The EFA 2000 Assessment: Country Reports Homepage of the World Education Forum
Contents of country report Homepage of country reports Country reports listed alphabetically Country reports by region

Previous Page

Part III

1. EFA: Effectiveness of the Strategy, Plan and Programs

The strategy of the Brazilian government rests on the recognition of the complexity of the problems that have to be overcome in order to achieve the objective of supplying a basic education of good quality to the population. The starting point was the principle that integrating the multiple projects and actions geared towards the various problems would in itself be an effective measure.

The strategy therefore concentrated on implementing programs and building partnerships. Its effectiveness can be measured by the success of these programs in achieving the EFA objectives. Success came from collaboration with states, municipalities and NGOs, which allowed a reasonable degree of harmony among the various actors and interests involved.


Brazil's educational policy depended on a deep reform of the system of financing education. This was the pre-condition for any other more ambitious projects. That is why the main innovation in educational reforms promoted by Brazil in the 1990s is the National Fund for Primary Education Development and for Enhancing the Value of the Teaching Profession (FUNDEF), created by Constitutional Amendment n. 14 of 1996 and implemented on January 1, 1998. Given its importance, this reform deserves a prominent place as a paradigm of the new focus of public education policies, as it affects three variables that are crucial to improving that level of education:

It links the decentralization of primary education and the sharing of responsibilities between states and municipalities to the redistribution of funds according to the number of students served by the respective educational networks;

It guarantees a minimum amount per student as a mechanism to reduce regional and intra-state inequalities, thereby promoting a fairer distribution of public funds earmarked for the development of primary education;

It allocates at least 60% of the funds to teachers’ salaries, encourages the adoption of career plans, and stimulates investment in teacher-training.

Before FUNDEF was set up, there was no correspondence at all between the sharing of tax revenue among states and municipalities and the sharing of educational responsibilities, especially in the supply of compulsory primary education. So there was no incentive for the "collaboration regime" recommended by the Constitution and strengthened by the LDB. This bore two serious consequences: on the one hand, it favored non-compliance with the constitutional requirement of "allocating at least 25% of the revenue from taxation, including that arising from the transfer, maintenance and development of education"7; on the other hand, it created sharp disparities between the state and municipal educational networks, thereby countering the principle of equity in providing a basic service to the population.

In practice, the country had rich municipalities with few students in their networks because state-managed schools provided that service, while at the other extreme poor municipalities could be found with many students and insufficient funds to ensure the supply of compulsory schooling with a minimum of quality. FUNDEF tackled one of the main roots of the iniquity of Brazil's educational system, namely, inadequate distribution of resources. This distortion contributed to crystallize regional inequalities and contrasts between state-managed and municipal public primary education networks, which, according to the School Census of 1999, are responsible for 32.9 million students.

In 1998, its first year in operation, FUNDEF redistributed an impressive volume of funds: R$ 13.3 billion.8 The states, which account for 59.3% of enrollments in public primary education, were allocated R$ 8.2 billion (61.6%), while the municipalities, which served 40.7% of the students, received R$ 5.1 billion (38.4%). According to estimates for 1999, the share of municipalities in the division of the resources of the Fund should climb to 43% as a reflection of the accelerated process of municipalization of primary education. It should therefore be noted that FUNDEF has ensured a well balanced distribution of funds among states and municipalities, thereby correcting the existing distortions.

The municipal networks, particularly in the North and Northeast Regions and in the metropolitan areas of the remaining regions of the Country, were those that benefited most, receiving a significant increase of resources leading to substantial improvement in annual costs per student in relation to the previous situation. Of the 5,506 municipalities in Brazil, 2,703 enjoyed additional resources totaling about R$ 2 billion. This group of municipalities is responsible for serving 10.9 million students. It is important to note here that among this universe of Brazilian municipalities, 2,159 (39%) lacked sufficient funds to invest R$ 315 per student per year in primary education, the amount set by the FUNDEF legislation as the national platform. In an even worse situation were 921 municipalities whose per capita value did not reach R$ 150; in these cases, the value per student per year was raised, on average, by 129%.

