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  1. EFA Strategy
  2. The National Education Plan that has been referred to the National Congress by the Federal Administration, after comprehensive negotiations with states and municipalities, constitutes a basic strategic tool for achieving the objectives contemplated in the Education for All project. Once passed, it can be enforced as a law and all the different governmental agencies, in cooperation with social organizations, will have to comply with the goals stated therein.

    The second major strategic tool for implementing the national Education for All policy is the strengthening and improvement of the national evaluation system at all educational levels. This tool has been consolidated through a specific governmental agency – the National Institute for Educational Studies and Research (INEP), which has been produced, through the School Census, reliable and objective data about access to schools and retention rates by age group and educational level; promotion, repetition and drop-out rates; graduation rate of different educational levels; qualification of teachers and infrastructure available in schools, among others. In addition to guiding all negotiations carried out by the Federal Administration with states and municipalities, these data serve as a basis for the allocation of federal resources.

    INEP also applies the national primary education performance tests through the National Basic Education Evaluation System (SAEB) and has begun to evaluate the performance of secondary education students recently through the National Secondary Education Test (ENEM). The results of these evaluations have been widely disseminated in the press, a fact that has strongly contributed to promote a national mobilization around education-related issues.

    Thanks to this system, it is now possible to check the progress being made in these areas and precisely identify existing problems. These are the data that guide the definition of action priorities, particularly the actions of the Federal Administration to reduce regional inequalities. Based on them, the Federal Administration can design programs specifically aimed at filling gaps in the system.

    The third strategy is the reorganization of the education funding system, which will be described in the section on funding arrangements.

    Guided by these three basic strategies, the actions of the Federal Administration with regard to EFA are carried out through permanent programs, specific projects and national campaigns. In addition, the Government has been promoting a comprehensive curriculum reform at all educational levels, including the curriculum adopted in teachers’ training courses, in the last five years. The main purpose of this action is to adjust the teaching to the learning needs of the population, by improving its quality and effectiveness.

    Curriculum Reform

    The fact that the curriculum does not meet the problems and needs of the school population, particularly the need to form citizens duly aware of their rights and obligations and capable of dealing with the requirements of modern society, constitutes an obstacle that must be removed. The Brazilian Government believes that this is an essential requirement to improve the quality of the education provided in the country, reduce school drop-out rates and tackle the problem of the high repetition rates prevailing in the system.

    Based on this diagnosis, the Ministry of Education launched, in 1995, a comprehensive curriculum reform at all education levels. After broad consultations and debates involving managers of the school system, teachers in general and experts in education, the National Curriculum Parameters were formulated in two steps. In the first step, the curriculum of the four initial grades of primary education was changed and a comprehensive teachers’ training program was implemented with a view to the adoption of the new curriculum. In the second step, new parameters were defined for the four final grades of primary education, as well as national standards for a full reform of the teachers’ training system. Early childhood education was also reconsidered in the light of similar curriculum standards, as well as Youth and Adult Education.

    A particularly important effort was undertaken by the Government to adjust the National Curriculum Parameters to indigenous schools, so as to preserve and value the native language and cultural traditions of indigenous peoples. The next initiative will be to promote reforms for the secondary education and vocational training, which have been already concluded and approved. This year (1999), the National Curriculum Parameters for Secondary Education are being distributed.

    National Campaigns

    Over the last decade, the Brazilian Government has promoted three major national campaigns. The first one, in 1993 and 1994, covered the educational system as a whole, and mobilized teachers, schools, Education Secretariats and Non-Governmental Organizations engaged in educational issues. Its main purpose was to disseminate the objectives of the Education for All project and engage the different agents concerned in the preparation of the Ten-Year Plan of 1994.

    In 1995, soon after the new Federal Administration was inaugurated, a comprehensive social mobilization campaign called Acorda Brasil – Está na Hora da Escola (Wake Up Brazil – It’s Time to Go to School) won the support of the mass media and was disseminated to the whole Country. This campaign has become a permanent program for mobilizing society to pay attention to educational issues.

    Two years later, a third campaign called Toda Criança na Escola (Every Child at School) mobilized the media, State and Municipal Education Secretariats and many different civil organizations, around the need to make sure that all children aged 7-14 attend school. There was a substantial increase in schooling rates as a result of this campaign.

    Permanent Projects

    Permanent programs supporting the EFA objective comprise both those implemented in the 1990s, which were consolidated and expanded in the last ten years, and new ones, introduced as of 1995.

