Future-se: The Siren's Song

Image: Elyeser Szturm

By Carlos Eduardo Araújo*

There is no doubt that the program presented by the MEC for the management of federal education is intended to pave the way for the privatization of public education, starting with higher education, taking all instances of Brazilian public education by storm.

On July 17, last year, the Ministry of Education presented what it called the “Program for Entrepreneurial and Innovative Institutes and Universities – Future-se”. As Carlos Montaño has already warned us: “Words today are more useful for hiding than revealing”. And he continues with his critical clairvoyance: “Combating this trap of the new language demands from the intellectual (and the militant) engaged with the “subaltern sectors” the astuteness of understanding the real meaning of the terms in the light of their insertion in the social totality, explaining their promoters , the interests they express, and those they hide, the contradictions and struggles they hide; must think the terms in the light of radical criticism” [1].

Montaño's perception, directed at the fallacious “Third Sector”, proves to be very appropriate for us to establish a critique based on the choice of the euphemism Future-se, the name of the Program that aims to initiate the privatization of our Higher Education Institutions. If the MEC were urged to take the “truth serum”, it would choose a term more consistent with its hidden purposes: Fature-se! Other terms are in transition from the scope of the Financial Market to their application in the scope of Higher Education, such as “entrepreneurship”, “governance”, “innovation”, “incubators and start-ups”, constituting a neoliberal “newspeak”, worthy of the best Orwell.

As Christian Laval observes “If the school is seen as a company operating in a market, the symbolic recomposition beyond the circles of liberal ideologues is mandatory: everything that concerns the school can be paraphrased in commercial language. The school is obliged to follow a marketing logic, it is invited to employ marketing techniques to attract customers, it has to innovate and expect an “image return” or financial return, it must sell itself and position itself in the market, etc” [2]. What is hidden under the “futuristic” word chosen by the MEC to name its project for the privatization of public higher education? Let's try to outline some possibilities in the lines that follow.

The Future-se program was launched in the midst of a pyrotechnics show, through a power-point, with brief and opaque words from the Minister of Education, who handed over the presentation of the Project to the Secretary of Higher Education of the MEC, Arnaldo Lima , in a meeting with Deans of IFES – Federal Institutions of Higher Education, as well as journalists, Secretaries of Education and parliamentarians. A presentation worthy of causing embarrassment to others, given the amateurism, lack of knowledge of the subject addressed, the superficiality of the approach and the demonstrated lack of preparation.

Days later, the MEC released a draft bill for the Program. The aforementioned document began to be studied in detail by universities, academic institutions, higher and technical education unions, lawyers, journalists and professors/researchers from different universities and regions of the country, for analysis and criticism, as well as for the positioning of the Federal Universities and of the Federal Institutes due to its novelty.

The conclusion reached by the IFES, practically unanimously, is that, among other serious problems, Future-se is an affront to several laws and the Federal Constitution, and also has, as an unconfessed and covert objective, the privatization of public schools , the suppression of university autonomy and the submission of Universities to the neoliberal logic of a Company. Upon joining FUTURE-SE, the Academic Community has the “captivating” opportunity to speculate in the market. We can already imagine IFES Deans and Professors looking for the best investment funds, presenting their glamorous innovative projects. As MEC's ​​Secretary of Higher Education, Arnaldo Lima, tells us: “We want to create an entrepreneurial culture and a systemic vision for all regions of the country and export them”.

The young and enthusiastic Arnaldo Lima beckons us with this enchanting promise: To increase the financial autonomy of higher education institutions, Future-se will have the Financial Autonomy Fund. “Today, R$ 1 billion is raised, which goes to the single account of the National Treasury and can be set aside. Future-se will allow these resources to go directly to federal institutions of higher education”. Thus, the IFES would have a “Multimarket Investment Fund”, composed of real estate investment funds and participation investment funds, with an investment policy to enhance the innovation environment and attract foreign investors to the country.

All this reminded me of the title of a book, with a Marxist and critical bias, by Roberto Schwarz: “Ideas out of place”. The book addresses the work of Machado de Assis, but I use the title here to point out the impropriety and irreconcilability between Public Education and the Financial Market. The application of the neoliberal grammar of the financial market to the educational system is shown to be inadequate.

