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4. Youth and Adult Education

Until recently, youth and adult education, the so-called EJA, was relegated to a secondary position in the general framework of educational policies in Brazil, being viewed as a compensatory policy meant to offer "a second chance" to those who had been unable to attend school at the proper age. Because of this characterization as a policy concerned about filling the schooling lacuna of people who belonged mostly to the poorest segments of society, EJA was never fully integrated into a national project for education.

In the late 80s and early 90s, several studies stressed the need for EJA to become part of a specific policy devised and planned around the universe of young people and working adults. This process of progressive recognition of the importance and specific nature of adolescents and adults bore relevant results. The first of these was the inclusion in the Constitution of 1988, of the guarantee of compulsory and free primary education, even for those who had not had access to it at the proper age. This constitutional provision was later changed with the elimination of the compulsory nature of education for adolescents and adults but the duty remained for the State to provide it free of charge.

The Education Guidelines and Framework Law of 1996 included new ideas regarding EJA, based on the acknowledge that attention had to be paid to the needs and interests of those individuals who already have a certain experience in life and are part of the labor force, and who therefore possess a quite different background from the children and adolescents who form the target audience of regular primary education. So EJA came to occupy a prominent position amid what is usually called "continued, permanent education."

    1. EFA policies in the 1990s

During the first five years of this decade, the Federal Administration paid little attention and provided scant resources to EJA programs. Moreover, it closed down the Educar Foundation, which had replaced Mobral, the Brazilian Literacy Movement for Youths and Adults, in 1985, and since then had been responsible for establishing pedagogic guidelines for EJA on a national scale. The funds of this foundation were used in agreements with state and municipal governments as well as organizations from civil society, trade unions and professional associations.

In the first half of the 1990s, the government proposed the National Literacy and Citizenship Program (PNAC), whose efforts concentrated far more on rooting out illiteracy and making regular primary education universal than on EJA policies. With the change of President in late 1992, this program was never even actually implemented.

From 1994 on, however, the Federal Administration began to invest in seeking solutions to the chief problems spelt out by educators of youths and adults. This year saw the start of a program addressed to the publication of material that filled the lack of didactic resources appropriate to the interests and needs of the age group catered for by this program and which helped to train specialized personnel. Another initiative was to offer the award "Education for Quality in Work" in 1996, with the aim of recognizing the value of, and lending a society dimension to, successful experiences carried out by the business sector and by governmental and non-governmental organizations.

Government attention to EJA was consolidated in 1997 with the publication of three crucially important documents: "Proposta Curricular para a Educação de Jovens e Adultos" (A Proposed Curriculum for Youth and Adult Education), "Elementos para uma Avaliação Diagnóstica de Níveis e Conteúdos de Alfabetismo Adulto" (Elements for a Diagnostic Evaluation of the Situation and Contents of Adult Literacy), and "Manual de Orientação para a Implantação do Programa de Educação de Jovens e Adultos do Ensino Fundamental" (Manual for the Implementation of the Youth and Adult Primary Education Program). Produced in partnership with civil-society organizations, municipal and state Education Secretariats and universities, these publications form part of a set of didactic and support material for EJA students and teachers.

Data relating to illiteracy in Brazil show the population without or with less than one year of schooling highly concentrated in the age group above 40 years old, and especially over 60. Notwithstanding, the situation of the younger age groups is no less worrisome. Between 10 and 14 years old, the portion of children without or with less than one year of schooling totals 10.11%, double the figure registered for young people between 15 and 19 years old - 5.36% (Table 45). In the latter age group, however, 21.65% of the adolescents failed to complete the first 4 grades and 66.55% have not completed the 8 years of primary education. The indices for the age group of 20-24 are better, thus confirming the phenomenon of late schooling and backwardness due to repetition: 20.12% failed to conclude the 4 first grades and 55.90% did not complete the basic 8 years of school.

Table 45 – Number of years of schooling of the population by age group – Brazil – 1996

Age groups

Years of study (%)

No schooling or less than one year

1-3 years

4 years

5-7 years

8 years

8-11 years

12 years or more

Unknown

Total

13.61

21.55

16.84

18.32

8.25

14.68

5.88

0.87

10-14 years old

10.11

42.99

18.66

26.37

0.85

0.07

0.00

0.96

15-19

5.36

16.29

12.75

32.15

12.46

19.20

0.76

1.03

20-24

5.75

14.37

13.05

22.73

10.80

25.70

6.81

0.79

25-29

7.03

14.86

14.80

19.87

11.18

23.10

8.44

0.71

30-39

9.10

16.61

17.59

15.39

10.29

19.87

10.08

1.08

40-49

15.46

20.61

19.85

11.20

8.72

13.51

10.04

0.60

50-59

25.53

24.17

20.59

8.00

6.32

8.34

6.53

0.51

60 or over

40.99

22.01

17.81

5.84

4.35

5.10

3.41

0.47

Age unknown

22.81

20.08

11.14

11.36

5.27

8.50

3.02

17.83

Source: IBGE. Population Count for 1996.

