Education – an insufficient evolution



With the victory of brute force and an extreme liberal project, there is no way to expect a more promising horizon

The evolution of Brazilian education over the last 50 or 60 years, at least with regard to quantitative indicators, has been very significant. Around 1970, 80% of children left school before completing eight years of schooling (corresponding to the end of the old high school). As today, those prematurely excluded were the poorest: at that time, completing the old high school was something common only in the lives of the 20% with the highest incomes. Today, the dropout rate before elementary school is below 30%, a nice reduction compared to the 80% of half a century ago, although the excluded continue to be the poorest.

Completing high school, just over half a century ago, was achieved by one in ten young people. The others would go on with their lives without this educational level. Currently, about half of young people complete this school level, a remarkable growth. The evolution of higher education has not been less significant: today, one in four or five people complete this educational level, against one in 25 50 years ago.

All these data show a significant evolution of our educational system. But was it enough?

No. Brazil has never been an exemplary country with regard to educational development. In all indicators – from the illiteracy rate to the rate of inclusion in higher education – we have always occupied a poor position among South American countries over the last few decades. Currently, our adult illiteracy rate is the second or third worst in this group of countries, according to systematized data released by Unesco,[1] just better than Guyana and practically equal to Bolivia.

Our less bad educational indicators, such as inclusion in higher education or the population's expected number of years of schooling, also place us in a position below most of our neighbors. But even these less bad indicators come with a high price, as it is a result of the country's enormous economic inequalities, combining a large contingent of severely undereducated people in the most economically disadvantaged sectors with a small, well-educated group in the better-off sectors, exacerbating inequalities of the country and projecting them into the future.

There were periods in which some optimism was possible, not exactly observing what was happening, but imagining that those small advances could be positive signs revealing a more interesting scenario in the future. Unfortunately, with the brute force victory of an extreme liberal project and with the current occupant of the Presidency of the Republic (in early September 2021), there is no longer any way to look for a more promising horizon.

If we want to reverse the perspective of a future of backwardness, ignorance, denialism and superstition, we must dedicate ourselves to the task of changing the educational reality and denouncing not only this situation, but also the economically dominant groups that support it and that support the current situation. government. Once this is done, it is enough to build a good quality and non-excludable educational system. Hard, isn't it? But much more difficult the future will be if we don't do it now.

*Otaviano Helene is a senior professor at the Institute of Physics at USP, former president of Adusp and INEP. Author, among other books, of A Diagnosis of Brazilian Education and its Financing (Associated Authors).


[1] Persons aged fifteen and over. Source:

See this link for all articles


  • About artificial ignoranceEugenio Bucci 15/06/2024 By EUGÊNIO BUCCI: Today, ignorance is not an uninhabited house, devoid of ideas, but a building full of disjointed nonsense, a goo of heavy density that occupies every space
  • Franz Kafka, libertarian spiritFranz Kafka, libertarian spirit 13/06/2024 By MICHAEL LÖWY: Notes on the occasion of the centenary of the death of the Czech writer
  • The society of dead historyclassroom similar to the one in usp history 16/06/2024 By ANTONIO SIMPLICIO DE ALMEIDA NETO: The subject of history was inserted into a generic area called Applied Human and Social Sciences and, finally, disappeared into the curricular drain
  • Impasses and solutions for the political momentjose dirceu 12/06/2024 By JOSÉ DIRCEU: The development program must be the basis of a political commitment from the democratic front
  • Strengthen PROIFESclassroom 54mf 15/06/2024 By GIL VICENTE REIS DE FIGUEIREDO: The attempt to cancel PROIFES and, at the same time, turn a blind eye to the errors of ANDES management is a disservice to the construction of a new representation scenario
  • Introduction to “Capital” by Karl Marxred triangular culture 02/06/2024 By ELEUTÉRIO FS PRADO: Commentary on the book by Michael Heinrich
  • Hélio Pellegrino, 100 years oldHelio Pellegrino 14/06/2024 By FERNANDA CANAVÊZ & FERNANDA PACHECO-FERREIRA: In the vast elaboration of the psychoanalyst and writer, there is still an aspect little explored: the class struggle in psychoanalysis
  • The strike at federal Universities and Institutescorridor glazing 01/06/2024 By ROBERTO LEHER: The government disconnects from its effective social base by removing those who fought against Jair Bolsonaro from the political table
  • Volodymyr Zelensky's trapstar wars 15/06/2024 By HUGO DIONÍSIO: Whether Zelensky gets his glass full – the US entry into the war – or his glass half full – Europe’s entry into the war – either solution is devastating for our lives
  • PEC-65: independence or patrimonialism in the Central Bank?Campos Neto Trojan Horse 17/06/2024 By PEDRO PAULO ZAHLUTH BASTOS: What Roberto Campos Neto proposes is the constitutional amendment of free lunch for the future elite of the Central Bank