Public education and the national situation

Image: Bayram Er


The constant and growing crisis of Brazilian public education

“That the latter invested his capital in a teaching factory, instead of in a sausage factory, does not alter the relationship in the least. Thus, the concept of productive worker by no means implies only a relationship between activity and useful effect, between worker and product of work, but also a specifically social production relationship, which emerged historically and which attaches to the worker the label of a direct means of production. valorization of capital” (Karl, Marx, The capital, chap. XIV).

The 2016 coup set in motion a movement to the right that aims to: (a) destroy the 1988 Constitution and the social policies indicated therein; (b) destruction of the sovereign structure of the National State, with concessions and privatizations of ports, roads, refineries, shipyards, etc.; (c) irresponsible economic openness policy that leads to deindustrialization and, at the same time, to the expansion of agribusiness, which determines integration subordinated to systemic logic and places the country at the whim of the seasonality of demand in primary markets; (d) Destruction of social and labor rights, with a view to transforming the national productive park and the working class in a large Puerto Rico or Colombia, with reduced wages and an industrial park of maquiladoras.

This entire movement had, and has, as a contribution the imperialist action of Financial Monopoly Capital and sectors – internal – integrated into the sphere of circulation and reproduction of the systemic logic.


The University and Brazil

The PT governments created a developmental and, to a certain extent, anti-imperialist national political environment; one of the central elements for the implementation of such a policy was the expansion of the contribution to science, technology and education.

In science and technology, we had the development of the National System of Science, Technology and Innovation (SNCTI), with the aim of promoting (and redirecting) reindustrialization, environmental sustainability and the development of economic activities. A fundamental part of this movement is the expansion and internalization of technical-scientific education, aiming to promote new production chains, as shown by the expansion of the Federal Network of Professional, Scientific and Technological Education, which jumped from 149 schools in 119 municipalities to 422 schools and Federal Institutes in 396 municipalities, which, in addition to technical courses, began to offer higher education. In the same way, the National Program for Access to Technical Education and Employment (PRONATEC) expanded training and professional qualification.

In the Higher Education Network, there was the creation of 18 new federal universities and the expansion of 178 new campuses in the interior, in addition to guaranteeing 1,9 million full scholarships from PROUNI, the expansion of FIES, the reformulation of ENEM, the implementation of SISU and the approval of the Quotas Law, which required that the budget sixfold between 2002 and 2012, these measures expanded access to Higher Education.

To ensure this expansion, the budget allocated to CNPq, CAPES and FNDCT (National Fund for Scientific and Technological Development) jumped from R$ 4,5 billion in 2002 to R$ 13.97 billion in 2015, which ensured that the number of enrollments doubled and reached 1,3 million students. Programs such as “Ciência sem Fronteiras” contributed to the internationalization of teaching and postgraduate programs expanded by 107% in masters and 97,7% in doctorates, which favored the formation and production of knowledge, science and technology in the country.

The role played by developmental policies promoted changes within Teaching and Education, aimed at national sovereignty. Enem, ceased to be a high school evaluator, to select candidates for the University for All Program (PROUNI); REUNI was built, which doubled the number of access to Federal Universities, creating 126 interior campuses; the Unified Selection System (SISU) was developed, which democratized access to education, jumping from a clientele of 3 million to more than 8 million, with the majority of admissions (61%) coming from public schools, which led to a change in the profile of the public at federal universities.

Along with this, the National Higher Education Assessment System (SINAES) was created, aimed at qualifying universities and the scientific, technological and cultural development of the country. In addition to all this, since the 1988 National Constituent Assembly, the period from 2002 to 2016 was the only one marked by real increases in wages for civil servants and teachers and researchers.


The neoliberal and imperialist reaction

The crisis we are experiencing today in Brazil is sharpened by the trade dispute between China and the US, between the development model and economic and social dependence. All this is deepened with the collapse of Globalization as a policy, ideology and culture and we understand that, even as an international force, Capital needs strong National States to carry out its metabolic reproduction. It is in this scenario that far-right nationalist (sovereignist) policies grow.

This scenario gains new spaces of accumulation in which Brazilian public education is a huge lode in the eyes of financial monopoly groups. Therefore, it receives the main attack led by private economic groups, which gained colossal strength with the privatist movement in the election of Jair Bolsonaro.

The action of these groups and the government is aimed at demoralizing the Public School, with the disqualification of its knowledge and its organization, acting through the systematic cut of funds, intervention in management and teaching, precariousness of work, denial of cultural and scientific knowledge and the school democracy.