For the municipalities of the North and Northeast regions, the poorest in the country, the most lacking in the educational area and with the biggest number of children out of school, the re-distributive impact of the Fund has been most effective, as analyzed in Part I of this report. The fairer criteria in sharing resources were also translated in wage increases for teachers. Throughout the country, the average remuneration of teachers rose by 12.9% between December 1997 and August 1998. In the municipal networks of the Northeast, the increase amounted to 49.6%.

Another important change brought by FUNDEF was the improvement in the profile of public primary school teaching. Between 1997 and 1998, the number of lay teachers in the different categories was sharply reduced: 26% of teachers with primary education not concluded. At the same time, there was an increase in the participation of teachers with a higher qualification, such as teacher-training and full certification in pedagogy. This tendency, which had been recorded by recent School Censuses, grew in scope with the implementation of FUNDEF, and is now one of its most expressive results.

Also worth mentioning is the positive effect of the Fund on the increase in enrollments in primary education. The criterion of redistribution of resources - based on the number of students in municipal and state-managed networks - stimulates by itself the effort of the educational systems to enroll all school-age children. This was instrumental in registering a 6% increase in the total enrollments in public primary education from 1997 to 1998. In absolute terms, the number of students rose from 30.5 million in 1997 to 32.4 million. Enrollment grew sharply in 1998 in the North (12.1%) and Northeast (7.7%), the regions that presented the largest deficits in coverage in compulsory education.

Finally, thanks to the dynamics set off by FUNDEF, the process of decentralization was resumed and speeded up the municipalization of primary education, which had become stagnated in the 1990s after the initial impulse in the 1980s. Between 1997 and 1998, enrollments in the municipal networks rose 21.5%, going from 12.4 to 15.1 million students, whereas the state-managed network had 17.3 million. This tendency continued between 1998 and 1999: today, the municipal network has 16.2 million students and the state network 16.7 million.

1.2 Programs

Creating FUNDEF was not an isolated decision. Just as important are the programs that organize the actions and guide the use of funds. Part I of this report lists the existing programs. At this point, one should examine the results obtained, so as to determine whether the strategy is suitable or not.

The first objective was to universalize compulsory education. That is why it was necessary to undertake joint actions to ensure that children would be put in school by raising the number of openings, with initiatives that ensured the pedagogical and economic assistance required to keep them studying.

The question of openings was resolved by means of programs carried out in collaboration with states and municipalities, which expanded existing schools and built new ones. These successful programs added to the system a sufficient number of openings to ensure access to and retention in primary education of all children from 7 to 14 years of age. The problems that remain are local, and were caused by migratory movements. The objective now is to give priority to investments in the quality of school facilities and especially to provide space for sports and leisure, as well as cultural equipment, thereby remedying the shortage of libraries and laboratories.

However, openings and adequate school buildings are not enough. There has to be some guarantee that parents actually enroll their children in school. The Toda Criança na Escola (All Children at School) campaign that took place during the 2nd semester of 1997 and throughout 1998 encouraged governmental bodies and civil associations to ensure the enrolment of all children who for some reason were not attending school. Furthermore, on financing the state and municipal systems according to the number of students enrolled, FUNDEF proved to be a great ally in the effort to ensure the enrolment of all children. This objective having been almost achieved, the government now needs to make sure that the programs will be actually carried on.

The strategies devised to guarantee enrollment were accompanied by other programs meant to remove the economic obstacles that hampered retaining children in school. The oldest and most consolidated of these programs is the school meal program, an effective instrument that has deep social implications. Federal, state and municipal resources guarantee at least one meal a day for all children in the 8 grades of primary education and in pre-schools as well. Providing a meal at school is an important incentive for poor families to enroll their children and to keep them attending classes.

Another helpful incentive is the National Textbook Program, which distributes textbooks to all primary education students. The books are chosen by the teachers, based on a catalog available in the schools. This too is an old program, but it has been broadened and improved since 1996, when the Federal Administration increased the number of books per student and began to inspect their quality by means of a national evaluation process to guide the teachers in their choice. Since then, the quality of didactic texts in Brazil has improved greatly.