On August 14 of last year, Dyelle Menezes, on the MEC Portal, says that “The program also provides for funding of more than R$ 100 billion. Half of the resources will come from the Union's assets. The rest comes from Constitutional Funds (R$ 33 billion), Tax Incentive Laws and demand deposits (R$ 17,7 billion) and Culture resources (R$ 1,2 billion). The values ​​can be accessed by junior companies, innovation agencies and technology parks.

MEC's ​​objective is to make part of this return be destined for universities and federal institutes, creating an entrepreneurial culture”. “Funding”? Financial return for Universities and Federal Institutes? Not tempting? Let us, however, act like Ulysses: let us listen to this mellifluous melody, sung by the neoliberal sirens, firmly tied to the mast of values ​​that govern the history of Public Universities in this country, which are an oasis for the production and dissemination of quality knowledge, a place of installed competences, reflection and expertise, resulting from its institutional tripod: Teaching, Research and Extension.

Future-se, according to the bill's summary, is a program subject to voluntary adherence. Therefore, after careful studies, reflections and diagnoses, it was rejected by all the Federal Public Institutions of Higher Education in the country.

In August of last year, the MEC published the following on its portal: “The program was launched by the MEC to promote greater financial autonomy in universities and federal institutes by encouraging the raising of own resources and entrepreneurship. Joining Future-se is voluntary. It is important to emphasize that the Union will maintain the resources destined to the institutions, whatever comes with the program will be an extra resource”. That's exactly what you understood: the MEC encouraging Public University Institutions to go to the “Market” to raise funds for themselves and to undertake as well. surreal!!

After making some changes to the Program, in the face of the barrage of criticism it suffered, MEC resubmitted it on the last January 03rd of the current year 2020, for reassessment by Higher Education Institutions. We understand that it is still doomed to a new and crushing rejection, since the essential objective remains intact, that is, the privatization of Public Federal Higher Education, with all the educational, cultural and social harms resulting therefrom.

As an illustration, from the average of the evaluations that the Higher Education Institutions reached, I reproduce an excerpt from the conclusions of the “Report” of the UFVJM – Federal University of the Jequitinhonha and Mucuri Valleys, in which the analyzes regarding the Future-se were recorded: “… on the disqualifications of the text of the Bill of Law, with regard to its textual-discursive-ideological and technical-legal scopes, characterizing it as a vague, poorly written, ambiguous, fragmented text, forged in order to promote confusion about objectives, functions and obligations between the institutions and instances mentioned therein, built with an initial speech with a positive appearance, but with articles that do the opposite of what is initially proposed about the autonomy of the IFES …”. And the report concludes with the following assertion: “Within a context of an extremely neoliberal government, what we have, finally, is the attempt to subject the IFES to a management totally focused on the private interest, at the same time that the government tries to exempt itself from the responsibility of promoting Public Higher Education” [3].

The Academic Communities, Universities and Federal Institutes, were surprised with a ready-made Program, without having, until the moment of its theatrical presentation, even knowledge that it was being conceived. All in line with authoritarianism and aversion to democratic practices, discussion, debate and dialogue, which characterize Bolsonaro’s misgovernment.

In a preliminary analysis of Future-se, the Academic Community of UFPel – Federal University of Pelotas states that: “MEC officially launched the Future-se Program for the media on July 17, 2019. According to information from the Secretary of Higher Education, the plan has been developed within the MEC for months. Strangely, the Federal Universities, the main stakeholders in the plan, did not participate in the elaboration of the proposal, were not invited to present considerations or suggestions and only found out about part of the plan, exactly 17 hours before its release to the media. This original flaw is extremely serious and unprecedented in the history of the MEC, at least after the 1988 Constitution” [4].

When proceeding with the analysis of the Future-se UFPR – Federal University of Paraná, it reached the same conclusions: “The open, plural and democratic dialogue is a basic institute of the IFES. It is through collective discussion, the sharing of opinions and proposals that decisions are legitimized, especially those that include significant changes in direction. However, although it proposes profound changes in the federal system of higher education, Future-se was presented to Brazilian society without prior knowledge of the IFES or any debate with representatives of universities and federal institutes” [5].

