Federal Institutes: fifteen years of advances and contradictions

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Tensions between achieving citizenship and capitalist interests in Federal Institutes

Federal institutes, created five years ago, formed from the structures of the former Federal Centers for Technological Education (CEFET) and other federal technical education institutions, have been the main policy regarding the provision of public professional education in Brazil . Created through law 11892, of December 29, 2008, these institutions have among their objectives the training of workers, through professional qualification, offering courses in different teaching modalities. The Federal Network of Professional, Scientific and Technological Education, formed by 38 Federal Institutes, 2 CEFETs and other public institutions, is distributed across 661 campuses, located in 578 municipalities, offering around 12 thousand courses throughout Brazil. In government speeches and documents, this qualification and, consequently, the insertion of this workforce into the market would be examples of the achievement of a certain citizenship by the working class.

The discourse of worker citizenship is fundamentally based on a positivist conception of integration of the workforce into the productive sphere, promoted by the State. The role of education, in this case, involves helping these workers to integrate into the production process and contribute to the development of society. To this end, federal institutes seek to respond to local economic demands, or, in other words, as can be seen in official speeches, the so-called local productive arrangements (APL). With this, the alleged achievement of citizenship by these workers involves technical training for work with a view to responding to the interests of capitalists in each city or region in which the campuses of federal institutes are located.

For the most part, the vacancies offered at federal institutes are aimed at secondary-level technical courses or higher technology courses. These courses aim to form a workforce that, in the production process, finds itself in an intermediate position, serving as spokesperson and decoder of the determinations coming from the company's management. In the current configuration of the division of labor, these professionals perform the function of coordination and supervision, directly controlling the work of those who carry out execution tasks.

In capitalist society, where science and technology are intrinsically linked to production, the division of labor reaches a great degree of fractionation, in which “not even workers can anymore handle tasks that are not those strictly delimited for execution, nor is it worth It is worthwhile, from a business point of view, to hire an engineer for functions that do not require this level of qualification”.[I] To reduce this fractionation, with a view to articulating the act of planning and the act of executing, it is up to the technician, “mastering elements, at the same time, of manual work and intellectual work, to serve as a point of connection between these and, in this way, , contribute to the more effective application of the contributions of science and administration”.[ii]

The commitment of professional education, in general, and federal institutes, in particular, to the logic of capital becomes more evident when analyzing their specific legislation. As stated in the law that created the federal institutes, these institutions have the purpose, among others, “to guide their training offer towards the benefit of consolidating and strengthening local productive, social and cultural arrangements, identified based on mapping the potential for socioeconomic development and cultural within the scope of the Federal Institute’s activities”.[iii] In this logic, in addition to teaching aimed at the immediate interests of local capitalists, research, extension and innovation actions must respond to regional economic demands.

The concept of local arrangements, in its different dimensions provided for by law, was one of the foundations of policies related to the expansion of federal institutes. These productive arrangements can be understood as “agglomerations of companies located in the same territory, which present productive specializations and maintain some link of articulation, interaction, cooperation and learning among themselves and with other local actors”, including different companies and institutions, such as “ specialized suppliers, universities, trade associations, government institutions and other organizations that provide education, information, knowledge and/or technical support”.[iv]

Therefore, when seeking to respond to the demands presented by local business groups, federal institutes place their scope at the service of the interests of capitalists in the regions where the institutions' campuses are located. If taken into account from the point of view of the workforce, it is being qualified to meet the immediate economic needs of capitalists, and there is, therefore, despite official speeches, no prospects for gaining citizenship or even professional satisfaction. This search for citizenship associated with work was evidenced in a document that defined the guidelines for professional education at a technical level, when it stated: “Secondary Level Technical Professional Education courses aim to provide the student with the knowledge, knowledge and professional skills necessary to exercise professional and citizenship”.[v]

From this perspective, professional knowledge and practice are directly associated with the ideology of achieving citizenship. This is understood, in the context of professional education, “as the act of man constituting himself as a man among other men and as a man who, with others, builds the human, material and symbolic world in which he exists”.[vi] In this conception, “to become a citizen is to assume the protagonist of the historical process”, fighting “for your country, your city, for the neighborhood where you are, participating politically in life, not accepting losing achievements already made, charging a decent salary for what you do , demands justice for oneself and others.”[vii] It can be seen that in this conception only political and civil rights are emphasized, that is, citizenship is reduced to the conquest of spaces within liberal democracy, built from the end of the XNUMXth century.