Brazil has made great efforts towards attending to this population of 15 or over. The School Census for 1998 shows the magnitude of this effort, despite presenting under-estimated data for looking only at programs with the presence of teachers and evaluated during the process (Table 46). Numerous programs without evaluation have been offered, especially by NGOs, such data not being included in the Census.

Table 46 – Number of students enrolled in school-based youth and adult education programs by level of education/courses – Brazil and regions – 1998

Brazil &

Regions

Grand Total

Literacy

Primary

Secondary – General Programs

 

Secondary – Vocational Programs

Apprenticeship Courses

Total

1st-4th grades

5th-8th grades

Brazil

N.

%

 

 

2,881,231

100.0

 

147,006

100.0

 

2,081,710

100.0

 

783,591

100.0

 

1,298,119

100.0

 

519,965

100.0

 

93,778

100.0

 

41,772

100.0

North

N.

%

 

 

364,606

12.6

 

61,114

41.6

 

314,089

15.1

 

120,405

15.3

 

193,684

14.9

 

25,450

4.9

 

1,826

1.9

 

1,050

2.5

Northeast

N.

%

 

 

598,354

20.7

 

22,191

15.1

 

468,416

22.5

 

279,768

35.7

 

188,648

14.5

 

44,492

8.5

 

21,948

23.4

 

2,384

5.7

S-East

N.

%

 

 

1,150,719

39.9

 

29,127

19.8

 

792,693

38.1

 

199,537

25.4

 

593,156

45.6

 

260,716

50.1

 

40,741

43.4

 

27,442

65.7

South

N.

%

 

 

515,254

17.9

 

26,168

17.8

 

334,030

16.1

 

115,339

14.7

 

218,671

16.8

 

131,903

25.3

 

14,877

15.8

 

8,276

19.8

Mid-West

N.

%

 

 

252,298

8.7

 

8,406

5.7

 

172,482

8.2

 

68,522

8.7

 

103,960

8.1

 

54,404

10.4

 

14,386

15.3

 

2,620

6.2

Source: Ministry of Education/INEP/SEEC

Table 46 shows that a grand total of 2,881,231 Brazilians are enrolled in these school-based courses, most of whom are completing their primary education. Enrollment in the upper grades is higher than in the first grades, which is a positive factor in that it shows that they have already completed that level of schooling. The number of students in secondary education, also included in this section, amounts to about 18% of the whole and indicates the population's effort to achieve a more advanced level of schooling.

Unfortunately, the vocational training courses computed in the first two columns, and which would be the most suitable for this population, are still very few in number, totaling less than 5% of all enrollments.

Table 47 – Number of students enrolled in school-based youth and adult educational programs by age group – Brazil – 1998

Region

Enrollment in school-based youth and adult educational programs by age group

Total

7-14

15-18

Over 18

Brazil

N.

%

 

2,881,231

100.0

 

134,088

4.6

 

818,188

28.4

 

1,928,955

66.9

North

N.

%

 

364,606

100.0

 

20,315

5.5

 

134,138

36.7

 

210,153

57.6

Northeast

N.

%

 

598,354

100.0

 

48,419

8.1

 

204,893

34.2

 

345,042

57.7

Southeast

N.

%

 

1,150,719

100.0

 

35,175

3.1

 

292,581

25.4

 

822,963

71.5

South

N.

%

 

515,254

100.0

 

18,778

3.6

 

123,142

23.9

 

373,334

72.5

Mid-West

N.

%

 

 

252,298

100.0

 

11,401

4.5

 

63,434

25.1

 

177,463

70.3

Source: MEC/INEP/SEEC

Note: The age was obtained from the year of birth entered in the School Census, that is, the age of the student as of 03/25/98.

A further positive aspect of these data is that the supply of primary education by far surpasses the literacy courses, which are being replaced by programs of broader scope. The data per age group confirm the effort to make up, albeit belatedly, for deficient schooling: over two-thirds of the population enrolled in these courses are over 18 years of age. Table 48 also shows that school-based courses are predominantly public. The private sector, including the courses offered by NGOs, covers no more than 12.7% of enrollments.

Table 48 – Number of students enrolled in school-based youth and adult educational programs by type of institution – Brazil – 1998

 

Brazil and

Regions

Enrollment in school-based youth and adolescent programs

Total

Federal

State

Municipal

Private

Brazil

N.

%

 

2,881,231

100.0

 

1,220

0.0

 

1,775,454

61.6

 

740,016

25.7

 

364,541

12.7

North

N.