The effect of the free distribution of textbooks was measured by SAEB questionnaires applied to schools and teachers. The survey concluded that the chalk, blackboards and textbooks distributed in all schools in the country constitute fundamental resources for work in the classroom. It also confirmed that school books represent the only universalized resource in all urban and rural schools in Brazil. It is virtually the teacher's basic instrument for working in the classroom, given the precarious condition of equipment in most schools.

The most important and effective initiative to ensure retention of children in school, however, is unquestionably the Bolsa Escola (Education Grant) program which grants financial aid to families with school-age children and whose per capita income is less than the minimum stipulated by the program. The scholarship is conditioned to enrollment and attendance in a primary school. Inaugurated in the city of Campinas, São Paulo, and the Federal District (Brasília), this program has spread throughout many municipalities. Lately, the Federal Administration itself allocated funds to support states and municipalities that implement the Bolsa Escola program. It still is not enough, because the costs of the program are very high, but its social importance in the struggle against poverty makes it extremely relevant in Brazil's present conditions. Accordingly, expanding the program should be one of the main challenges of the country 's educational policy for the coming decade.

Following universal access to education, the government's second objective was to ensure success in school, represented by the progression of students until they concluded the final grade, a more difficult task to fulfill and one that also necessarily included improving the quality of education in order to stimulate the performance of students.

The strategies adopted by the Federal Administration, with the indispensable collaboration of the states, municipalities and civil-society organizations, were directed at solving the problems of repetition and drop-out and at reducing the age/grade gap. Catch-up classes are part of this effort, which also includes raising the awareness of directors, school principals, teachers, parents and the community at large to the seriousness of the problem. Releasing statistics on primary education helped to define lines of action and follow up the progress registered.

Although the first results were positive, as demonstrated by the indicators above, the system has not yet achieved a satisfactory quality level, effectiveness and efficacy in the schooling it provides. The SAEB evaluation data show that the performance of students continues to be very unsatisfactory, and is even worrisome in Mathematics.

Indeed, the quality of education depends fundamentally on other variables, such as suitably qualified teachers, the quality of the school and the curricular structure. Qualification of teachers is in turn connected to the problem of initial and continued education, as well as to the question of teachers´ wages.

As far as the quality of the school is concerned, action taken has been positive but limited, directed to raising the financial autonomy of schools and promoting the participation of parents in the management of schools, by means of school councils.

Curricular reform began with the preparation of new curricular guidelines and parameters. Implementation is being effected thanks to a special program called "Parameters in Action," which is training monitors to work with teachers in the use of the new curricular material.

The greatest difficulties are being met in the matter of qualification and dedication of teachers. The traditional initial teacher-training courses fail to prepare adequately the future professionals in education. At the same time, Brazil's experience with in-service training has failed to present results compatible with the efforts made and the resources applied. The difficulties are fundamentally concentrated on the relation between theory and practice. Neither the initial courses nor in-service training have managed to bring about changes in the practices adopted by teachers in the classroom to make their teaching more effective.

Moreover, the result of providing opportunities for education professionals to obtain a higher level of training is often the opposite of what was expected, with the more qualified teachers abandoning the public network, since the additional schooling in itself is a guarantee of access to better paid jobs, both in the private sector and in other governmental sectors. In the case of poor municipalities, where qualification tends to be more precarious, on-the-job training could lead the teacher thus trained to migrate to more developed centers. Federal Administration initiatives have tried to associate higher qualifications with better wages, but even so the situation is very complex. Associations of this nature are difficult to establish because they depend on career plans to be set up autonomously by states and municipalities.

In order to confirm its policy of valuing the teaching profession and recognizing the school as a privileged locus for the educational process, the Federal Administration has been investing in distance education programs and in the adoption of new languages and technologies in the daily life of schools. The TV Escola program is a double-purpose strategy: on the one hand, it is intended to enable teachers to have a better knowledge of curriculum contents and other materials that can improve their qualifications and, on the other hand, it aims to provide high-quality educational resources for use in the classroom. Evaluations carried out in 1997-1998 by the Center for Research on Public Policies of the State University of Campinas (Unicamp) at the request of the Ministry of Education have produced very positive figures: among the schools included in the sample, 96% had installed the kit and 61% were recording the programs aired by TV Escola.

