Does Brazil “spend” a lot on education?

Image: Elyeser Szturm

By Nelson Cardoso Amaral*

The assertion that Brazil spends a lot on education is disseminated by all those who want to reduce public resources allocated to education in Brazil. The very use of the term “expenditure” explains the underlying thought: the idea that expenditure on education constitutes an unnecessary investment, perhaps a waste of public resources.

This assessment is expressed in the affirmation – reiterated and widely echoed – by the current Minister of Education, Abraham Weintraub, who says: “we spend like the rich and have results like the poor” (The Globe, 04/08/2019)) and in the World Bank (WB) document when it proclaims, in the same direction, that “in 2014, after a decade of rapid growth, education expenditures reached 6% of GDP. In 2010, spending on education in Brazil was higher than the average of OECD countries (5,5%), BRICS (5,1%) and Latin America (4,6%)”.

In this document, the World Bank commits a conceptual error (deliberate?) by confusing the number that expresses a percentage of the country's GDP with “spending on education in Brazil”. This led him to an unproven inference and an absurd conclusion, that is, that “spending on education in Brazil was higher than the average for OECD countries”.

Table 01, constructed with data obtained from the American Intelligence Agency (CIA), shows the values ​​applied per person from 0 to 24 years old (educational age), in OECD member countries.

Graph 1 illustrates the values ​​applied in OECD member countries and in Brazil, per person aged 0 to 24, placed in descending order.

Norway is the country that disburses the highest amount, US$/PPP 17.762,88, per person from 0 to 24 years old (educational age); Brazil and Mexico are the countries in the chart that spend the lowest amounts, US$/PPP 2.525,48 and US$/PPP 2.313,02, respectively.

The misunderstanding stems from a primary mathematical error: despite having a GDP of US$/PPP 3.240 billion and allocating the equivalent of 6,2% of GDP to education, the number of children and young people aged 0 to 24 years is very large, 79.737.743 people, which results in US$/PPP 2.525.48 invested per person in this age group. South Korea, for example, has a smaller GDP of US$/PPP 2.035 billion, invests the equivalent of 5,3% of GDP in education, a little less than the percentage invested by Brazil, but since it has only 12.967.644 .0 people aged between 24 and 8.317,24 years, the final result is the disbursement of US$/PPP XNUMX per person.

By spending such small amounts, compared to those disbursed by “rich” countries, the National Education Plan (PNE) for the 2014-2024 period – a law approved by the National Congress in 2014 and ignored by the Ministry of Education – established in its Goal 20 that the financial amounts invested in education should be increased until reaching, in 2024, the equivalent of 10% of GDP. If this goal is achieved, Brazil would be investing US$/PPP 4.073,35 per person aged 0 to 24 years, which is still a low value that surpasses only the amounts invested in education, among OECD members, by Greece, Chile , Turkey and Mexico.

What sustains statements such as “spending on education in Brazil is higher than the average for OECD countries” and that “it spends like the rich”? To the extent that they lack support from objective data, scientific proof, which do not result from logical reasoning, they are just mantras intensely publicized to weaken the struggle for public education.

*Nelson Cardoso Amaral Professor at the Department of Physics at the Federal University of Goiás (UFG)

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