Article: What’s Eating Little Portugal?

Here is an article I read last year, but was posted today by someone on facebook.

What’s Eating Little Portugal?

Forget Africentric schools: Toronto’s Portuguese community has the highest dropout rate in the city.

JAN. 7, 2013

Although the high dropout rate among black students has grabbed headlines in recent years, prompting the creation of two Africentric schools in Toronto, it’s Portuguese who, according to a 2006 Toronto District School Board report, have the highest rate in the city: 42.5 percent. –

You should read through the article yourself, but it is a VERY good description, and analysis, as to why a lot of Portuguese students dropout.  We always have to remember that there are many influences that play on our students, and that everything we say has an impact

Born in Portugal, [Filipe] came to Toronto when he was seven. I asked him if teachers ever tried to set his expectations low. “My Grade 8 teacher said we’re all going to be carpenters like all the other Portuguese,” he answered. “Unless we study.” His friend Bryan added, “Some student teacher came in in Grade 7 and said Portuguese kids don’t like to study.”

As teachers we need to show our students that school, and knowledge in general, is something positive and important.  We need to, unfortunately, make it worth their time to learn, because there are many other things that they could be doing. Moving away from learning as a task just to go to the next grade needs to be something that all teachers focus on. There needs to be a goal, something the students can be proud of.

Back in the seventies, he said, the Portuguese in Canada were poor, and focused on financial stability above all else. There was a logic to dropping out—mortgages to be paid, food to be put on the table. “Now, I don’t really understand why,” Gomes said. “Things aren’t as bad as they used to be.” Still, he said, with a dark chuckle, “it’s the same attitude: work first, knowledge later.”

Times have changed, and we need to make sure that our students know that education helps that change take place.

What needs to change?

What can we do to emphasize the importance of education to all students?


JAN. 7, 2013




  1. WOW! I just finished reading the whole article you mention on your post. It hit all the points! I am a Portuguese living in Canada for 10 years. My husband is Portuguese-Canadian but his parents valued learning. We are not typical! Our children love learning and their grades are within the highest in their schools.
    However, the facts that were pointed out in the article are exactly the same as what is happening in Portugal. School is not as valued as work is. Parents do not help their children with school work (either because they don’t know how to or because they don’t think it worth it). When living in Portugal, I worked as a teacher and experienced this issue first-hand!
    This mentality is slowly changing in Portugal. I couldn’t tell if the same is happening here. However, I can tell you that the Portuguese communities in Canada are a lot more attached to old views and philosophies of the past. As a new immigrant, I came to realize that there is a huge gap between what I as a Portuguese citizen am used to, and what the Portuguese community here thinks. I am a post-dictatorship Portuguese and my views of the world are completely different from immigrants that came here during or immediately after the dictatorship. They didn’t get a chance to learn to leave behind the beliefs they were made to absorb during the rule of Salazar.
    I think the problems the Portuguese students are facing are heavily related to the fact that their parents do not value education as much as other communities. Try and ask a Portuguese parent how many books they read on a regular basis…… you might get the shock of your life 🙂
    I am glad my family is the exception to the rule. I don’t think that curriculum or teachers have a big influence in this outcome (not negatively anyway). This problem is rooted in the community and only with time will it start changing. It won’t happen overnight.


  2. Thanks for the comment! It is a very interesting situation. I went to school with a lot of Portuguese people in elementary and secondary, but realized there were not that many in university. Like I said in my brief comments, I think that teachers need to realize there are a lot of external factors surrounding the willingness of the student to learn, and we need to do our best to understand them. I had no idea about these issues until a few years ago, and this article does a great job of bringing them to the table.

    Thanks again!


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