Despite this, the IFES did what they know how to do best: they studied and detailed the Program, unraveled and detailed it and stopped to analyze the ill-fated Program point by point. In a short time, in August 2019, less than a month after the Future-se presentation, several Universities had already debated and discussed it and, as a result of their insightful analyses, presented detailed and in-depth dossiers on the subject. They were able to use skills acquired after decades of study and dedication to knowledge. They presented the results of their reflections, through the aforementioned dossiers, in which they recorded their considerations, considerations, verifications and conclusions, which left no stone unturned in the unfortunate Program.

Among other problems, they concluded that Future-se is a Program riddled with a hundred number of irregularities and inconsistencies, in addition to being made up of impressive fragmentation, vagueness and superficiality. They also concluded that Future-se adopts an eminently economic bias to deal with the future of Federal Universities, failing to consider the central issues related to the pillars of the University: teaching, research and extension. It is a prize for unpreparedness, incompetence and stupidity, already so common and known in this Bolsonaro mismanagement.

The team chosen by President Bolsonaro is made up of prosaic men and women, some more crude and silly than others, with shallow, narrow and dwarfed ideas, when not riddled with medieval prejudices and devoid, all of them, of the qualifications that should guide the leadership of a nation. One of the most grotesque, inept and incompetent figures on government staff is precisely the Minister of Education Abraham Weintraub or would it be more appropriate to designate him as the Minister of Miseducation?

The Bolsonaro misgovernment team has been notable for its notorious and indecorous technical, cultural, intellectual and, in some cases, even moral lack of preparation. They are devoid of personal characteristics that would enable them to fully exercise their functions. In a long report, published on January 02nd, the British newspaper The Guardian lists figures of his mismanagement, considered unfit for the position they occupy and even being considered dangerous. “Say what you want about Bolsonaro, but it is necessary to recognize his rare talent in choosing the most unqualified, lunatic and/or dangerous people for jobs”, commented one of the interviewees, journalist Mauro Ventura.

Perhaps, as a society, we are not realizing the disastrous effects of the Future-se Program for the future of our public higher education, which must keep the commitment to quality and free education. The mainstream media, an ally and partner of the financial market, makes its contribution to make Brazilian society as a whole believe that the Program will bring gains and improvements to public education. For the rest, they follow the script of what they have already done with regard to the harmful and iniquitous “Labor Reform” and “Social Security Reform”, sold as beneficial to workers and retirees.

Our Public Universities constitute a tangible and intangible heritage of the Brazilian people. We were late in establishing them on the South American continent and, with the designated Program, we are already on the way to suppressing them as public property. The consequences of implementing Future-se will be disastrous and will cause losses, whose reversal, in the future, will be difficult or almost impossible. The Program, as already mentioned, aims to promote the privatization of our public higher education which, despite the historic lack of resources available to it, has built a successful history of success and recognition, both domestically and abroad. It is enough to focus on public data to verify that, contrary to what the presidential fool has already said, it is in the Public Universities that teaching, research and extension take place, with much higher quality compared to the Private ones.

The Trojan Horse of the Future-se are the SO – Social Organizations, which make up the so-called “Third Sector”, in view of which the IFES should sign a “Management Contract”. They are Legal Entities of Private Law, created at the beginning of the neoliberal government of FHC, in a scenario of dismantling of the State and the promotion of toucan privataria. Era FHC plowed the land to receive the seeds of neoliberalism, creating the juridical-legal and institutional conditions for a plentiful harvest in the near future. Neoliberal plans were forced to hibernate during the PT governments, but they woke up with great appetite and voracity in Temer’s coup government and deepened their pantagruelic hunger in Bolsonaro’s misgovernment.

Social Organizations were created through Law 9.637, of May 15, 1998. They resulted from the “Master Plan for State Reform”, launched by the Federal Executive Branch in 1995, at the beginning of the Presidency of Fernando Henrique Cardoso. It can be said that it was a proposal for the pragmatic reconstruction of the State, from a liberal perspective, seeking to “make it lean”, focused on the market.

It is Carlos Montaño who alerts us to the siren song of the aforementioned “Third Sector”: “But this (ideological) term hides a (political) project. The term “Third Sector”, in addition to its ideological mystification, hides a social project: the project, existing in the neoliberal program, which articulates the various subprojects inserted in the ideology of self-responsibility of individuals and the State's lack of responsibility, aiming to relieve capital. Thus, this ideology materializes in the “Third Sector” Projects.