Based on this and previous evaluations, the Program is being constantly improved. Problems such as difficulties to handle the equipment, the resistance of teachers to give up traditional practices and others have been dealt with by the Secretariat for Distance Education (SEED) in partnership with state and municipal education secretariats. As a result, the distribution of printed supporting material, the provision of continued training programs, the articulation of the Program with other initiatives (such as Proinfo, Proformação, the National Curricular Parameters, etc.), and the dissemination and distribution of equipment to be used as part of the Program in teacher-training courses are strategies that, among others, have been adopted to enable TV Escola to reach the over 27 million primary education students and their over 1 million teachers and the more than 7 million secondary education students and their teachers.

A new alternative began to be tested in February 1999, with the Proformação pilot project to train 1,500 lay teachers. The target is to train 95,000 teachers by the year 2002 in 18 states in the North, Northeast and Mid-West, where most of these lay teachers are concentrated, at a total cost of R$ 161.8 million, financed by FUNDEF and the Ministry of Education.

The most recent project, not yet even implemented, is an attempt to promote a broad reform of initial-training programs. A national debate was started in this connection, but there is still a strong reaction on the part of universities, which resist engaging in a reform as profound as the Federal Administration deems necessary.

Resources to finance these programs have been made available. The use of these funds, however, fell short of their objectives. In spite of continued efforts and of the FUNDEF initiative, which helps to discipline expenditures, Brazil is still far from overcoming the traditional problems of misapplication of resources and embezzlement of funds. Changing that situation calls for more intense inspection and greater community participation in schools and state and municipal councils. In the last four years, an intense process of organization of School Councils has been noticed, as a result of which they have swollen from about 11,000 in 1995 to 74,000 in 1999. Similar advances have been observed in setting up Municipal Education and FUNDEF Follow-up Councils. Nevertheless, there is going to remain some difficulty in completely overcoming these problems related to control of the use of public money in education, as they largely derive from the decentralization of the system itself.

At the same time, it is undeniable that establishing social control mechanisms such as councils has helped to lend more transparency to the actions undertaken. There have been endless denunciations concerning embezzlement of funds, which resulted in effective action on the part of the Attorney General’s Office and Parliamentary Inquiry Committees for the purpose of investigating infractions and punishing the guilty ones. This is perhaps the most positive impact of the intense process of decentralization and municipalization witnessed over the last five years.

However, the greatest challenge lies in the enormous regional inequity. Reducing this has consumed a great deal of the government's efforts in this decade. The Nordeste Project, intended exclusively for this region where the major problems are concentrated, is the best instance of this effort. In this case, deep socioeconomic problems and the political tradition prevailing in the region are obstacles that can only be overcome in the medium and long term through consistent and continued actions to ensure the actual implementation of the educational policies in force. The FUNDESCOLA Program, which also covers the North and Mid-West Regions, constitutes an important initiative to establish a broader and more effective policy aimed at reducing regional inequalities that still affect the Brazilian educational system.

Though it has not solved all the problems, the strategy of adopting integrated programs geared to objectives has proven consistent and guaranteed success that is reflected in the above-analyzed indicators. The three chief victories of the Brazilian policy of Education for All in this decade are as follows:

Increase in the gross and net enrollment rates in primary education and the consequent decrease in illiteracy;

Reduced repetition and drop-out, with progressive improvement in aggregate transition rates and lowering of age/grade gap;

Reform of the funding system for primary education promoted by FUNDEF.

These three significant results are joined by a fourth successful initiative, namely, the development and consolidation of the educational statistics and evaluation systems and their actual use in the monitoring of policies.

1. Principal problems encountered and anticipated

The main problems encountered in fulfilling the objectives of EFA were mostly already expected. Forecasting difficulties, however, does not mean automatically discovering the most effective ways to overcome them.

