Business strategy in high school reform

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By CAROLINA CATINI*

Private appropriation of state education management and control mechanisms by business organizations

1.

Finally, the debate about the deleterious effects of the secondary education reform came out of the strictest circles of those who are in constant contact with youth education and with the work of the immense category of basic network teachers. The demonstrations for the repeal of the reform that took place throughout Brazil in March had an effect on the scope of the debate, which gained space on social networks, in the traditional media, as well as drawing the attention of intellectuals and militants from other sectors and movements.

The denouncement about the contents of the New Secondary School is essential for the fight, since the massive formation of the youth is an extremely relevant element in the composition of the relations of a given conjuncture. But it is also necessary to pay attention to the social form of education. The analysis that schooling time is being spent learning how to make homemade brigadeiros, playing RPG, knowing “what’s going on around there”[I] and adjusting “life projects” to the precariousness of the entrepreneurship of the poor, is as important as bringing to light the contempt for the specialized training of teachers in sociology, history, geography, physics, chemistry, arts, etc. and, consequently, of such knowledge.

However, criticism still needs to consider that the reform of secondary education, as well as a large part of the organizational and pedagogical transformations that are underway in education, are part of the strategies of a broad business and financial domination. The deprivation of the youth's intellectual training and the degradation of teachers' working conditions, in the midst of the collapse of state education, are, above all, the result of years of work and projects by businessmen, shareholders and investors in "social business", although not it is possible to underestimate the role of those who govern in the deepening of the “partnership” between the company and the State.

2.

In September 2022, shortly before the elections, the “NGO that was the MEC of Civil Society” won the “Social Entrepreneur Award”, according to the newspaper Folha de S. Paul. The same newspaper that finances, selects and advertises companies that provide social services, as well as – of course – markets its own investment in this sector, reported that the decisive criterion for choosing Todos Pela Educação (TPE) was the success of the Organization's role in resuming schools during the pandemic.[ii]

It is not surprising that another organization took the place of the MEC during the government of Jair Bolsonaro, especially in the critical period of the pandemic and management by denial and maximum brutality, which we know well. But this is not due to the fact that the governmental organization was completely inoperative at the time. In addition to the effects of the broad cut in expenses and the implementation of the civic-military program for basic schools, there was an unprecedented experiment with the “propaganda effect” of programs that were not implemented, but put on the agenda by the government and its activists. This was not negligible in terms of management, as it changed and left marks on our practices and clashes in our work environments.

The dispute between these conservative projects that were not formally implemented (such as Escola Sem Partido together with the entire agenda linked to the “cultural war”), neoliberal projects (such as Future-se[iii]) and militarization, was also reflected in the chair dancing of ministers.[iv] The competition for control of education differentiated the programs, at the same time that it made explicit what is common to all: a notion of social policy against the people, which expanded the plundering of public resources beyond the already captive market of the business community, and reached preachers of the gospel and agribusiness, thus renewing the forms of inscription of the Ministry in its history of scandals.[v] The worst of storms fertilize the garden,[vi] and we will still reap the rotten fruits of Bolsonarism in this “redemocratization” reissue.

What is surprising is that the private appropriation of the mechanisms of management and control of state education by business organizations is so naturalized to the point that such entities are awarded and presented as if they were just benevolent and philanthropic NGOs, which saved education from Bolsonarism. It is true that the emergency programs of the pandemic, the creation of structures for distance learning and face-to-face return, took place and were coordinated by Todos Pela Educação (TPE) and other business organizations, in the same way that no referral was given in policies controversies, such as the expansion of the network of full-time schools and the implementation of the High School Reform. This is because such policies have been constructed and forwarded by foundations and business institutes that work to change policies, but also in laboratories for experimenting with pedagogical forms and organization of educational work that have been installed in formal and non-formal education since the 2000s.

The fact that Todos Pela Educação can carry out tasks that replace part of the functions of the MEC only reflects the degree of equipment and private appropriation of the mechanisms of management and control of state education by business organizations. The problem is that the “nexus between MEC and Todos Pela Educação is not just temporary”, as Olinda Evangelista and Roberto Leher warned us in 2012.[vii] It has been a while since “the programmatic base of public education, historically a central point of party programs, became a business programmatic base” as Virgínia Fontes (2017) has already studied. Even the signing of the provisional measure that instituted the Reform is much more the result of advocacy[viii]business than the work of any government or party.

