Paulina Quintao – National Members of Parliament (MPs) have questioned teaching quality and education standards across the country as grade five students in basic schools are still struggling to speak Portuguese.
National MP David Dias Ximenes said that in the past first grade students already had a good understanding of the language, but students nowadays found it difficult to read.
"We ask them, but they do not know how to spell [the words]. What kind of education is this?" he said. "[This issue] needs more attention. Do not play with children's education because we compromise on adequate education for the future of the country."
The National Secretary of Timor-Leste Coalition for Education (TLCE), Jose de Jesus, said this was the reality across the country.
However, he said the drop in Portuguese levels was not only the fault of teachers, but also because parents were not helping their children to improve their ability at home.
"It is very difficult for students to guide themselves in the Portuguese language because at home they just speak Tetum," he said.
He urged parents who were fluent in Portuguese to practice with their children at home and encourage them to read so that they could improve their language ability.
He said it was not only students in basic schools that were struggling and that junior and senior high schools students also found it difficult to answer questions in Portuguese.
He recommended that the Ministry of Education give priority to improving the education system in the country so that children had access to quality education in their communities and did not just focus on securing a scholarship to study overseas.