In the case of Brazil, one example is the difficulty in coordinating the educational system, because of its highly decentralized nature. Actions require lengthy negotiations and depend on understandings between the three levels of government: federal, state and municipal. This will continue to be a problem and will not be completely resolved: in a federative structure like Brazil, which ensures full autonomy to each of these three levels of government, any public policy calls for some minimum consensus. Only by stimulating active participation by civil society, which in the final analysis is responsible for actually demanding public action, will it be possible to establish effective mechanisms of social control.

Another problem that was clearly detected in the beginning of this decade was the absence of legislation that properly distinguished and distributed responsibilities among the three levels of government as to providing education to the population at each level. The recent legislation, both the LDB and that concerning the creation of FUNDEF, to a large extent corrected this problem, despite the fact that obstacles still remain that need to be overcome in the process of transition.

The question of resources also has to be considered. It is necessary to recognize that the prolonged economic stagnation of the country has prevented a substantial increase in the public funds for education. Nonetheless, the government's position is that eliminating the deviation of funds and fighting the misapplication of resources and the inefficient administration of the system are even more important than raising the amount allocated to education.

Still with regard to resources, Brazil faces the peculiar difficulty of the growing cost of pensions and retirement money. Teachers in the federal and state public network traditionally retire at full pay earned at the end of their career. The situation in the municipalities varied, since many of them hired teachers through the system that is characteristic of private companies, whereby the teacher earns less handsomely upon retirement.

The Constitution of 1988 not only diminished the length of service necessary for teachers to retire - now only 25 years for women and 30 for men - but also stimulated the inclusion of all municipal teachers in public service. This has led to a rapid increase in the cost of the system, pressured by increased spending on inactive and pensioned teachers. The attempts by the Federal Administration to reform a system whose cost has made it frankly unworkable run up against the resistance of the National Congress to approve the necessary measures.

The extremely bureaucratic and inefficient administration is yet another problematic matter and one that can only be corrected in the long run, because it depends on changing very deep-rooted habits and ideas. The effort being made at present to computerize the state and municipal systems should greatly improve administrative effectiveness.

An additional reason for concern has been the debate being held over the last few months with regard to a sweeping project for tax reform, now under debate in the National Congress. The big fear is that this reform might wipe away taxes and contributions that now bolster the education budget. This is the case of the "education salary", a percentage that companies are taxed on the payroll.

Quite correctly, the tax reform under study is based on the principle of eliminating taxes that weigh on production and in particular on company payrolls. Nevertheless, these resources have been the main source financing programs geared to primary education. This makes it imperative that some other source of funds be found to compensate and replace contributions that might be made defunct.

3. Public awareness, political institutions and national capacities

The past decade in Brazil has been marked by growing interest in education, no longer a concern exclusive to educators and certain governmental sectors. General public opinion has become aware of the importance of education in facing the challenges of today's world. The press has made a remarkable contribution: all the major educational questions, the School Census, the results of the evaluation processes and the launching of new projects occupy increasingly more space in the Brazilian media. The theme has also become part of the agenda of businessmen, many of whom are developing their own projects of action in schools and offering educational programs to their employees. The population is in turn making more and more demands.

The Federal Administration has without doubt striven to fulfill the EFA objectives, as have the great majority of state governments. The situation is less homogeneous in respect to municipal governments, where some work hard to improve their educational system, even by means of innovative and effective initiatives, while in others education has actually gone backwards in relation to the achievements of earlier administrations.

The size and heterogeneity of the country, along with the decentralization and autonomy of the municipal and state systems, which are extremely positive, as has been seen, make it very difficult to coordinate educational policy. A further difficulty is the fact that at each change of government, the new leaders tend to abandon the previous initiatives and create new projects that often will not even have time to be carried out. These difficulties are peculiar to any recent democracy, like Brazil’s, and can only be solved in the long run.

These problems are worsened by the inefficiency of public bureaucracy, arising chiefly from the long tradition of paternalism and political cronyism that characterizes Brazil's political culture. This has surely been changing, but very slowly. Federal Administration initiatives have attempted to speed up this process of modernization. An outstanding contribution was made by improving educational statistics and indicators, as well as by disseminating them nation-wide.