    Consolidated and Expanded Federal Programs

    The National School Meal Program (PNAE) relies on federal funds to finance at least one meal a day for students enrolled in elementary schools and in pre-school programs, as well as in public and nonprofit institutions. This is perhaps the largest food program ever made available to the low income population in the Country. The program is often complemented by states and municipalities.

    The Program for Constructing, Renovating and Equipping School Facilities provides funds for these purposes, under special agreements.

    The National Textbook Program (PNLD) provides textbooks to children enrolled in public schools in the 8 grades of primary education public free of charge. In addition to having been expanded in recent years, this program has also been substantially changed. The textbooks began to be evaluated periodically by committees of teachers, which have contributed to improve the quality of their contents significantly. In 1998, 109,150,542 textbooks were distributed to students.

    Recent Programs

    Since 1995, the Federal Administration has implemented the following programs:

    The Money Directly to Schools program consists in the direct provision of federal funds to schools, so that they may take care of their daily needs and emergencies autonomously and without any bureaucracy. The funds made available to schools vary according to their size, but the highest amounts are earmarked for the poorest regions. Equivalent state-level programs often provide complementary funds. The program also helps to democratize the system by allowing the community to take part in school management decisions, since it requires the establishment of associations of parents and teachers or of school councils to manage the funds. As a result of this incentive, the number of public schools that rely on some kind of organization involving the community soared from about 11,000 in 1995 to 74,000 in 1999. In addition, schools assisting children with special needs are entitled to extra funds.

    The TV Escola (School TV) program, which is intended to improve the quality of teaching, provides each primary school with over 100 students with a kit made up of a TV set, a video recorder and a satellite dish. Over 56,000 schools have been provided with such equipment so far. With it, they can watch directly or record educational programs basically aimed at enriching the learning process, ensuring a continuous training to teachers and principals and improving recovery and catch-up activities and other actions dictated by the teaching project of each school. Based on evaluations, the Program was enriched with printed materials – a magazine, a program grid, supporting material to the series produced, a Study Series. In the 1998-1999 period, over 14 million of these printed materials have been distributed. As of October 1999, the TV Escola program has been airing programs for Secondary Education that guide teachers, managers and students in relation to the parameters and guidelines defined for the reform to be carried out at this educational level.

    The National Information Technology Program in Education (ProInfo) is basically aimed at democratizing access to telematics, providing education for the exercise of citizenship rights and obligations in the contemporary world and enabling educators and students in public schools to use modern information and telecommunications technologies. For this purpose, multiplying teachers have been trained in specialization courses offered by universities and regular teachers have been trained at the Educational Technology Centers – NTEs. These Centers are decentralized facilities that provide technical and pedagogic support and operate as high-level focal points for training teachers, providing technical support and taking care of the maintenance of the hardware and software installed in the schools. The central node of the Proinfo is the CETE, Educational Technology Experimentation Center, which was set up at the Ministry of Education for the purpose of facilitating the smooth evolution of all Proinfo actions and making them feasible. The figures of the Proinfo until the year 2000 are impressive: 105,000 computers, 100,000 of which will be made available in 6,000 schools and 5,000 in the NTEs; 223 NTEs spread throughout the country; 27 state-level programs under way; 1,419 multiplying teachers, 6,600 support technicians and 25,000 regular teachers trained; 7,5 million students covered.

    Proformação (On-the Job Teachers’ Training Program), in turn, is a secondary-level training course for teachers of the 4 initial grades of primary education, pre-school programs and literacy classes. It is a two-year course that relies on distance learning education techniques. Its target audience are teachers in public schools in the North, Northeast and Mid-West regions who have completed the primary education cycle but have not been specifically trained to teach. As a result of a pilot project implemented in February 1999, 1,500 teachers are being trained. By the year 2002, 95,000 teachers in 18 states located in the three regions will have been trained.

    TV Escola, Proinfo and Proformação are programs under the responsibility of the Secretariat for Distance Education (SEED), which was created in May 1996. The establishment of the Secretariat clearly shows how the present Brazilian Government intends to invest in this area, which is crucially important to universalize the access to increasingly higher levels of education and to ensure democracy and equity in the Brazilian education system.

    The Nordeste (Northeast) Project was carried out in the 1993-1999 period with investments in the order of US$ 740 million in domestic and foreign funds – the latter provided by the World Bank (IBRD) – intended to improve primary education in the region. It resulted from the recognition of an extremely unfavorable educational situation in the Northeast Region, as evinced by educational indicators that were much below the Brazilian average. It consisted in the development of state-level and municipal programs to renovate, expand, build and equip schools, train teachers, technicians and educational managers, and distribute, through the Ministry of Education, textbooks and supplementary reading materials.

