observatory for Migration the High Commission for Migration), César Morais (CICS.NOVA), Natália Barcelos (CICS.NOVA), Raquel Santana (CICS.NOVA), Miguel Feio (Community School Museums Project), Bárbara Bäckström (CICS.NOVA)

Duration: 2018 - 2021

Partner: CICS.NOVA, Institute of Geography and Spatial Planning of the University of Lisbon, Observatory for Migration the High Commission for Migration, Community School Museums Project

Sponsor: Associação EPIS - Empresários pela Inclusão Social https://www.epis.pt/homepage

Output: Published Report

This project aims to determine the impact that a teacher can have on the students’ learning process, depending on his/her quality of teaching. In order to quantify the quality of the teacher, this research will resort to the Value Added of each one, more precisely, the average learning of his/her students which is normally computed through the evolution of the students’ grades in two adjacent periods, before and after the student is exposed to this teacher’s way of teaching. In order to do this, the research requires access to administrative microdata from students and teachers, which was only available in the USA and some developing countries. Nevertheless, there were created new databases for data in Portugal that link the teachers to each student in each school year, along with the results from the 4th, 6th, 9th, and 12th grade, allowing for these types of studies to be performed in Portugal.

Coordinator: Luís Catela Nunes

Team: Luís Catela Nunes, Ana Balcão Reis, Carmo Seabra, Pedro Freitas, Rodrigo Ferreira, Pedro Carneiro (University College London)

Duration: 2017-2019

Partner: University College London https://www.ucl.ac.uk/

Sponsor: EDULOG https://www.edulog.pt/

Output (Final Report): https://www.edulog.pt/storage/app/uploads/public/60d/5a3/31d/60d5a331d8bf4706882738.pdf

This project studies the determinants of school’s effectiveness. In order to do that, it will use a dataset that was a product of a previous project funded by FCT. It merges information on students' characteristics with results on national exams at students’ individual level for the whole Portuguese student population in basic and secondary education for the school years of 2006-2007 to 2011-2012. Through micro-econometric methods, it is intended to determine the factors that affect school achievement so that it can improve the Portuguese educational system. Some of the determinants that will be analysed are retentions and evaluation methods, school organization, class composition, and peers’ characteristics. Finally, since one of the most important outcomes of basic and secondary education is the access to higher education and the success therein, it will also be analysed the determinants of academic achievement of Bachelor and Integrated Masters students in Portugal. Taking this into account, it was used datasets that merge information at the individual student level on students’ characteristics and educational outcomes, both at the end of secondary education and at higher education. This will allow to identify the relationships and specific roles played by internal scores and scores on national exams.

Coordinator: Ana Balcão Reis

Team: Ana Balcão Reis, Luís Catela Nunes, Maria do Carmo Seabra

Duration: 2016-2019

Sponsor: Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia https://www.fct.pt/index.phtml.en

Outputs: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272775715001053




The role of retention as an educational tool to overcome under-achievement is a hotly debated issue, especially given that the results in the literature are not consensual. The Portuguese case is particularly well suited to study this issue: all students must take standardized national exams at specific grades. Moreover, the available dataset tracks the performance of students over time. Therefore, it was possible to measure the impact of students’ retention on their subsequent academic performance since it was viable to control for each student’s initial level of ability at the moment of retention. A propensity score matching approach was used, in which retained and promoted 4th-grade students are matched according to their socioeconomic characteristics and the scores obtained in national exams. The results suggested that in some situations, retentions may have, on average, a positive impact on future achievement. However, in cases where statistically significant impacts are found, the estimated magnitudes are relatively small.

Coordinators: Ana Balcão Reis, Carmo Seabra, Luís Catela Nunes

Team: Ana Balcão Reis, Carmo Seabra, Luís Catela Nunes

Duration: 2015-2016

Published Paper: Nunes, L. C., Balcão Reis, A., and Seabra, C. 2018. “Is retention beneficial to low-achieving students? Evidence from Portugal”. Applied Economics, 1-12.

Paper Presented in: Third Lisbon Research Workshop on Economics, Statistics and Econometrics of Education, ISEG, Lisbon, Portugal, 23-24 January 2015; 22nd Congress of Portuguese Statistical Society, 7-10 October, 2015, Olhão, Portugal; 10th Annual Meeting of the Portuguese Economic Journal, Coimbra, Portugal, 1-3 July, 2016; 36th International Symposium on Forecasting, ISF2016, Santander, Spain, 19-22 June 2016; Conference “Mês da Educação 2016”, Fundação Francisco Manuel dos Santos, Lisbon, Portugal, 26 October 2016; and Fórum Estatístico, DGEEC, 8 March 2017.

Sponsor: Fundação Francisco Manuel dos Santos https://www.ffms.pt/en

Outputs (Published Paper and Book): https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00036846.2018.1444261


Coordinator: Ana Balcão Reis

Duration: 2012 - 2015

Sponsor: FCT-Ministry of Science of Portugal under grant Project PTDC/EGE-ECO/122754/2010

Coordinator: Tiago Neves Sequeira

Sponsor: FCT-Ministry of Science of Portugal under grant PTDC/EGE-ECO/112499/2009

Coordinator: Ana Balcão Reis

Duration: 2005 - 2009

Sponsor: FCT-Ministry of Science of Portugal under grant Project POCTI/EGE/60485/2004