Society's familiarity with the data and indicators, and their systematic use as a criterion for distributing federal resources, have forced local authorities to become aware of their own situation and of the seriousness of problems faced in their states and municipalities. Besides that, the Federal Administration has earmarked resources for computerization of both state and municipal secretariats of education, seeing this as an excellent instrument for modernizing traditional administrations.

An interesting phenomenon that deserves mentioning and is also positive is the considerable growth in the number of NGOs within the educational sector NGOs are active - and prove very effective at it - in serving marginalized groups, very poor segments of the population, or those that find it hard to integrate into the regular educational system: street children, children with insufficient family support or special needs, indigenous groups, and illiterate or precariously educated adolescents, among others.

Some NGOs also work at disseminating more efficient pedagogic practices that respect the values and needs of children. With regard to such organizations, however, there are two main problems, namely their excessive reliance on public funding and the non-existence of objective evaluations of results reached vis-à-vis resources used.

In terms of international cooperation, the action of UNICEF has been of particular importance to Brazil, besides the French government, which is also developing very interesting experimental programs. Other entities such as the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank have granted loans and advisory assistance. The success of the programs financed by these institutions is variable: while some chalk up excellent results, others prove too costly and inefficient, in addition to being difficult to implement because of red tape hindrances.

4. General perception of progress

For all the undeniable success of Brazil's educational policy as regards the EFA objectives, as demonstrated in the analysis of the indicators contained in this report, opinion-formers in Brazil - the press, teachers' associations and unions, political movements and NGOs - tend to be extremely critical. They ignore the progress made and invariably concentrate on what has yet to be done. The claim of all these sectors nearly always boils down to demanding more resources, in particular federal resources.

The best known example is the illiteracy rate, which has fallen sharply over the last decade. Even so, both the press and political agents prefer to stress in denunciatory terms the number of illiterates that still exist. Criticism and expectations always turn on the Federal Administration, though eradicating illiteracy depends on a real endeavor on the part of different levels of the government, on local organizations and on mobilization of society at large.

This is indeed one of the contradictory effects of the splitting-up of the system caused by excessive decentralization of the Brazilian federalism. The movements organized on a national basis are unable to act in 5,606 municipalities, each with its own educational policy, nor even in the 27 states, although the responsibility mainly belongs to them. So the Federal Administration appears as the most visible level of government to attract all these demands and criticism, regardless of being directly responsible or not for the action and the solution to the problems.

The second distortion that leads to lack of recognition of the progress made has to do with a very fragmented view of the whole system. Each sector of society and each NGO tends to consider only the problems that affect them directly. On the one hand, sharing responsibilities among federal, state and municipal governments is ignored; on the other hand, the agents work according to very specific levels or modalities of education: day-care programs, indigenous education, disabled children with special needs, youth and adult education, and so on. In this way, social movements and NGOs develop their own ideas for the coverage to be provided, which invariably call for extra funds.

In the system as a whole, each claim represents a relatively small percentage of the overall resources. The sum of these demands, however, is the sole responsibility of the Federal Administration and it is therefore only in that level that one perceives that the whole set of claims is above and beyond any realistic possibility of financing. The central agencies are also the only ones to realize the need to formulate priorities, which always causes deep dissatisfaction in the sectors that feel they are the victims of unfair or discriminatory treatment.

The inflationary culture that prevailed in Brazil for decades turned budgets into veritable pieces of fiction liable to continuous supplementary funding. In spite of inflation having been under control for five years now, society still has not managed to assimilate completely the notion that resources are limited; so, raising funds for one sector means lowering the resources available to another.

The resumption of economic growth that should occur as of the year 2000 could contribute to increasing the resources allocated to education. It will then be possible to meet a greater number of sectoral claims, all of which, as a matter of fact, are admittedly fair and necessary. With the consolidation of democracy and the clearer realization by society as to the sharing of responsibilities among the various spheres of government, it is hoped that local claims are made and met on the proper level.