    The project also included funds to be applied in research activities intended to provide a diagnosis of the complex inter-relationship between economic, social, cultural and educational aspects in the region. These activities contributed to the development of effective strategies aimed at filling educational gaps. Based on their results, the Fundescola – School Empowerment Fund – Program, which is also partially funded by the IBRD, began to be implemented in 1998 in the North and Mid-West Regions, where considerable educational gaps have been detected. As of the year 2000, the program will comprise the Northeast Region, to which part of a sum of about US$ 1.3 billion being invested by the Federal Administration in the less developed regions of the country will be made available.

    Other Programs

    The so-called catch-up classes constitute an innovation adopted in recent years. Data provided by the School Census of 1998 show that this program covers 1.2 million students today. These catch-up classes are designed for students who are lagging behind in their education, who are brought together in special classes to make up for the time they lost and move on to the grade corresponding to their age.

    Over half (50.6%) of the students taking catch-up classes live in the Northeast Region, against 35.1% in the Southeast Region, 7,6% in the South Region, 3.5% in the North Region and 3.2% in the Mid-West Region. Almost 30% of all students taking catch-up classes, totaling about 345,000 students, are concentrated in the state of Bahia.

    The project called Bolsa Escola (Education Grant), an initiative of local governments of the cities of Campinas - state of São Paulo, and Brasilia, has been particularly effective and is being adopted by other municipalities. The Federal Administration began to encourage this kind of program, which produced important impacts, not only in the education area, but also in actions against poverty and social marginalization. Considering that economic factors play an important role in keeping poor children out of the school system, the program provides a grant, which varies according to the municipality in question, to low-income families with children in the 7-14 age group for them to attend school regularly.

  3. Partnerships with Society and International Cooperation
  4. The Ministry of Education has implemented other projects focusing on literacy classes for private companies and Non-governmental Organizations, which include the provision of textbooks and resources for training literacy teachers.

    As recognized by UNESCO, providing a quality education for all is not an objective that can be achieved through actions of the Federal Administration alone. It depends on the collaboration and efforts of public agencies at all levels of government and of civil society at large, particularly of Non-governmental Organizations and businesspersons.

    The best example available in Brazil so far is the initiative called Solidarity in Literacy Actions, which is an innovative project launched by the Community Solidarity Program, directly linked to the Office of the President of the Republic. Through campaigns such as Adopt a Student, the project promotes partnerships with civil society, recruits university students, and raises funds from private corporations to fight illiteracy in the 12-18 age group. Because illiteracy is a problem concentrated in the extremely poor municipalities of Brazil, the program was mainly designed for these localities.

    Implemented in January 1997, the Solidarity in Literacy Actions project had covered 581 municipalities by June 1999, most of which in the North and Northeast Regions. By the end of this year, the program is expected to cover 300,000 students in 866 municipalities. Evaluations of the program, which are carried out as part of the initiative, confirm its effectiveness as part of a broader social action carried out by the Community Solidarity Program.

    As in other countries, NGOs, including unions, secular and religious associations, nonprofit and community institutions, have been playing a crucial and very active role in the education sector in Brazil. Recently, private corporations began to sponsor important initiatives with the aim of improving the education of their employees, often working in partnership with the public school network itself.

    The actions of NGOs are concentrated in areas where they can provide an invaluable contribution, by acting in a more flexible manner in specific communities where unconventional pedagogic projects are more appropriate. Among these areas, special mention must be made of the following ones: youth and adult education, assistance to marginalized children and adolescents who are subject to violence, assistance to children with special needs, and education of indigenous populations and of other discriminated minority groups.

    The main limitation facing NGOs in Brazil is their utter dependence on public funds, including funds provided by the federal, municipal and state administrations. In order to make up for this shortcoming, the contribution of international organizations, including churches, has been growing.

    In terms of technical assistance and of the funding of research activities and assistance projects, international cooperation arrangements have been playing a very relevant role in Brazil. UNICEF and the UNDP have been particularly active in this field, as well as the local UNESCO office. Foreign loans, both from the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB) and the World Bank (IBRD), constitute an important source of funds for projects aimed at improving the quality of education and at promoting more equity in the educational system.

    The main initiative to benefit from foreign funds, as mentioned before, is the Nordeste Project, focused on the poorest areas of the Country, which is being replaced by the FUNDESCOLA program. In its first phase, this program will cover the North and Mid-West Regions relying on funds provided by the IBRD. As of the year 2000, the initiative will be expanded to comprise the Northeast. No less important are the Professional Education Expansion Program (PROEP), amounting to US$ 500 million, and the Young School Project, aimed at supporting efforts to expand and reform basic education with an initial investment of US$ 500 million, both of which are financed by the IDB.