This conception, therefore, ignores the structural class antagonism of capitalist society and how it determines different political and social rights. This idea of ​​citizenship is marked by economic inequalities, since Antiquity, where “the main economic-social separation, between free men and slaves, was clearly and directly reflected in the definition of the condition of political citizenship”.[viii] In capitalism, the economic-social separation is hidden in discourses of equality and reforms of the political and economic system. But, as can be seen from the economic-social dynamics itself, “the battle for the widespread extension of social citizenship cannot exist without the radical change in government economic policy”, or, more precisely, “the universalization of social rights extended to the point of eradication of poverty would require radical economic policy that would affect private capitalist interests.”[ix]

In the documents that underpinned professional education over the last fifteen years, it is clear how deeply rooted the rhetoric of citizenship is. In a text that discusses the conceptions behind the creation of federal institutes, it is stated that professional education is considered “a strategic factor not only in understanding the need for national development, but also as a factor in strengthening the process of citizenship inclusion for millions of Brazilians ”.[X] According to the document, it is a “progressive project”, where education is understood “as a commitment to transform and enrich objective knowledge capable of modifying social life and giving it greater meaning and scope in the set of experience human, a proposal incompatible with a conservative vision of society. It is, therefore, a strategy of political action and social transformation.”[xi]

It can be seen, therefore, that the widespread conception of professional education states that it is a factor of social transformation, based on the search for citizenship, summarized as the achievement of employment and salary, determining factors in this supposed social emancipation. Federal institutes, thus, become spaces where those who are supposedly “excluded” are received, so that, through the provision of quick professional qualification courses, they can “include” them in society through the insertion of this extremely diverse workforce. cheap in the sphere of production. In this way, the State, through public education, collaborates with the process of reproduction of capital, by assuming as one of its responsibilities not only the basic professional qualification of the worker but also mediation with local and regional capitalists.

Therefore, even though federal institutes present in their speeches as contributing to social transformation, they do not include overcoming capitalism within their scope. Its social change project refers to a better insertion of the workforce in the process of production and reproduction of capital, presenting the rhetoric of citizenship and social progress. In these speeches, the revolution and the overcoming of capitalism are far from being the only forms of effective rupture and radical transformation of society.

*Michel Goulart da Silva He holds a PhD in history from the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC) and a technical-administrative degree from the Federal Institute of Santa Catarina (IFC).


[I] MACHADO, Lucília de Souza. Education and social division of labor. 2nd ed. São Paulo: Cortez, 1989, p. 80.

[ii] MACHADO, Lucília de Souza. Education and social division of labor. 2nd ed. São Paulo: Cortez, 1989, p. 81.

[iii] BRAZIL. Law No. 11892, of December 29, 2008.

[iv] MATTIODA, Eliana. Successful APLs: case study of three Local Production Arrangements in Rio Grande do Sul. São Paulo: Blucher Acadêmico, 2011, p. 42.

[v] BRAZIL. Ministry of Education. CNE/CEB. Resolution No. 6, of September 20, 2012.

[vi] PACHECO, Eliezer; MORIGI, Valter. Introduction. In: ______. Technical education, professional training and citizenship. Porto Alegre: Tekne, 2012, p. 10.

[vii] PACHECO, Eliezer; MORIGI, Valter. Introduction. In: ______. Technical education, professional training and citizenship. Porto Alegre: Tekne, 2012, p. 10.

[viii] WELMOWICKI, José. Citizenship or class? The labor movement of the 80s. São Paulo: Instituto José Luís e Rosa Sundermann, 2004, p. 19.

[ix] WELMOWICKI, José. Citizenship or class? The labor movement of the 80s. São Paulo: Instituto José Luís e Rosa Sundermann, 2004, p. 33.

[X] BRAZIL. Federal Institute of Education, Science and Technology: A new model for professional and technological education: Conceptions and guidelines: Brasília: MEC/SETEC, 2008, p. 18.

[xi] BRAZIL. Federal Institute of Education, Science and Technology: A new model for professional and technological education: Conceptions and guidelines: Brasília: MEC/SETEC, 2008, p. 18.

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