Education – an insufficient evolution

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By OTAVIANO HELENE*

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).

Note


[1] Persons aged fifteen and over. Source: http://data.uis.unesco.org.

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