As a response, they point to the outsourcing of services and the militarization of education, as “quality and discipline” to a youth without a destination. This takes shape with the disqualification of teachers, labeling them, especially those in the areas of human sciences, as “ideological teachers”, being blamed for the restlessness and lack of perspective of youth. Such an attack materialized with the granting of the National Base of the Common Curriculum (BNCC), 2017, which practically destroyed secular teaching in basic education and represents the ideological core of the “School without a Party” opening the possibility for the approval of home education (homeschooling).

All this disqualification will have an immediate effect on the quality of higher education, production and science. The government's central objective is to respond to the powerful lobby of private companies that aim to replace the public offer with the private one and already has around 40% of enrollments in basic education and 66% in university courses; Likewise, EAD (Distance Learning) reaches more than 43% of enrollments, strengthened by the pandemic, emphasizing in the case of public universities, that digital platforms have mostly been privatized, that is, any academic report or research will be available to database of foreign companies. Let's think the opposite, imagine France, Germany or the USA, making a database of their students, their research available to another country???

This scenario was boosted by PEC 95/16, which limited public spending and made investment in education impossible, ruining public policies. Likewise, the privatization action was expanded with the PEC 32/21 project, which, if approved, practically destroys universities and public services.

In the same goose step, the actions against the public university are aimed at strangling it; the 2021 budget had the same amount as in 2009, when the student body did not reach half of what it has today, making it unfeasible to operate and spend on research grants, student aid, water bills, electricity, cleaning, purchase of materials, laboratory maintenance, etc. And the 2022 budget will be R$3.7 billion, just 67% of the R$12 billion in 2012.

Following the same path, cuts of R$200 million were made in Student Assistance, which will cause needy students to drop out. Extension and research grants must be reduced to something close to zero, which will collapse scientific production.

The lack of money for the acquisition of materials (adaptation of spaces, alcohol gel and PPE), due to the cuts produced by the Ribeiro, Guedes and Bolsonaro administration, suspended the return to face-to-face classes at all universities.

The pressure coming from the College of Rectors, civil society, student movements, professors, deputies and governors, forced the government to propose a supplementary credit of almost R$2,6 billion (which breaks the Fiscal Responsibility Law), which relieves part of the which was cut, but does not guarantee full funding.

The central fact is that from 2015 to 2021 we had a 61,2% reduction in university funding, and this anti-public education austerity policy is not in ebb.

Paradoxically, the privatization action is generating a support base for remote teaching within public universities. It is common to see teachers and students, especially in the humanities, in favor of maintaining remote teaching, as working and teaching conditions become more precarious every day.

The expansion of university education during the PT administrations required the hiring of technicians and teachers, spending remained stable until 2019. From then on, with retirements, deaths, job changes, etc., spending fell 23% driven by the reform of pension; and high inflation, which led to a wage loss of more than 10%, which tends to grow with the stagflationary policy of Guedes and Bolsonaro.


a necessary answer

The expansion of private education in all areas, especially in EAD, led to a cut of more than 36 thousand teachers in the private network, in the year 2021 alone. Remote classes with teachers fired, or even dead, continue to circulate in classrooms private company classes. There were cuts in salaries and maintenance costs with laboratories, libraries, with the general structure. All expenses fell sharply while profits increased, as shown by the growth of shares of private education companies on BOVESPA, such as YDUQ3 (former Estácio de Sá), which is among the 10 most valued shares in 2021, as well as lobbies of education companies on Wall Street.

Brazilian public education faces its greatest threat. In turn, the movements in defense of education are in ebb and after the manifestations of discontent with May 15 in 2019 (15M), little effective mobilization was carried out in defense of education. Dialogue with society, especially with those most in need, is distant and hampered.

The corporate and reactive union practice, which needs to be provoked to know what to do, predominates on Campi, far from formulating alternatives for educational management and political practices, it boils down to protesting against the constant defeats inflicted by the real enemy.

Student movements also have little reach and see their practice very limited with the pandemic. The real possibility of an answer has to be rethought, public education needs a mobilization along the lines of the Public School Defense Campaign of 1958-1959, led by Fernando Azevedo, Anísio Teixeira, Florestan Fernandes, with the support of student movements and its entities and unions of teachers and other workers, as well as sectors concerned with public education in parliament, business federations, etc. That prevented education from being handed over to the private sectors.

It is necessary to mobilize society as a whole, it is necessary to discuss the benefits that public education can bring in overcoming the ills of such an unequal society and in building a sovereign future.

*Joana A. Coutinho is a professor at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at UFMA.

*John Kennedy Ferreira is a professor at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at UFMA.



Brazil Agency – MEC. Available in:

MARX, K. The capital. Sao Paulo, Boitempo, 2014.

IBGE. Available in:

SAVIANI, Demerval. “Florestan Fernandes and education”. Magazine Advanced Studies, No. 10, April 1996.

Emergency Plan in Defense Brazilian University, Diálogos PT. October 2021.


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