Interview with Professor Cury on Inclusive Education in Brazil
Professor Carlos Roberto Jamil Cury of the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais in Brazil, and former chair of the basic education sector in the Brazilian National Board of Education, was invited to give an inaugural talk on inclusive education during the symposium entitled “Inclusive Education: towards innovative training” which took place at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on 16 and 17 October 2013. On that occasion, Mr Cury answered some questions for us.
Question 1: How does Brazilian law seek to promote the effective implementation of the right to education, especially in its inclusive dimension?
Answer: There is a very interesting bill on this matter currently being enacted in Brazil: the National Education Plan, one of the aims of which concerns more specifically inclusive education.
It is for people with limited capacities (physical or intellectual), prison inmates and anyone demonstrating cultural or social diversity.
It is interesting to note, for example, that the National Education Plan intends to integrate into the national curriculum courses on Afro-Brazilian culture and history in a broader perspective, thus allowing an approach that goes beyond stigmatization. Another interesting example in Brazil is a decree issued in 2005 making the teaching of sign language compulsory in teacher training.
Question 2: What are the main challenges to the effective achievement of the right to education for all in Brazil?
Answer: The main challenge is social. For many years, Brazil has been an elitist country in the field of education. There used to be an examination to validate the transition from primary to secondary school. Only those who passed the test could access secondary education. This exam no longer exists, so there are more young people now, from very diverse backgrounds, entering secondary school. Basic education now covers the age group of six to fourteen years. As of 2016, compulsory education will begin at age four and will continue until seventeen. When that is the case, our education system will have to adapt to meet the needs of a larger number of children with varied profiles. This brings us to the question of teacher training. How can we prepare teachers to be more able to understand the culture of these children with new profiles at school?
Question 3: The symposium showed that for education to be truly inclusive there was an urgent need to reform teacher training. In your opinion, what should the priorities be for this redesigned training?
Answer: Teacher training institutions have a great responsibility in the implementation of legislation to ensure the emergence of a new culture that respects diversity in order to deconstruct prejudices and build respect.
One of the major problems facing Brazil is the recruitment of teachers and how to attract a greater number of teachers into the profession. People know that teachers’ salaries are not in keeping with their training. Many of those who have followed teacher training, once on the labour market choose other related occupations, such as computing.
Teachers also need to be better trained. There must be a better balance between theory and practice. The federal government has proposed a grant to those who wish to do an internship in schools before graduating. It is also important for teachers to have in their training modules the history and culture of minorities, for example.
In Brazil we have inclusive schools, which we call “referral schools”. These schools have a multidisciplinary team including doctors, psychologists and teaching assistants. Physical accessibility is also ensured. There is a need to increase these kinds of structures to ensure that the right to education of all children and young people in Brazil is respected.