  5. Investments in Education for All projects since 1990

It is impossible, for different reasons, to measure investments in education in Brazil precisely. First, because of its extremely decentralized nature and the comprehensive autonomy of all federal units ensured by the Constitution of 1998, the Country has 27 state-level systems and about 5,600 autonomous municipal systems. Estimating global costs with education over the last decade is also a difficult task, considering that Brazil faced, until 1995, such a violent inflation that it was impossible to calculate actual expenditures. This calculation is almost impossible, since no system is in place to keep track of private investments.

However, Brazil is provided with an excellent legal system to ensure the regular flow of public funds to the educational system. The Constitution of 1988 provides that states and municipalities must invest at least 25% of their tax revenue in education, 60% of which in primary education, according to the provisions of Constitutional Amendment n. 14, of 1996, which established Fundef. The Federal Administration, in turn, must invest 18% of its tax revenue in education, at least 30% of which must also be earmarked for actions to eradicate illiteracy and maintain and develop primary education.

So far, compulsory primary education has relied on additional funds provided by corporations in the form of a compulsory social contribution called Education Salary, amounting to 2.5% of their payroll. One-third of these resources is allocated to a federal fund – the National Education Development Fund (FNDE) – and two-thirds constitute similar funds in the States where the contribution is collected. The tax reform being implemented in the country, however, may affect this system and reduce the resources available for education-related activities, a fact that has been worrying education authorities.

Studies carried out in 1996, based on 1995 data – the year in which the currency was stabilized – show that the set of public funds allocated to different educational levels amounted to 4.6% of the GDP in that year and that these funds would be enough to maintain a much better and more comprehensive educational system than the one actually available in the Country. In 1997, public expenditures with education rose to 5.1% of GDP (Table 2.1). This increase reflects the positive impact of Constitutional Amendment n. 14, of 1996, which made it compulsory for states and municipalities to invest at least 15% of their tax revenues in primary education (Table 2.2). More recent estimates, which include private spending figures, mention resources amounting to about 6% of the GDP.1

The lack of funds, however, has led to repeated complaints from all education agencies and levels of the educational system. According to studies carried out in 1995, the shortage of funds for education-related activities was mainly caused by the bad distribution of available funds and the way they were being invested.

Table 2.1























* Figures in R$ of 1997

Table 2.2



















* Figures in R$ of 1997

Before the Constitutional Amendment n. 14, of 1996, which established the National Fund for Primary Education Development and for Enhancing the Value of the Teaching Profession (FUNDEF), whose implementation began in 1998, tax revenues were shared between states and municipalities without an equivalent sharing of education costs between state-managed and municipal school networks. This fact contributed to enhance regional inequalities remarkably. Likewise, before the Education Guidelines and Framework Law was passed, also in 1996, no definition was available as to what could be described as education expenditures – an omission that led to the undue use of educational funds for many other purposes.

The establishment of FUNDEF, an accounting fund that automatically redistributes public funds earmarked for compulsory primary education, contributed to eliminate many of the problems related to the sharing and application of educational funds. Since a new definition of what could be described as education expenditures became available, the resources that are regularly redistributed through the Fund, according to a schedule publicly announced beforehand, are deposited in a specific account, remarkably enhancing the planning capacity of states and municipalities and facilitating the inspection of how they are being used by public authorities. By the way, the constitutional amendment that created FUNDEF also requires that Councils made up of representatives of civil society be set up at different governmental levels, for the purpose of inspecting how its funds are being used.

FUNDEF, which is regarded as an extremely important initiative and as a new paradigm for public policies in the educational field, was exclusively designed for the compulsory primary education cycle. The resources of the Fund in each state are made up of 15% of all tax revenues and redistributed between state and municipal administrations. In 1998, FUNDEF funds amounted to about R$ 13.3 billion.

Based on the amount available in the Fund in each state, the amount per student/year is calculated and the corresponding funds are allocated to the state and municipal networks, according to the number of actually enrolled students. Exclusively local tax revenues are not included in FUNDEF, but states and municipalities must invest 25% of their tax revenues in education, 15% of which in primary education.

In addition to ensuring equity in the distribution of funds in each state, the constitutional amendment that created the Fund also provides for a mechanism to reduce regional inequalities by increasing the availability of funds to be earmarked for education. In those states where the expenditure per student/year is below the nationally defined amount, the Federal Administration provides the required complementation, so that each school receives the minimum amount provided for in the law. In 1998, the minimum amount per student/year was R$ 315 and the Fund received complementary funds from the Federal Administration amounting to R$ 542.2 million for states and municipalities where the per capita expenses were below the fixed amount.