%

 

 

364,606

100.0

 

60

0.0

 

262,821

72.1

 

92,275

25.3

 

9,450

2.6

Northeast

N.

%

 

 

598,354

100.0

 

449

0.1

 

356,389

59.6

 

213,346

35.7

 

28,170

4.7

Southeast

N.

%

 

 

1,150,719

100.0

 

520

0.0

 

621,641

54.0

 

319,183

27.7

 

209,375

18.2

South

N.

%

 

 

515,254

100.0

 

-

-

 

360,129

69.9

 

68,999

13.4

 

86,126

16.7

Mid-West

N.

%

 

252,298

100.0

 

191

0.1

 

174,474

69.5

 

46,213

18.3

 

31,420

12.4

Source: Ministry of Education/INEP/SEEC

In spite of the significant progress made through the decade, the main difficulty of EJA policies in Brazil is still the precarious service that fails to satisfy the existing potential demand. The fact that this educational program has been mostly covering the youth population is yet another reason for the Federal Administration to raise investments in the area and ensure access to education to citizens with a great contribution to give to the country in economic, social, political and cultural terms.

Accordingly, EJA policies for the decade to come have to face great challenges: increase available resources, expand the coverage, strengthen the qualification and permanent training of teachers; adjust programs to the concept of continued education, with special emphasis on the needs related to the labor market and strengthening of citizenship; integration with cultural and sports activities, and promoting access to information and new technologies.

5. Special Education

The first two years of the 1990s were particularly difficult for special education on all three levels of government. In March 1990, the Secretariat for Special Education become part of the National Secretariat for Basic Education as a Coordinating Board for the Supplementary and Special Education Department of the Ministry of Education. This administrative measure led to changes in the objectives of the human rights policy, which became a less important compensatory action. Therefore, the disqualification and the resulting political weakening of the sector led to the discontinuity of educational proposals then underway, as well as the interruption of several projects carried out with resources from international bodies.

Only in November 1992, a new policy was introduced to strengthen the sector, with the re-creation of the Special Education Secretariat within the framework of the Ministry of Education, through Law n. 8.490. The progressive recognition of the importance and specific features of the education of students with special learning needs has led to the allocation of more funds for this purpose and to the empowerment of the required physical and human infrastructure, thereby expanding and improving the quality of special education in the country.

One of the first measures was to define the program for the 1993-1994 period. A set of priorities was drawn up, with a view to expanding, improving and diversifying the education provided to children, adolescents and adults with all sorts of deficiencies and behavior problems, and to the exceptionally gifted, seeking to integrate them into the various levels of education up to a point compatible with their possibilities. Particular emphasis was lent to the vocational training of the disabled.

In 1994, after a year of wide national discussion, the National Special Educational policy - the first in the history of the country - was instituted and has since then oriented government actions in that area. In the following year, the Ministry of Education focused its efforts on implementing this policy throughout the country, preferentially in the regular education network. The new concepts and paradigms related to this modality of school education and students requiring special attention were incorporated into the Law of Basic Guidelines of 1996. Thus, special education services were ensured at all levels and in all the remaining education programs to whomever needs them.

These documents guaranteed the consolidation of the policy action of the State in the area of special education, and led it to make every possible effort to expand it. From that point on the government has dedicated itself to municipalizing special education aiming at extending this service to at least 1,500 municipalities. In addition to advocating the integration of disabled individuals into the regular school network, the Ministry of Education determined that the National Curricular Parameters should be used as a reference for all students, including those with special educational needs, duly respecting their different tempo and skills.

In this period, other extremely important guiding documents were prepared for the purpose of organizing educational services for handicapped and exceptionally gifted students. These publications are part of a broader set of teaching and supporting materials made available to schools, students and teachers. The TV Escola and Proinfo programs have focused on students with special needs and their teachers, and have been producing and airing videos and providing specific training courses on the use of computers for special education purposes.

With the re-structuring of the sector as a starting point, the Federal Administration promoted the National Campaign to Integrate Students with Deficiencies into the Regular Education Network, initially addressed to 1,500 municipalities. Exceeding these initial expectations, 2,739 municipalities ended up being reached, representing almost half of all Brazilian municipalities.

In 1998, government action was concentrated on enhancing pedagogic practices in special education. The result was the publication of the document "Curricular Adaptations," which defines a strategy for assisting students with special needs and orients the educational system in the process of constructing "Education in Diversity." It was also the year in which the government re-encouraged the provision of training programs for the educational community and stepped up its actions in Universities to ensure a greater involvement of teacher training professionals in issues related to disabilities. Having overcome the difficulties of the first two years of the decade, one sees that the decisions taken by the government in the last seven years with regard to special education reveal an interesting and promising movement towards respect for the rights of the citizen who suffers from some deficiency, within the Brazilian educational system.