According to Montaño: “…many of them are explicitly proposed by the World Bank, the IMF, neoliberal governments, transnational capitalist corporations”. And Montaño concludes: “So, to continue on the trail of the epic of Ulysses, related by Homer n'The Iliad in'The Odyssey, the charms of these projects, disguised in their language coming from the left, with their progressive appearance, but so in the taste of postmodern rationality and so functional to neoliberalism, have operated as a true “Trojan Horse” [6]. Thus, the projects involving the ill-fated Third Sector are true “Trojan horses”, which, unscathed and strong, make the values, interests, worldviews of the great neoliberal bourgeoisie in the core of our public education and in Brazilian society. , as a whole.

Montãno makes clear the importance of the ideological role that the third sector plays in the implementation of neoliberal policies and its harmony with the post-70 capital restructuring process. relationship between capital and labor. As Montaño says: “Today, in the middle of the XNUMXst century, the Sirens continue to sing and enchant, seducing and luring even to the abyss those who listen helplessly to their songs. These voices echo in the ears, but they are not music or melodies. These are words and projects that seduce and attract today's sailors, directing them in an already marked path”.

Is it reasonable to introduce a “Legal Entity of Private Law” as an intermediary between the State and Higher Education Institutions for the management of public and private resources, which reach very high sums? The IFES themselves have been doing this very well for decades. The OS are constituted and remain exempt from following the same constitutional boundaries as the public sector, such as holding a public tender to train staff, bidding for the acquisition of products and services, in addition to being released from commitments to the values ​​of equity. According to Future-se they will even be able to hire teachers, according to the CLT regime, compromising the health and stability of the public service developed by the IFES. Very serious all this!

In the first version of Future-se, the support foundations were completely disregarded in the Bill, which led to numerous criticisms, since they, for a long time, carried out the objectives and functions that the Program started to confer on the OS. according to Law nº 8.958/1994, the support foundations already have the competence, through agreements and contracts with the IFES, to support the carrying out of teaching, research, extension, institutional, scientific and technological development projects and to stimulate the innovation, including the administrative and financial management necessary for the execution of these projects.

It sounds at least strange, therefore, that another entity governed by private law (the OS) should be given attributions that the support foundations already have and exercise, with no reasons given to justify such replacement. Over the years, foundations have improved their support to Science and Technology Institutions (ICTs), having accumulated experience and demonstrated efficiency in providing these services. In the face of well-founded criticism of the role, until then exclusive to OS in Future-se, the draft of a new Bill was released by the MEC, which now contemplates the possibility of hiring foundations to play the role that, in fact, have been practicing for some time. However, the possibility of contracting OS, that egg of the neoliberal serpent, was not removed from the Program.

We have no hesitation in saying that Future-se is a great and shameless decoy, whose main purpose is to pave the way for the privatization of our public education, starting with higher education, taking all instances of Brazilian public education by storm. It is a “China business”, considering the millions of Brazilians sheltered by the public educational system and the astronomical amounts of resources that are moved.

Let us, however, do justice to Jair Bolsonaro's mismanagement: he cannot be accused of originality. The Future-se Program is part of a broader and internationalized neoliberal project for the privatization of public education, which extends its tentacles around the world. Therefore, the Bolsonaro misgovernment remains subservient to the program of global neoliberalism.

This is the conclusion drawn from the studies that the French sociologist Christian Laval has been carrying out for several years: “… in the new educational order that has been taking shape, the educational system serves economic competitiveness, is structured as a market and must be managed as a company”. In another excerpt from his precious book The school is not a company”, published in France in 2003 and in Brazil by Editora Boitempo, in 2019, asserts that: “The fundamental character of the new educational order is linked to the progressive loss of school autonomy, accompanied by an appreciation of the company, which is elevated to ideal normative” [7].