That the pen was given during the Michel Temer period makes it easier for non-transitory governments to wash their hands of their responsibility to clear the way for the decayed and scrapped structures of state education to be filled in by the work of private organizations. This occupation has expanded the business tentacles for years on end so that it began to organically compose the management of education, without, however, presenting itself as a plan for the reorganization of education, suppressing the possibility of political decision, and, to a large extent, eliminating the possibilities of clashes and clashes between education projects.

Todos Pela Educação was created in 2006 through a call from Holding Itaú-Unibanco. Its founding document contains the names of presidents of the most profitable companies and financial institutions in the country, as well as politicians and social rights activists. In the list of founding partners appears the name of the then Minister of Education and former investment analyst at Unibanco, Fernando Haddad – who even baptized his education plan “Commitment All for Education”. Todos Pela Educação is a non-profit civil society organization, but only where “civil society is the State and the latter is civil society” (Evangelista and Leher, 2012), or when we come to believe in a parallel reality in which there are companies that they abdicate the reason for their existence, which is profit, to act against the social inequalities that – as is obvious – sustain them.

3.

All who?[ix]

In the image above, the size of the logos refers to the different levels of investment of each company in Todos Pela Educação, which corresponds to the voting power of the decision-making processes of the direction of national education. The composition changes from time to time and entry and participation require donations of financial resources that make up a fund of the private organization. On its website, it is emphasized that Todos Pela Educação does not receive state investments, – “we are funded by private resources, not receiving any kind of public funding” –, which guarantees, in his words, “the necessary independence”[X].

However, the fact is omitted that each of the companies that compose it raises state resources through tax exemptions, partnerships, agreements with schools, teaching networks, secretariats and boards of education for the provision of services, projects and programs. . Its action combines changing the main lines of educational policy with practical action in an immense network of projects and programs capillarized in formal and non-formal education. The curve of transferring state income to the development of private programs with questionable effects for the production of educational quality is ascending, which involves the privatization of several dimensions of the educational relationship.

But this form of capturing state resources is complemented by another form of financing, in which business conglomerates support their “social work”, through the creation of endowment funds and investment in social programs. The entry of B3 Social – the social arm of the Stock Exchange – into Todos Pela Educação, in 2023, opens up the process of financialization of state education, not only because it becomes one of the financiers of educational “social businesses”, but also because it is one of the financial institutions that typifies social enterprises and regulates capital market negotiations. It is a network between companies that finance, execute or carry out both processes in hybrid private organizations that both work in the execution of their own programs and invest in projects of other social enterprises.

The new wave surfed by the business community dedicated to social work that until then we had identified as rights, is sustainability – that is to say, rent-seeking. The discourse of relieving the State with investments without profitable returns for the promotion of social rights is guided by the motto #EntreGanharDinheiroeChangeTheWorld #StayWithDois, expressed in the Artemisia logo[xi], a company that supports and accelerates the generation of “businesses with social impact” in the popular sectors of housing, food, health, energy, mobility, environment, etc. It is interesting to note that education only appears within the investment in employability, which has everything to do with the function of current education, divided from cultural and intellectual training. But what matters here is that, in fact, as the company's website says, "a new generation of businesses" is being created, based on changes in the financial market linked to the implementation of ESG strategies, an acronym in English for environmental, social and governance, three corporate “sustainability” criteria to attract investment.

The consolidation of this new regulation of the financial market strengthens the wide range of services offered by foundations and business institutes, and induces companies not yet focused on the “social” to create services, to the extent that it becomes the rule of the financial market. The long process of privatization moves towards the financialization of social services and indicates a more radical change in the organization of education.

The departure of the Ayrton Senna Institute (IAS) from Todos Pela Educação corresponds to the creation of its own endowment fund. This cash equity is invested in corporate securities and the proceeds finance social projects. At the same time, the Ayrton Senna Institute invites other companies to make their investments in the programs it coordinates – “Be part of this network and prioritize education in your ESG agenda”.[xii] Such cadres of “partners” should be seen for exactly what they are: platforms for investing in the financial assets of education.

