The historical context of secondary education reform



Either education is for everyone or it is not education, but a mechanism for perpetuating inequalities

To understand the circumstances and historical context of the Secondary Education Reform, whose implementation has caused revolt and protests across the country, it is necessary to go back to the Lula government, from 2002 to 2008.

The former metallurgist instituted a policy of Councils in various areas, which brought together class representatives, specialists, scholars and professionals in the field. What interests us here is the National Council of Education, which heard hundreds of education professionals and pointed out lines for modernizing the Brazilian educational system. In line with other fronts of government action, it approved quotas, racial and for students coming from public schools. The PT government also expanded federal universities and technical schools throughout the country, in addition to creating funding systems for needy students and encouraging scientific scholarships abroad.

The immediate result was the inclusion of a large portion of poor youth in higher education. And part of the ruling class, horrified, saw that the maid's daughter occupied the vacancy that was historically reserved for her little son. There is no better illustration of this painting than the film What time does she arrive?, by Anna Muylaert (2014).

After the 2016 coup, Michel Temer took over, who dismantled all the councils. The hundreds of suggestions that were being compiled and organized for real high school reform were either ignored or misrepresented. In a few months, a small group of “experts” in education was formed who formulated the new rules of the BNCC (Base Nacional Comum Curricular), implemented without consulting the main stakeholders: students, parents and teachers. I witnessed the pathetic “public consultation” held at the Memorial da América Latina, on June 8, 2018, with dozens of “selected” by the government coming from all over the state to say “yes”. Fortunately, the organized social movement, together with students and teachers, prevented the farce of the consultation.

But, unfortunately, the so-called Secondary Education Reform was incremented under the misrule of the militia, with the picturesque episodes of Ministers of Education with a false curriculum, lawsuits in court, gold bars negotiated with evangelical pastors and total disregard for the demands of education professionals . Cuts in funding, scholarships, vacancies at universities. The result is a pedagogical disaster, but one that is part of a project, as the visionary Darcy Ribeiro used to say.

And what is this project, never made explicit, but diffusely sown? First: make public schools precarious, cut funds, scrap equipment, stop holding public tenders, to the point where they cry out “it’s rubbish, better privatize it!” And there are large international corporations interested in this privatization, of course, in addition to many Brazilian businessmen. Education, together with Health, constitutionally accounts for the largest share of municipal, state and federal budgets.

Second: eliminate basic high school subjects, which fall into any entrance exam. Remove philosophy and sociology, dehydrate history and geography, reduce the workload of Portuguese and mathematics. Ready! You will have semi-literate young people, unable to enter a public university, but able to swell the ranks of precarious work. It is always good to remember that the Secondary Education Reform was accompanied by a “labor reform”, which removed rights and institutionalized informality.

They created the “itineraries”, without preparing teachers or giving students a choice. Then the unfortunate person has, at his public school in Xiririca da Serra or in a large capital, classes on how to take care of his pet, or how to make brigadeiro. And they cynically call it entrepreneurship! Classes given, many times, by EAD (Distance Learning), because there are no teachers in the school trained for these “specialties”. And someone is making a profit selling these video lessons to the public network, that's for sure.

What's the trick to make this work? Private schools do not need to follow the reform! They reinforce classes in Portuguese, Mathematics, English, History, Sociology, etc., and adapt these itineraries to real needs: IT, computing, data analysis, audiovisual language, etc. For the project to be completed, the public school must be impoverished to the point of not having these resources. Ready! Again, in the XNUMXst century, only the privileged will enter the public university, as in the XNUMXth century. As former congressman José Genoino says, the apartheid in Brazilian education.

Apeoesp, the largest union in the country, which brings together more than 300 teachers from the official network in the state of SP, has been denouncing the precariousness of teaching since 2017. The implementation of PEI (Integral Education Program) with unprepared teachers, elimination of courses night shifts and exclusion of working students; the evil creation of civic-military schools, a gig for reserve officers to teach “moral and civic education”, history, etc., without competition, for “notorious knowledge”; the attempt to impose a “School without a party” that is absolutely persecutory and inimical to academic freedom; all this is part of a project, as the always lucid Darcy Ribeiro used to say.

In a public hearing held at the Legislative Assembly on March 16, 2023, convened by the president of Apeoesp, Professor Bebel, testimonials from experts, teachers and students reinforced, with dozens of examples, the disaster implemented in public schools. On the same day, students held an act on Avenida Paulista, with the slogan Revoga Já! A good summary of the two events can be seen here.

Let's put a grain of salt on this. Is it necessary to reform secondary education? Yes! We cannot continue as we did in the mid-twentieth century, based on blackboard, chalk and saliva. The world is changing, the job market is trying to adapt, communication is now instantaneous and universal, new tools are emerging and it is urgent to establish other parameters. This was on the horizon of the National Education Council that was dismantled by the Michel Temer government.

Demanding the immediate repeal of this secondary education reform (or deforming it, as the students say) and the establishment of a truly democratic Council to urgently work on new curricular guidelines appropriate to the times in which we live is crucial. We have already lost a generation, and the future of the next ones depends on it. Either education is for everyone or it is not education at all, but a mechanism for perpetuating inequalities.

* Daniel Brazil is a writer, author of the novel suit of kings (Penalux), screenwriter and TV director, music and literary critic.

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