Afrânio Catani, in a presentation to the Brazilian edition of the instigating and critical study by Christian Laval on public schooling in neoliberal times, informs us that Laval used, in order to reach the conclusions he reached, a set of official documents on education of entities such as the Commission of the European Community, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the World Bank and the International Labor Organization (ILO), as well as a vast bibliography on educational policy in France and in other countries. From this, Laval assembles an “intelligibility framework”, showing how the promoters of school neoliberalism operate through an incremental strategy that promotes changes in the education system with isolated measures in specific areas that only make sense when related to each other. Education ceases to be a common, public good and increasingly acquires the character of a commodity, a tradable private good, suffering the constraints of business logic in terms of management and results.

As Laval asserts: “The new school and educational model that tends to be imposed is based, in the first place, on a more direct subjection of the school to economic reason. It is linked to an apparently simplistic economism, whose main axiom is that institutions in general and schools in particular only make sense based on the service they must provide to companies and the economy. The “flexible man” and the “autonomous worker” are the references of the new pedagogical ideal” [8].

In the preface to the second Brazilian edition of his book, Laval denounces the high level of intervention by Private Education Institutions in the context of Brazilian education: “We can even say that Brazil arrived earlier than other countries at the stage of “school and university capitalism”. ”, characterized by the direct and massive intervention of capital in education. We verified this fact by the expansion of giant companies, such as the holding Croton, which, as far as I know, has more than 1,5 million students and almost 40 employees, and is present in almost all sectors of education, both basic and preparatory and professional. In general, the notable growth of private higher education in Brazil over the last twenty years, under the domination of large oligopolies listed on the stock exchange (Kroton, Estácio, Anhanguera, etc.), makes the country unique in the world. And the orientation of the current government threatens to further accelerate this capitalist domination in schools and universities, especially through the development of private distance learning” [9].

In the initially presented version of the Future-se is collected in Chapter II, whose openly marketing denomination is “On Management, On Governance and Entrepreneurship”, in Section I (On Governance), in Art. 11, in item “V”, the following: “adherence, where appropriate, to self-regulation codes recognized by the market”.

In the most up-to-date version of Future-se, we took the following from the draft (articles 3, XV and XVI): XV – Fundo Patrimonial do Future-se (FP-Future-se): set of privately owned assets instituted, managed and managed by the equity fund management organization, with the aim of constituting a source of long-term funds, based on the preservation of the principal and the application of its earnings; and XVI – Sovereign Fund of Knowledge (FSC): specific investment fund, multimarket, constituted from the payment of several financial assets, including real estate, with the purpose of generating income for allocation in actions to strengthen the program, thus understood. Newspeak of the neoliberal market. No need to be more explicit!!!

The “White Paper of the Commission of the European Communities” summarizes well this trend towards the increasing privatization of public education: “There is consensus among Member States on the need for greater involvement of the private sector in education systems and/or professional training and in the formulation of education and training policies to meet the needs of the market and local circumstances, for example, in the form of encouraging companies to collaborate with the education and training system and the incorporation of continuing training in the strategic plans of companies” [10 ].

It is necessary to remember that research on Higher Education in Brazil has demonstrated the efforts of governments and economic agents to “adjust” Brazilian universities to the recommendations of international organizations such as the World Bank. According to Olgaíses Cabral Maues: “The changes that have been taking place in higher education institutions have changed their purposes, objectives, mission, forms of management, financing and evaluation. There is a great concern to bring Brazilian institutions closer to the internationalization model designed by international organizations, whose central objectives can lead to a privatization of knowledge, through the constitution of a knowledge that is focused on the valorization of capital” [11].

Neoliberalism, as denounced by Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval [12] in their seminal work on neoliberalism, the New reason for the world: essays on neoliberal society (Boitempo), it is not just an ideology, a type of economic policy. It is a normative system that has extended its influence to the entire world, extending the logic of capital to all social relations and all spheres of life. Thus, the sphere of education could not, unfortunately for all of us, leave this “new reason for the world” unscathed.

According to Laval “The ideology of the free market found the United States and England as the classic terrain of application, before spreading throughout the world. Ronald Reagan, in his 1980 election program, promised to deregulate public education, extinguish the Federal Department of Education and put an end to busing (school miscegenation). Schools would become for-profit enterprises, as market efficiency would improve access to education and the quality of teaching, freeing them from the burden of bureaucratic regulations and unions” [13]. We underlined. As Laval has already noted, in Brazil, neoliberalism in education is massively present at various educational levels, with the emergence of large groups from the 90s of the last century. Now, with Future-se, the aim is to fulfill Reagan's plan for the USA, transforming Brazilian Universities into for-profit companies.