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The change in presentation of Instituto Unibanco is also recent, which now declares itself to be “maintained by an endowment fund (endorsement)", which "guarantees strategic alignment and the free offer of services and products to education departments, schools, education professionals and students who participate in its projects".[xiii] Although the law that regulates such endowment funds for social investments is quite new (the Law 13.800, of 2019), since 2006, the TPE’s statute already states that among its sources of funds are associative contributions, as well as donations and grants that make up equity income, “including those arising from the application of the Equity Fund’s resources in the financial and capital market” .

In the name of defending the right to education for all, the business community transforms social services into financial assets, leaving education adrift of investments that can be profitable, in a new inequality between target audiences with absolutely absolute living conditions and productive or entrepreneurial insertion. different.

4.

Why has Itaú, Unibanco, the Lemann group, Vivo-Telefônica, Ifood and so many other companies dedicated themselves to defending integral education, the BNCC, curriculum flexibility, training itineraries, elective disciplines, the teaching of entrepreneurship, youth protagonism, the emphasis on professional and technical training, practical skills and socio-emotional skills to the detriment of disciplinary knowledge?

Each of the companies that make up Todos Pela Educação defends the Reform and comprehensive education programs not only because they command educational policy, but also because each of the elements that make up the New Middle School (NEM) corresponds to a niche of action in social impact businesses and corporate ESG strategies.

It is not possible to understand the so-called “education for all” in the context of the implementation of comprehensive education programs, which push thousands of young people who need to work to drop out, if we do not observe the programs that are being implemented by the business community in the educational system. For some time now, those who are at the forefront of reforms have proposed that schools become “attractive” for working youth. By making them productive units in which young people start to work during the school period[xiv], the taking of control of education is associated with the control of exploitation of the work of those seeking training.

Itaú Educação e Trabalho, created during the pandemic, for example, created models of entrepreneurial projects to be implemented within schools, which includes the proposal to create “pedagogical companies” so that students learn to work by working, during the school period in full-time schools. The publications of this institution[xv] describe numerous projects across Brazil, in which it plays a central role, together with other private organizations, in arranging work for young people in companies in one of the school shifts, young people who receive a scholarship or financial aid in exchange for precarious work.

Dropout caused by the implementation of full-time schools is also causing regular schools to become overcrowded and many more young people to drop out of high school. Of these, a part returns to the state education system, from the age of 18, seeking Youth and Adult Education (EJA) which, nevertheless, is scrapped and seriously underfunded.[xvi] Meanwhile, companies that exploit the work of couriers through apps to the limit, such as Ifood – which recently joined Todos Pela Educação – are elevated to the status of companies that provide social services.

In addition to various non-formal education programs[xvii], Ifood, in partnership with Descomplica, a distance education company, is offering its employees, or – as the company insists on putting it – the couriers who register on its platforms to offer delivery services, an EJA course in 3 months and only 2,5 hours a day for students to take the exam (Enceja), through which they have access to the high school certificate[xviii]. Labor rights are in the spotlight, but social impact investing is at the forefront, and companies are free to fulfill “their social role” by attracting investment and offering free services.

The diversification of educational social businesses is reflected in the distinction between modalities of youth education with greater or lesser profitability. The Lemann foundation, for example, not only invests in the privatization of schools, municipal education departments and staff training, but also in the creation of a non-formal education network of socio-educational projects, offered by NGOs in the Brazilian favelas, as is the case of the project by Eduardo Lyra, from Gerando Falcões[xx]. It is no coincidence that Todos Pela Educação dedicates itself to putting on the agenda and forwarding the law that a National Education System,[xx] which extends the notion of education systems to an interconnected network of formal and non-formal education. Full-time school education for the most “profitable” portion, followed by part-time schools, but also by the offer of education by companies and a wide network of non-formal and socio-educational education for the “non-profitable”.