Finally, from the perspective of educational policy, the solution to the problems of primary education largely depends on an integrated view that considers the initial and higher levels. Day-care and pre-school programs and secondary education today concentrate much of the population's demands, and criticism of government agencies. The EFA objectives will therefore only be achieved when these demands are also met and the specific problems of these levels of education solved.


Critical Evaluation and Outlook

Objective analysis of the Brazilian indicators shows clearly that there has been a very positive evolution in the educational scenario in the country over the last ten years. The outlook is for this trend to continue during the decade to come. The strategy built on programs of assistance and incentives to state and municipal governments has been effective, is now consolidated, and should be kept in place.

In respect to the indicators, one notes that:

The drop in the rate of illiteracy goes beyond the commitments made under EFA;

Net enrollment rates in primary education are very close to those found in developed countries. Brazil's problem today is far more regional and rural than national, strictly speaking. FUNDEF, which distributes resources for primary education based on the number of students actually enrolled, is promoting rapid expansion of services in the most needy regions, especially in municipalities. One year after the Fund was set up, the advance in municipalization of primary education has already been proven by the preliminary data of the School Census of 1999;

There has been a substantial decrease in repetition and drop-out rates, which is reflected in lower age/grade gap. These results are due to a campaign to raise the awareness of teachers as to the gravity of the problem of repetition and to the initiative of many states in creating catch-up classes. Furthermore, reorganizing the system into cycles of two or more grades with no intermediate failing offers the students a longer period to overcome the initial difficulties of adapting to school;

Graduation) rates in primary education are going up. This is a particularly relevant victory, given the range of primary education, with 8 annual grades that correspond to the merging of the old primary education with lower secondary education;

Equal attendance by gender has been guaranteed, with faster growth of female schooling in the 1990s.

Innovation and Effectiveness

The innovative initiative of FUNDEF showed its worth in just one year. However, as it is very recent, its positive effects and effectiveness will only be fully felt in the next few years, which reinforces the expectation that the Brazilian educational system will continue to evolve favorably.

The position of the Federal Administration is a realistic one. While it is true that the objectives of generalized access to school have in large part been fulfilled, no less true is the statement that the objective of ensuring equity, quality and effectiveness in the school system is yet to be achieved. These much more complex challenges are also harder to overcome and call for a reevaluation of strategies and formulation of new programs capable of changing the very culture of school and the system's administrative structure.

An overall critical assessment of the more urgent problems related to equity, quality and effectiveness allows us to present the following conclusions and suggestions:

There have been substantial advances in educational supply, school flow and graduation rates in primary education in less developed regions. Moreover, in the states and municipalities of these regions, the awareness of the importance of education and the need to combat past deficits of educational supply has grown a great deal. Still, as things have evolved more quickly in the more developed regions, the relative regional imbalance continues to be a crucial problem. FUNDEF and the recent reformulation and expansion of the Nordeste Project, now under the name of FUNDESCOLA, laid down new strategies that promise to be effective. Striving for continuous improvement of this program should constitute a chief concern of educational policy;

The supply of education equivalent to at least the 4 lower grades and ideally the 8 grades of primary education to youths and adults with poor schooling is another matter that has not yet been properly settled, although progress has recently been made. In this case, it is vital to improve coordination between the Federal Administration, the states, municipalities and NGOs. Educational policy, however, still suffers from the absence of a consistent national plan to promote this coordination and expand coverage to that group. The education of adolescents and adults should be given priority in the next decade;

Expanding school libraries and disseminating programs that develop reading practices, both on the part of students and teachers, need to be stimulated. Education in the classroom alone is not enough to ensure mastery of the written language. The same attention must be paid to science laboratories, which are still lacking in most schools;

Vocational or professional training programs meant to prepare young people to enter the labor market are still largely lacking. The reform that the Federal Administration is promoting in secondary education and in professional education aims to meet that demand. The Ministry of Labor subsidizes many programs of this type, but in the past there was no integration with initiatives of the Ministry of Education. A new project negotiated by the government, involving the two Ministries and funded by foreign loans, will substantially broaden vocational education;

The need to prepare students and teachers for insertion in the era of information technology is already part of the claims made by society and is viewed by the government as an urgent task. The National Information Technology Program in Education (Proinfo), an initiative of the Federal Administration, is under way. States and Municipalities have taken other initiatives, and the trend in this area is one of rapid growth. Among the challenges to be faced by the three levels of government, the following ones stand out: the training of educators in the use of IT for teaching purposes, the costs for buying, maintaining and updating the equipment, and reducing telecommunications and mail tariffs, as well as other tariffs that can encourage the growth of educational proposals in learning institutions.