Future-se, contrary to the pompous and euphemistic nickname, represents a delay in the project of building a knowledge society, which is plural, inclusive, democratic and public, with free quality education. It proposes to win already won battles, since much of what it advocates as a luminous novelty is more like “a museum of great novelties”, since it has been part of the daily life of Higher Education Institutions for a long time, consolidated by an experience and an expertise already settled.

We understand that it is necessary to discuss and new forms of financing and investments in our so important public education. However, it does not seem desirable that such financing and investments come from the private sector, due to all the inconveniences that would result. Nor does it seem reasonable to us to propose a Program that radically changes the administrative and financial management of the IFES without the academic community and organized civil society giving their share of contribution in the formulation of such a program.

As the UFVJM concludes, in its Report: “Therefore, the Future-se constitutes the continuity of the minimization of the state. The focus on Public Universities and federal public higher education institutions reveals the State's disengagement from equity and affirmative policies of law, as it excludes and omits throughout its text any intention to guarantee student welfare policies. Via omission and exclusion in the text of student social assistance, the elitist role that historically marks higher education in Brazil is reaffirmed” [14].

*Carlos Eduardo Araujo He is a university professor and Master in Theory of Law at PUC-SP.


[1] MONTAÑO, Carlos. O CANTO DA SEREIA: critique of the ideology and projects of the “Third Sector”. Carlos Montaño (Org.). Cortez, 2014.

[2] LAVAL, Christian. The School is not a Company: Neoliberalism in attack on Public Education. Boitime, 2019.

[3] UFVJM report. In: Dossier on the FUTURE-SE Program of the Government/MEC and its Implications for the University and Society. August/2019. Available in https://gtfuturese.paginas.ufsc.br/files/2019/08/Dossie%CC%82-FUTURE-SE-ufba.pdf. Accessed on: 06 Jan. 2020.

[4] FUTURE-SE: a preliminary analysis of the administration of the Federal University of Pelotas. In: Dossier on the FUTURE-SE Program of the Government/MEC and its Implications for the University and Society. August/2019. Available in https://gtfuturese.paginas.ufsc.br/files/2019/08/Dossie%CC%82-FUTURE-SE-ufba.pdf. Accessed on: 06 Jan. 2020.

[5] Analysis, Reflections and Questions About the Bill for the FUTURE-SE Program. August/2019. Available in https://www.ufpr.br/portalufpr/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/UFPR-FUTURE-SE.pdf. Accessed on: 06 Jan. 2020.

[6] MONTAÑO, Carlos. O CANTO DA SEREIA: critique of the ideology and projects of the “Third Sector”. Carlos Montaño (Org.). Cortez, 2014.

[7] LAVAL, Christian. The School is not a Company: Neoliberalism in attack on Public Education. Boitime, 2019.

[8] LAVAL, Christian. The School is not a Company: Neoliberalism in attack on Public Education. Boitime, 2019.

[9] LAVAL, Christian. The School is not a Company: Neoliberalism in attack on Public Education. Boitime, 2019.

[10] LAVAL, Christian. The School is not a Company: Neoliberalism in attack on Public Education. Boitime, 2019.

[11] MAUÉS, Olgaíses Cabral. Higher education from the perspective of international organizations. In: Dossier on the FUTURE-SE Program of the Government/MEC and its Implications for the University and Society. August/2019. Available in https://gtfuturese.paginas.ufsc.br/files/2019/08/Dossie%CC%82-FUTURE-SE-ufba.pdf. Accessed on: 06 Jan. 2020.

[12] DARDOT, Pierre and LAVAL, Christian. The New Reason of the World: Essay on Neoliberal Society. Boitempo, 2016.

[13] LAVAL, Christian. The School is not a Company: Neoliberalism in attack on Public Education. Boitime, 2019.

[14] UFVJM report. In: Dossier on the FUTURE-SE Program of the Government/MEC and its Implications for the University and Society. August/2019. Available in https://gtfuturese.paginas.ufsc.br/files/2019/08/Dossie%CC%82-FUTURE-SE-ufba.pdf. Accessed on: 06 Jan. 2020.

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