Table 3 shows the results of this policy in terms of additional resources made available to very poor municipalities.

Table 3 – Financial effects of FUNDEF in municipalities with an amount per student/year below R$ 315 - 1998

Amount per student/year R$1,00




Amount per student/year

Gross additional revenue (million R$)










Of the amount per student




Up to 100










>100<= 150






























>250<=315 (**)




















Other Municipalities












Sources: Resources: Ministry of Education/SEADE; Municipalities: IBGE(Brazilian Institute for Geography and Statistics); Students: School Census

(*) Calculated, for each municipality , by dividing the amount of the contribution to FUNDEF (15% of the FPM, FPE, ICMS, IPIexp and LC 87/96 (different taxes) by the total number of students in elementary schools (amount before the effects of FUNDEF).

(**) The minimum national amount per student/year was R$ 315 in 1998.

The redistributive impact of the Fund was more effective in municipalities located in the Northeast and North Regions, where funds for education are particularly scarce. There was also a significant increase in the funds made available to the municipalities of eight metropolitan regions, except for the capitals of states, where state-level school networks prevail. These facts show that this reform brought substantial benefits to the poorest areas in the Country, where the number of children out of the school system is the highest and quality indicators for primary education are the lowest.

The improvements brought about by FUNDEF in the distribution of the budget also produced better trained and paid teachers, as a direct result of the obligation imposed on states and municipalities to allocate at least 60% of the funds to the salaries paid to teachers. A survey carried out by the Ministry of Education showed that the average salary paid to teachers in public schools in Brazil as a whole increased by 12.9% between December 1997 and August 1998, considering state and municipal school networks, all levels of training (high-school and college graduates) and the different working hours involved. Broken down by type of public institution, the data show that the average salary gains were higher in municipal networks (18.4%), as compared to state-level networks (7.7%). From the regional standpoint, the highest average increase was registered in the municipal school network of the Northeast Region (49.6%).

The permission to use part of the funds in the training of lay teachers2 has been an effective mechanism also. In the first year of FUNDEF, the number of these teachers dropped by 25%, which is a surprisingly positive result.

Finally, special mention must be made of the positive effect of the Fund in terms of increasing the enrollment rate in elementary schools. The criterion adopted for redistributing the funds – based on the number of students enrolled in the municipal and state-managed school networks – encouraged schools to ensure the enrollment of all school-age children. As a result, there was an increase of 6% in the total enrollment in public elementary schools between 1997 and 1998. In absolute figures, the number of students grew from 30.5 million in 1997 to 32.4 million in 1998. The highest increases in the enrollment rate in 1998 were registered in the Northeast Region (12.1%) and in the North Region (7.7%), which were precisely the ones where the enrollment for compulsory primary education was the lowest in the Country. These are clear signs of a gradual but irreversible reduction of regional disparities.

The rapid municipalization of the primary educational system is another phenomenon brought about by the dynamics set in motion by FUNDEF. Between 1997 and 1998, enrollments in municipal school networks grew by 21.5%, that is, from 12.4 million students to 15.1 students. In the same period, enrollments in state-managed schools dropped by 4.6%, from 18.1 million to 17.3 million students. The highest increases in enrollment rates in municipal schools were registered in the North Region (40.2%) and Northeast Region (22.1%). The phenomenon continued in 1999, according to preliminary data provided by the School Census: only the municipal school network continued to grow and had 6.9% more enrollments than in 1998. The number of students enrolled in municipal schools increased to 16.2 million, almost the same number of students enrolled in state-managed schools today, namely, 16.7 million children.

This performance reflects both the effort to enroll new students and the municipalization of the school system. By encouraging municipalities to assume more comprehensive commitments to primary education, the Ministry of Education knew that FUNDEF would re-encourage the decentralization process – which had become stagnated in the 1990s, after its strong momentum in the 1980s.

This new funding system has been facing some opposition, particularly from municipalities that had not invested in primary education before. However, the comprehensiveness of this measure is recognized by most public authorities and by the population at large as very positive, which means that it has become irreversible, although Constitutional Amendment n. 14 provides for a deadline of 10 years for the Fund to remain in force.

In addition, FUNDEF is a fundamental mechanism because it ensures the autonomous funding of the system. Although international loans are important for special projects, the routine funding of the system cannot continue to depend on foreign sources, and positive steps have already been taken in this connection. The most significant foreign funds have been used to correct more pressing problems, as has been done with Fundescola, and to modernize the school system infrastructure and develop and implement evaluation and information systems to support efforts aimed at improving the quality of education.

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