How to rephrase the guidelines

Image: ColeraAlegria


New Secondary Education has no patch, the answer is in the Federal Institutes

The most important theme of Brazilian education at the beginning of the Lula-Alckmin Government is the New Secondary School (NEM). It even became the subject of an interview with the President on PostTV 247, with him affirming his government's commitment that students and education professionals are truly heard in the reformulation of guidelines. And on Monday, April 3, the news emerged that the implementation will be suspended for the next 90 days, including the changes in ENEM 2024, a victory for students, researchers and mobilized education workers.

The NEM, also known as High School Reform, was approved and implemented by Provisional Measure, in the context of the coup process led by Michel Temer and, therefore, without a broad educational debate. Faced with this fact and the serious consequences of this policy, since the governmental transition, it is expected that the Lula-Alckmin Government will open a broad debate considering two possibilities: first, the repeal of the High School Reform (supported by the overwhelming majority of the educational community) and , second, the revision of the New Secondary School – a perspective defended by the formulators of the Reform who are close to Minister Camilo Santana and his executive secretary, Izolda Cela.

In 2023, after a year of implementation of the New Secondary School, this Reform imposed from the top down, disrupted the final stage of Basic Education, emptying student learning and precariousing the work of teachers.

However, in the face of criticism, there is an effort by the defenders (and formulators) of the Reform to defend the indefensible, highlighting supposed positive elements in the NEM. For example, there is not a single educator (or educator) in Brazil who is against increasing the school day. It is a fact, our country is one of the largest countries in the world, but it has one of the smallest school days. However, the New Secondary School actually reduces the working hours, because it establishes a maximum of 1800 hours for general education, representing a 25% reduction in the workload of science and school knowledge in the international and traditional curricula in Brazil. In addition, we have as fundamental the questioning about what work is developed in that extra time and with what objectives, who performs it and who profits from it.

The approval and implementation of the New Secondary School (NEM) was a process that completely overrode a long debate that was taking place and was coordinated by the Ministry of Education (MEC) during the Lula and Dilma administrations, involving education workers throughout Brazil.

It is noteworthy how the proposal was materialized in Congress and how much it was and is defended by characters who are foreign to the floor of Brazilian public schools, such as financial speculators, bankers and their associations and foundations that work in educational policies. At the time, the so-called secondary education reform was praised by the then president of the Central Bank, Ilan Goldfajn, as one of the government's economic intervention measures that generated optimism in the so-called market.[I]

The current Minister of Education Camilo Santana made two statements in an interview with the magazine Veja on 27/01/2023[ii] with whom it is necessary to dialogue:

“I think the idea has positive aspects — it increases the workload, makes room for vocational education and makes the curriculum more flexible, which can be an attraction for so many young people who are not interested in the classroom. But there are considerations that we need to observe: will poorer municipalities be able to make such a profound change?”.

And on reviewing the new high school, the minister says: “The fact is that neither this nor any other debate can be guided by an ideological filter, which ends up obscuring the vision. The best way is always to consult research and listen to what science says”.

Regarding the first, it should be noted that in Art. 10, of section IV of the LDB (Law 9394/1996) it is clear that the attribution of guaranteeing Secondary Education is primarily the responsibility of States,[iii] not municipalities, so your question would be up to the education systems of the Brazilian states.

But dealing with the positive points referred to by the Minister, it is possible to state: there is no flexibility, there is a breakdown in teaching, a weakening of the scientific knowledge to be offered to students, there is a break in the requirement for specific training to work in teaching and the organization to the satisfaction of the needs of companies or foundations that intend to sell poor quality education in packages for students or networks and educational systems on an industrial scale, providing training that is ideological and far from science – which we will call commodification.[iv]

This will be a teaching that is not very educational, in the sense of the formation that we defend, and a teaching in the formation of the neoliberal man, people who will believe in fanciful visions about meritocracy, the possibility of ignoring the organization of the exploitation system in which we live, racist, sexist, classist and structurally exclusionary.

Regarding students' lack of interest, this is undoubtedly a fundamental element of the process, because adolescents and young people see little or no interest in scientific knowledge and in school. But it can be seen that this problem was not only not resolved, but was aggravated by the New Secondary School and that the promise of being able to choose the training itineraries proved to be a lie, after all 55% of the municipalities have only one secondary school, which does not have structure nor to maintain the original model. That most of them offer a maximum of two options and that they are absolutely incapable, due to the lack of structure and trained people, to propose relevant and organized itineraries that are really capable of dialoguing with the needs and motivations of young people.

Regarding the suggested statement about scientific neutrality, it has already been debated and dismantled by science itself, which analyzes social phenomena such as education and the educational project of a nation in so many ways that it would not be possible to cite the countless existing scientific sources that demonstrate its impossibility. and nonexistence.

Lastly, and most importantly: we fully agree with the Minister when he refers to proposing for the network the model that has proven to be the most effective in training.

Although we do not consider that assessment tests are the main, much less the only reference in this analysis, given the complexity of the educational process in relation to the development of the individual and the social project with which it relates. We emphasize: even using only tests such as ENEM and PISA as a reference, we warn the minister that the model that the MEC must defend and offer as a reference to other education systems that operate and execute Secondary Education would never be the New Secondary Education, but should be the integrated technical secondary education proposed and implemented by the Network of Federal Institutes throughout Brazil.

Even after having gone through a process of political persecution and sabotage by the Temer and Bolsonaro governments, with deep cuts in discretionary funds, impediment of contests, defamation and persecution of workers and students, among others, this is still the network that shows the results more relevant and even impressive when we refer to Brazilian public education historically.

Citing only the last edition of PISA, we have to highlight the performance of students in this network, Brazil has a performance similar to that of the USA, above students from Spain and Portugal in Science and Reading and in all three areas analyzed (the third is Mathematics ) is above the OECD average, always above all other Latin American countries participating in the analysis and close to or slightly below (in previous assessments in some items including above) South Korea, Canada and Finland. Remembering that there is a policy of racial and social quotas in this network and at least 50% of students come from public schools and/or have a family income below 1,5 minimum wages per capita.

*Elenira Vilela Professor of Mathematics at the Federal Institute of Santa Catarina and General Coordinator of SINASEFE.

*Daniel Cara is a professor at the Faculty of Education at the University of São Paulo and a member of the Steering Committee of the National Campaign for the Right to Education.




[iii] According to the School Census “High School - The state network has the largest participation in secondary education, serving 6,6 million students (84,5%). It also contains the majority of public school students (96%). Next are the private networks, with around 935 students (12%), and the federal, with 229 enrollments (3%), respectively”. From which it can be deduced that less than 1% of high school students study in municipal schools. Available in

[iv] The use of the term commodification is due to the fact that it is a structural change and the market's view of education, not just continuing to commercialize a service that has been commodified for decades, perhaps centuries in the country. (Vilela, Nery, 2017. Available at

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