Provão São Paulo – opportunity or deception?



The state government does not recognize that within the education network there are deep gradations, with differences in income and educational trajectory


In the first half of 2023, the secretary of education of the state of São Paulo announced, in meetings with the State Education Network (the largest in Brazil, with more than 230 thousand employees and 3,4 million students), a novelty that will supposedly guaranteeing places in prestigious universities in São Paulo for public school students: the Provão Paulista Sériedo. “We are not just giving access to higher education, but access to the best Universities in the country. São Paulo education is proud to lead this inclusion process.”[I]

Welcome news, as the history of admission to public higher education institutions reveals that many high school students administered by the State Department of Education of São Paulo, Seduc-SP, do not enter, in large numbers, USP, Unesp, Unicamp, Fatec and Federal Universities and Institutes. This is a probable opportunity that has not yet been massively extended to the 1,1 million high school students. But as Gilberto Gil sings, “Novelty was the height of paradox”.

Decree 67.941, which institutes the exam, was only published on September 15th, and already in the epigraph it establishes that the Provão Paulista Sedo is “within the scope of the School Performance Assessment System of the State of São Paulo – SARESP”. Evasive in different parts, it attributes to the Secretary of Education future regulations of: “II – the content and methodology of the Provão Paulista Serial; III – the participation of students from other public schools in the Provão Paulista Sériedo; IV – the special rules on the Serial Provão Paulista to which students whose completion of high school is scheduled to occur in the related academic years of 2023 and 2024 will be subject.” (Article 7). These only came out late.

The proposal for serial tests in the São Paulo state network as a way of entering public higher education is nothing new. It's been happening for some time. However, it always showed low adherence; and in the context of a huge number of assessments to measure, regulate, intervene and standardize education, taking advantage of the SARESP test for this purpose appeared rational in favor of students, seeking to reduce educational inequalities and guaranteeing students the continuation of their studies, as per contained in the 1996 National Education Guidelines and Bases Law.

The Provão Paulista Serial is aimed at all high school students in public education networks in the country. It is mainly aimed at students from the state education network and State Technical Schools, Etecs, who are automatically enrolled. Students from other public schools had to register individually and traveled to the capital of São Paulo to take the exam.

Serially, at the end of November, the test was applied in the three years of high school – which will result in an average to compete for places offered by public higher education institutions in São Paulo. Thus, the 1st years took the test this year and will take it in 2024 and 2025; the 2nd this year and next; and the 3rd years only this year. The knowledge required in the exam is equivalent to that indicated in the São Paulo curriculum, which uses the National Common Curricular Base (BNCC) as a reference, that is, it comprises knowledge of the curricular components of basic general training.

The test, consisting of 90 questions, covered questions about languages ​​and their technologies and natural sciences and their technologies on the first day; and mathematics and its technologies and applied human and social sciences on the second day. In the case of 3rd years, writing was added. “What motivates us most in this mission is being able to give vent to people’s dreams and make their dreams come true. Young people dream of entering university because it is a step towards professional success, entry into the job market, quality employment and autonomy. We want to make this dream more and more possible and for you to achieve this dream”,[ii] said the governor to students during the ceremony at Palácio dos Bandeirantes. However, “And the news that would be a dream / The laughing miracle of the mermaid / Turned into such a horrible nightmare / There on that beach, there in the sand”.

Much of this information was only published in September and October, the day before the exam, scheduled for the last days of November. This caused anxiety and uncertainty in the São Paulo network, especially among students. Pedagogical coordinators and even supervisors confessed to having little or no news about Provão Paulista. The partner Universities themselves only disclosed the number of vacancies recently offered: there are 1.500 for USP, 934 for Unesp, 325 for Unicamp, 2.620 vacancies for Univesp and 10.000 vacancies for Fatec.[iii] Seduc-SP pointed to the novelty as a justification for the speeding up.

It is not possible to justify the lack of information about Provão Paulista due to its originality. In fact, it's not that innovative. Copies part of the logic of the National High School Exam, Enem. Its objectives state that: “I – ​​democratize opportunities to access vacancies offered by public higher education institutions; II – unify the selection processes for access to higher education, in order to replace isolated entrance exams for students who have attended high school exclusively in the public network of the State of São Paulo or other entities of the federation.” (Article 2 of Decree 67.941, of 15/09/23). Perhaps for this reason, students and educators nicknamed Provão Paulista “Enem Paulista”. However, the exam developed by the federal government presents an organized proposal based on principles of inclusion and equity, unlike the placebo proposed by Tarcísio de Freitas.


First, Provão Paulista places students with different educational backgrounds in the competition for highly sought-after vacancies. Research on the increase in the number of graduates from the public Basic Education network in public higher education shows that the vacancies with the largest number of enrollees are occupied by graduates from networks that have a better structure compared to state networks.

In the case of the State of São Paulo, the Federal Institutes, Etecs, Application Colleges linked to Universities and Military Schools, which generally have entrance exams and receive funds from other departments and ministries.[iv] The student value of these institutions is almost double that allocated to students in schools administered by the State Departments of Education. The lack of criteria that recognizes these differences on the part of Seduc-SP will probably result in a substantial number of the 15 thousand places offered being filled by students from Federal Institutes, Etecs, Application Colleges and Military Schools, frustrating, once again, the contingent of 1,1 million high school students in the state network.