The use of new remote education technologies must be consolidated and expanded, including in higher education, particularly because they can universalize education at its various levels and programs, favor equity, and provide a more democratic access to common tools that are used on a daily basis to ensure full enjoyment of citizenship rights in a technologically advanced world. The consolidation of TV Escola, of the National Information Technology Program in Education – Proinfo – and of Proformação must be backed up by a new teacher-training policy aimed at promoting the use of such technologies and languages, so as to allow professionals in education to become familiar with resources that can enrich their qualifications and practices in the classroom. A consistent national plan must also be drawn up with funds specifically earmarked for its purposes and articulating the federal administration in various areas – Education, Science and technology, Communications, Anatel (the National Telecommunications Agency), Culture and others, as well as states, municipalities, organizations, higher education institutions - in a joint action to duly explore the potential of using appropriate technologies in education.

The use of new technologies can also compensate and help to solve what seems to be the most important problem to be faced in the decade to come: achieving the objectives of a quality education for all by providing an appropriate training to teachers, an issue that has been widely discussed throughout this report.

In fact, there is an enormous deficit of teachers qualified to teach how to read and write and perform basic mathematical operations in the first grades. Deficiencies in basic mathematics teaching cause great concern, and they are not just due to the absence of appropriate methodologies. The truth is that a large number of teachers who work in the lower grades do not possess the minimum mastery of mathematics that is indispensable to teach the subject. The deficit of teachers qualified in mathematics and science is also a problem in the final grades of primary education and is particularly serious in secondary education. The rapid expansion of this level of education aggravates a situation that was already critical.

It would be unfair to claim that the strategies to train teachers have been inadequate, but the fact is that the problem will hardly be solved in the short run. The recommendation is to concentrate efforts in that direction. Given the decentralized nature of the system, and the difficulty in coordinating efforts, it might be important to develop a national campaign to provide on-the-job training to teachers, mobilizing the population, educational authorities, and the teachers themselves for this purpose. It is a matter of calling the attention of all to the importance of a really effective pedagogic work capable of helping the students to overcome their difficulties, and sensitive to the differences of culture, social stratum and race.

The most successful initiatives have been those directed to the school and its internal organization by providing a stimulating administration and the development of a participative pedagogic project. This, however, cannot be done by the Federal Administration alone, as it depends on the educational policy of states and municipalities. That is why the results will be slow and unequal, because, as already stated, there has to be a change in school culture itself.

All the problems pointed out are interconnected: the seriousness of the deficiencies and the difficulties in overcoming them are always greater in the less developed regions. Since the more developed regions progress quickly, regional imbalance persists even when the indicators show that there has been real improvement in the poorer areas of the country. It bears repeating that in this case it is not a question of establishing a new strategy, but rather of concentrating efforts in the promising FUNDESCOLA program.

Finally, it is important to consider that satisfying basic educational needs, translated by the universalization of compulsory education, creates additional pressures both in terms of early childhood education and secondary and higher education. There is also a growing demand for assisting adolescents with special needs, continued education for adolescents and adults, indigenous education, and overcoming ethnic inequalities, especially as regards Afro-Brazilians.

For that very reason, Education For All entails an integrated view of the teaching system, with a definition of priorities that concentrate efforts on primary education without ignoring the development of the other educational levels and programs.

An analysis of the Brazilian situation proves that the Federal Administration has a proper view of the educational system as a whole, and has steered its actions in the right direction by favoring the building of partnerships as an indispensable strategy to lend more effectiveness to the policies implemented.


Previous Page