Part of the solution for the “unemployables” of the throwaway society is to keep the “discouraged” youth busy in social pacification programs. Mozart Neves Ramos – once considered one of the most influential men in Brazil, who was almost minister of education at the beginning of the Bolsonaro government[xxx], who was also president of Todos Pela Educação and Consed (National Council of Secretaries of Education), leader of the IAS, as well as secretary of education of Pernambuco, member of the National Council of Education and who today is dedicated to placing foundations within the public university to control teacher training[xxiii] – considers that, in order to face the work crisis and the social violence linked to inequality, an educational offer is necessary that “goes both through quality formal education – for those who are in school – and through the provision of non-formal education for those who stopped dreaming of a prosperous life” (Ramos, 2019)

This segmentation of target audiences among students also appears in the fragmentation of the basic school teaching staff divided into numerous contract categories, one more precarious than the other. Subordination to corporate policy is disqualifying teaching work at all levels – the training and knowledge it holds, pedagogical autonomy, working conditions, political and collective decision-making processes, from which they are excluded. Student dropout is accompanied by the withdrawal and dismissal of workers in education who graduated from degrees, subjected to an excessive intensification of work. The situation of teacher deprofessionalization must be understood in the light of a reorganization in the division of educational work promoted by other businesses with social impact.

With the commitment of daughter companies of the Lemann Foundation, for example, platforms are being created for the selection and intermittent hiring of professors with notorious knowledge, that is, professionals with higher education, but laypersons in education. “Teach Brazil”[xxiii] is specializing in the selection of people who “want to change Brazil through education”, and who, full of good will and commitment, enroll in temporary hiring programs, to teach elective disciplines and life projects and undergo training in business “leaderships” in education, but receiving salaries from states and municipalities, forming new networks of professionals for a reconfigured labor market Likewise, another company born from the bowels of the Lemann Foundation, Vetor Brasil[xxv], which carries the motto “be the change you want in government”, uses the same selection, hiring and training process for education managers, in addition to several other “public” positions.

The disorganization with which the training itineraries were implemented in the state of São Paulo led to the rapid creation of a large market for teaching materials in the social network groups of male and female teachers, who sought support and help to cope with the task. Teachers of chemistry, mathematics, sociology, etc., with 5 classes of the subject for which he was trained and more than 20 classes of the training itineraries, with different and completely disparate themes, became the norm. Along with new models of work control, which involve posting plans, some teachers or small companies started to sell lesson plans. It is only a matter of time before this informal market of teaching materials is swallowed up by large corporations.

Just look at the Telefônica-Vivo Foundation website, for example, which through its program ThinkTech[xxiv] offers the sale of training itineraries for technicians and professionals in data science, Mathematical Language and its Technologies, Portuguese Language and its Technologies, in addition to programs for electives and life projects. Companies conducted the implementation of curriculum flexibility in a chaotic way to present the solution that is already ready and being marketed in some states.

It is a system that leads to the commodification of everything in a content production chain and provision of private education services. In fact, a production chain of businesses with a social impact that is subordinated to youth training and teaching work.

5.

Although the corporate educational policy has been hailed by the media as a “democratic alternative” to Bolsonarism, it subjects youth education to a naturalization of the competitive entrepreneurship of “human capital” that launches itself in a fierce struggle in search of resources to make its workforce profitable, in addition to allowing denialism and anti-intellectualism to grow among the youth.

That such elements characteristic of the extreme right are being promoted by the “progressive business community” is nothing paradoxical. Stripped of the disguises of the ideology of its propaganda, it only shows that for such companies what matters is the realization of its own function of class domination and reorganization of the services on which the opposing class depends, a project that places the control of education as a path strategic. The “sovereign company” takes steps towards the development of its “totalitarian democracy” (Bernardo, 2004), transforming every relationship – even the training process – into work or simulacrum of work, in order to impose that every educational relationship is the object of its management, either for exploitation or for the containment of social conflicts.

Therefore, it is necessary to subordinate the educational work to the massacre of the submission of the business management by discarding and by the absurd precariousness of the working conditions, imposing to the professors the exercise of the role of coaches who guide towards “life projects” or “workshops” who develop projects to include their students in the barbarism of work. All this in the midst of a complete reengineering of the educational system, increasingly guided by the voracity for more profitable income in the process of financialization of education, transformed into a business with social impact.

Our organization for the repeal of the Secondary Education Reform is a struggle in defense of teaching work and youth training, but it is also a chance for us to take politics as our subject and our weapon, by combating the corporate and financialized education policy that subordinates us as objects of its management.