One aspect that deserves highlighting before proceeding to an analysis of the service supplied has to do with the basic guideline that orients procedures in this area: the integration of students with special needs into educational programs, preferably into the regular school network. This process, however, has been facing much resistance in some cases. This integration is still not feasible or at least very difficult in some situations. Recent policies in the sector have relied on the following arrangements to organize the coverage to be provided in this area: full integration, with our without the so-called resource rooms, special rooms and special schools. The latter is meant to attend to cases where integral education is not feasible, whether because of the conditions of the student or of the system.

Even though international health organizations claim that 7-10% of the population of any developing country is made up of persons with some handicap, incapacity or disadvantage, the statistics available in Brazil are quite controversial, being based on different operational concepts and definitions.

The latest information available at the national level was gathered by the Demographic Census of 1991, which investigated the existence of individuals suffering from blindness, deafness, paralysis, partial or complete lack of a limb, and mental disability, in a sample of approximately 10% of the households in the country. The answers revealed that the percentage of people with some disability was 1.5% of the Brazilian population, far below the estimates suggested by international health organizations. Preliminary information show that the Demographic Census for the year 2000 will provide data that will make it possible to define disabilities according to graded levels of difficulty.

Anyway, the coverage provided by schools is still insufficient. In 1998, there were about 337,000 students enrolled, distributed as follows: 53.8% with mental disabilities, 12.6% with multiple disabilities, 12.6% with hearing problems, 4.9% with physical disabilities, 4.6% with visual problems, and 2.7% with typical behavior problems. Only 0.4% were highly skilled or exceptionally gifted, and 8.5% had some other kind of disability.

Of the 5,507 municipalities in Brazil, 2,739 of them (49.1%) were already offering special education in 1998. Regional differences are enormous. In the Northeast, only 21.7% of all municipalities provided this educational program, whereas in the South, 58.1% of them provided special education. In the Southeast, this percentage drops to 48.6%, while in the North and Mid-West regions it drops to 42.5% and 42.8%, respectively.

As for type of institution, 48.2% of all special-education schools in 1998 were state-managed, 26.8% were municipal, 24.8% were private and 0.2% were managed by the federal administration. Enrollments were distributed in a similar way, with one variation: 46.9% in private schools, 34,2% in state-managed schools, 18.7% in municipal schools and 0.3% in federal schools.

In this regard, special mention must be made of the fact that the 46.9% coverage provided by private schools can be mainly explained by the inaction of the government in this area for many years.

The coverage by education level was as follows in 1998: 91,181 children covered by Early Childhood Education programs; 169,721 in primary schools; 2,944 in secondary schools; and 8,655 covered by youth and adult education programs. An additional group of 64,815 students taking other kinds of courses are reported as "others."

Table 49 – Enrollment in Special Education by type of institution – Brazil – 1996-1998

School Network

1988

1996

1998

Growth

Enrollments

%

Enrollments

%

Enrollments

%

88/98

Municipal

11,388

6.8

29,591

14.7

62,962

18.7

452.9 %

State-managed

82,770

49.8

90,688

45.1

115,424

34.2

39.5 %

Federal

2,605

1.6

938

0.5

898

0.3

-65.5 %

Private

69,527

41.8

79,925

39.7

158,042

46.9

127.3 %

Total

166,290

100.0

201,142

100.0

337,326

100.0

102.8 %

Source: Ministry of Education/INEP/SEEC

The data presented in Table 49 show that between 1988 and 1998 there was an increase in the enrollment of students with special needs. The most significant growth occurred in the municipal and private networks. In 1998, the municipal network had about 11,000 students, while in 1998 almost 63,000 students were enrolled in it, which represents a growth of 453% in enrolments. In the private network, there was an increase of 127%. The growth registered in the state-managed network was much lower than the national average.

Although short of the real needs of the country, the set of actions developed by the government over the last few years has ensured an expressive drive to special education, this being translated in the increased access of handicapped schoolchildren. Also, the investment made in covering exceptionally gifted children has borne satisfactory results. According to the School Census, half the students with special needs are enrolled in primary schools, while the remaining 50% are attending schools providing early childhood education, secondary education, youth and adult education and other education levels and programs.

An analysis of the evolution of special education in Brazil in the last few years proves that there has been a gradual, if difficult, effort to replace the paradigm of institutionalization and segregation for education in the regular school network, where attention to student diversity – including students with special education needs – is the focal point for pedagogic actions within the framework of a quality education for all.

In sum, one can say that Brazil has been making huge efforts to cover this population. The School Census has confirmed the magnitude of these efforts, even though the data available are still quite adverse.


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