As if these pores in the Provão Paulista process were not enough, accentuating educational inequalities, Seduc-SP produced an amendment much worse than the sonnet. Students from units at the Federal Institute of São Paulo, spread throughout the interior of São Paulo, had to travel to the capital to take the test, immediately establishing a financial obstacle for those young people who were unable to migrate and remain in the city of São Paulo for two or three days. Give with one hand, take away with the other. It frustrates another contingent of students. Criteria planned and published in advance would resolve these issues.

Secondly, the tests were administered during the morning and afternoon periods, forcing night shift students to attend school at a different time, during the middle of the week. “… students in the 3rd year of high school will take the Provão Paulista Seriado exams exclusively in the morning; 2nd grade students will take the tests in the morning; and 1st grade in the afternoon” (Resolution Seduc-SP, no. 43, of 29/09/23).

It is common for night students to work during the day and/or take a technical-professional course at another institution. Insensitive to the situation, at the end of the year, with the usual economic movement – ​​mainly in commerce –, Seduc-SP withholds the possibility of continuing studies for the number of students who attend high school at night. Form of exclusionary inclusion discussed by Acácia Kuenzer.[v] In addition to reduced courses during the night shift, difficulties are created for these students, who are, once again, neglected in their dreams of taking another path: entering higher education.

Third, the notice takes away from students who failed a year the possibility of applying for a place in São Paulo's prestigious public higher education institutions. “A candidate who, in any year, fails in one of the high school grades will be excluded from the Provão Paulista Seriado.” The absurdity of the item initially generates the suspicion that it is a writing error. That a student who does not pass in a given school year will be able to complete and count their grade in the following period, as long as they are promoted in grade. But that is not what is recorded.

Michael Apple and Anita Oliver (1995) remind us that “right-wing policies and their consequences are not always the result of carefully planned initiatives (…). They often have an accidental character. This does not mean to say that there is no intentionality.”[vi]

Governor Tarcísio de Freitas' educational policy pasteurizes the mass of public school students and delegitimizes policies that aim to reduce historical inequalities that persist in Brazilian society. In the way it is designed, Provão Paulista can benefit, mainly, groups that already have certain material, educational and cultural conditions, with income per capita higher than the national average and high educational level of parents.

The state government does not recognize that within the education network there are deep gradations, with differences in income and educational trajectory. Are students from the state network on an equal footing for a battle as competitive as this one? And were educational inequalities within the state network considered? Establishing specific criteria that guarantee the effective rise of groups historically excluded from public policies is necessary. After 15 years, Enem data as a form of inclusion and social advancement are pedagogical. It is not enough to create generalist public policy, it is necessary to institute public policies that prioritize invisible and marginalized groups over time.

Given the historical educational inequalities in Brazil, attempts to increase the number of students graduating from the public network in higher education are commendable. But wouldn't it be more efficient if the government of the state of São Paulo increased the places allocated to the tried and tested Enem, instead of pulling out yet another exam riddled with contradictions?

As the people who took over Seduc-SP and Tarcísio de Freitas have experience in public management, it is difficult to believe that these contradictions are the result of mistakes and the originality of Provão Paulista. It is also not appropriate to accuse him of insanity. There is method in madness, he taught us Hamlet. It appears that the objective is to create an Enem without criteria, à la carte of Bandeirante elitism. It establishes obstacles for the participation of night shift students and those who failed the year, who are doubly excluded. It suggests that they do not have the right to pursue their studies at a state university in São Paulo. Their destiny is to venture into precarious jobs, eternalizing themselves in loop continuous exclusion.[vii]

But if these citizens make an effort, dedicate themselves, they will necessarily rise, as the opportunity exists and has always existed and is for everyone. Pedagogical deception that camouflages worldview. School exclusionary inclusion. Typical example of conservative modernization. “The new thing was the war / Between the happy poet and the hungry / Tearing apart a beautiful mermaid / Shattering the dream on each side, oh-oh.”

*Rogério de Souza is a professor of sociology at the Federal Institute of São Paulo, São Roque campus.


[I] SÃO PAULO. Provão Paulista will give access to 13 thousand places at state universities. [10/07/2023]. Available in:

[ii] SÃO PAULO. Provão Paulista will give access to 13 thousand places at state universities. [10/07/2023]. Available in:

[iii] SÃO PAULO. Provão Paulista: find out everything about the assessment that guarantees places at public universities in SP. [05/10/2023]. Available in:

[iv] See: CENTRO PAULA SOUZA. Etecs gain more than 2,5 places in public universities. 29/03/2023]. Available in: Accessed on 26/11/2023; SALDAÑA, P.; TAKAHASHI, F. Despite cuts, federal institutes lead the Enem score in 14 states. [14/01/2018]. Available in:

[v] KUENZER, AZ From assumed duality to denied duality: The discourse of flexibility justifies exclusionary inclusion. Education & Society, Campinas, vol. 28, no. 100 – Special, p. 1153-1178, Oct. 2007.

[vi] APPLE, M., OLIVER, A. Going right: Education and the formation of conservative movements. In: GENTILI, P. (org.). Pedagogy of exclusion: Criticism of neoliberalism in education. Petrópolis/RJ: Editora Vozes, 1995.

[vii] KUENZER, AZ From assumed duality to denied duality: The discourse of flexibility justifies exclusionary inclusion. Education & Society, Campinas, vol. 28, no. 100 – Special, p. 1153-1178, Oct. 2007.

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