A struggle that doesn't just take place on the streets, but in the daily life of schools, for the self-organization of student and teaching collectives, for the study and for the resumption of politics as a confrontation between antagonistic projects, which destroys this false business consensus and takes us away from from a purely defensive and reactive position. It is urgently necessary to stop the process of degradation of education, and this will only happen through organization and collective struggle.

* Carolina Catini is a professor at the Faculty of Education at the State University of Campinas (Unicamp).

Originally published on Boitempo's blog [https://blogdaboitempo.com.br/2023/03/21/a-reforma-do-ensino-medio-ea-nova-geracao-de-negocios/]

References


[I] See here: https://oglobo.globo.com/brasil/noticia/2023/02/aula-de-rpg-ou-de-cuidados-com-o-pet-professores-e-pais-criticam-disciplinas-inusitadas-do-novo-ensino-medio.ghtml

[ii] See here: https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/folha-social-mais/2022/09/ong-foi-mec-da-sociedade-civil-para-retomada-na-pandemia.shtml

[iii] Future-se was a proposal rejected by federal universities during the Bolsonaro government. Nevertheless, the implementation of endowment funds – the program's structural axis – was carried out in the state universities of São Paulo (USP, UNESP and UNICAMP). To see an analysis of this process, see https://diplomatique.org.br/o-future-se-nas-universidades-estaduais-paulistas/

[iv] Ricardo Musse suggested this critical scheme to reflect the situation of a “permanent unstable equilibrium” in charge of education in Bolsonaro’s Brazil. Cf. https://aterraeredonda.com.br/nota-sobre-a-educacao-no-governo-bolsonaro/.

[v] Fernando Bonadía (2022) presents this critique: https://aterraeredonda.com.br/mec-um-escandalo-historico/

[vi] Verse of the song “Nobody lives for me”, by Sérgio Sampaio.

[vii] At the time, the two authors recorded the attempt by the PT government to appoint a representative of “the organic intellectuals” of privatization, Claudia Costin, as the ministry's secretary of basic education. Just look at her resume (https://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cl%C3%A1udia_Costin) the reasons for the rejection and mobilization of the people of education, in view of which the government had to withdraw from the nomination.

[viii] Advocacy it's a nice name they give to the old lobby, activity to influence and change legislation.

[ix] See here: https://todospelaeducacao.org.br/quem-somos/transparencia/

[X] See here: https://todospelaeducacao.org.br/quem-somos/

[xi] See here: https://artemisia.org.br/

[xii] See here: https://institutoayrtonsenna.org.br/

[xiii] See here: https://www.institutounibanco.org.br/o-instituto/sobre-nos/

[xiv] See here: https://brasil.elpais.com/brasil/2018/02/22/politica/1519256346_754753.html. Pinheiro, M. “Brazil faces the battle to prosper in secondary education”. El País. São Paulo, 23/2/2018.

[xv] See here: See here: https://www.itaueducacaoetrabalho.org.br/biblioteca/publicacoes

[xvi]  See here: https://educacao.uol.com.br/noticias/2023/03/05/eja-ensino-medio-regular-jovens.htm

[xvii] See here: https://news.ifood.com.br/ifood-educacao/

[xviii] See here: https://parceiros.descomplica.com.br/ifood/meu-diploma

 [xix]See here: https://veja.abril.com.br/coluna/radar-economico/o-escolhido-de-jorge-paulo-lemann/ is here: https://gerandofalcoes.com/

[xx] See here: https://todospelaeducacao.org.br/noticias/o-que-e-sistema-nacional-de-educacao/

[xxx] Viviane Senna was invited by Bolsonaro, but sent Mozart Neves Ramos when he worked for the IAS. He participated in a Roda Viva program, expressing his desire to be employed in the Bolsonarist Ministry of Education. See here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyO40lWnibg&t=2391s

[xxiii] See here: https://sites.usp.br/iearp/catedra-do-instituto-ayrton-senna-na-usp-aborda-avaliacoes-educacionais/

[xxiii] See here: https://www.ensinabrasil.org.br/

[xxv] See here: https://www.vetorbrasil.org/

[xxiv] See here: https://www.fundacaotelefonicavivo.org.br/pense-grande-tech/


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