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La Educación
Número: (117) I
Año: 1994


1. The Pioneiros da Educaço Nova published a diagnosis of Brazil’s educational problems in 1932 and recommended policies to resolve them (Romanelli 1973, 146-149). Their analyses and policy proposals have been repeated often, in documents ranging from the first version of the Lei de Diretrizes e Bases da Educação Nacional (LDB) in 1948 to the National Development Plans promulgated by the military governments of the 1960s and 1970s to the Educação Para Todos manifesto published by Brazil’s first post-coup civilian government in 1985 (Villalobos 1969; Freitag 1978, 100-103; MEC 1985). More recent examples include preliminary versions of the new LDB now under discussion in the National Congress, the education policy objectives recently proposed by the opposition Workers’ Party, and the Collor government’s Plano da Reconstrução Nacional, or “Projetão” (Câmara dos Deputados 1990; Folha de São Paulo, 4 September 1990; Brasil 1991).
2. This is particularly so because several of Brazil’s poorer and smaller neighbors have done far better than Brazil in terms of progress toward these objectives.
3. The distance between the goals that are formally stated in the Brazilian education system and those that are actually pursued has been noted previously by authors, including Anisio Teixeira (1957). Earlier analyses of this disjunction focused on curriculum and administrative structure, while we focus on the distribution of resources.
4. For a recent example, see the analysis of the candidates’ education platforms in the 1990 gubernatorial elections in Sao Paulo published in Folha de São Paulo, 20 September 1990. The platforms are virtually identical, both in the objectives that they define and in their common failure to specify from where the resources to achieve those objectives will come. It was nevertheless notable to see education raised as an issue at all in this campaign.
5. The obligation to eliminate illiteracy and to achieve universal primary education in the ten years following the adoption of Brazil’s new constitution (i.e., by 1998) are included among the constitution’s so-called transitory provisions (Article 60).
6. These are among the explanations proposed for the problems encountered in the implementation of the recently concluded EDURURAL project. The same list was adduced by Castro (1989) in his analysis of the persistent problems of the basic education system. In a more recent paper, Castro and Oliveira (1991) propose a diagnosis that like ours emphasizes the political obstacles to educational improvement. Where we argue that Brazil’s educational problems can in large part be traced to resistance to change among groups that benefit from present policies, however, Castro and Oliveira suggest that the main hurdle for reformers is a lack of demand for expanded access and improved educational quality among the disadvantaged.
7. Two points are worth noting in this connection. First, the most heated educational policy debates in recent years have focused on precisely those issues that place distinct private interests in conflict with the achievement of publicly affirmed educational objectives. The most important of these include the continued provision of public subsidies to private schools and the defense of “free” public higher education. Second, the education policy “successes” claimed by Castro (1989) in his recent review—that is, the expansion of university enrollments and the establishment of technical secondary schools—similarly advanced the interests of the relatively well-off rather than those of the poor.
8. For an assessment of the market for votes in Bahia, see A Tarde, 23 September 1990. For the manipulation of state expenditures in São Paulo to favor some candidates and penalize others, see Folha de São Paulo, 23 September 1990.
9. The literature on empreguismo is extensive but not very systematic. A partial catalog of the abuses associated with the practice is provided by Farhat (1987). With specific reference to education, an excellent review is provided by Leal (1990).
10. Political appointments are known as cargos de confiança. For Rio de Janeiro, see Leal (1990, 138). For Ceará, see Leite and Barreto (1983, 107).
11. Forms of purchase of school places may include the provision of space in public school buildings for private schools, the payment of public school teachers to teach in private schools, the provision of scholarships to students, and the provision of subventions to private schools that accept public school students (CEC/IPEA 1987, 14-18).
12. In 1986 officials in the Secretariat of Education in Bahia estimated that 40 percent of all educational expenditures in the state went to support private schools. Our own more recent estimates suggest that the share going to private schools has been greatly reduced in the years since, but the amounts in question remain large.
13. For a discussion of the regulation of private school fees in São Paulo, see the chapter by James and Braga in this volume. The Collor government has now lifted controls on school fees, and there is considerable anecdotal evidence which suggests that middle-class households are returning their children to public schools.
14. Admission to public universities is based on successful performance on an entrance examination (vestibular), which systematically favors those who have prepared for admission in relatively high-quality private schools. Those who fail to gain admission to public universities end up paying fees to attend private institutions, where the quality of facilities and instruction is commonly much lower than in public institutions.
15. It is possible to classify this as “mistargeting,” as the World Bank has recently done, but this raises the problem of who is entitled to determine what represents “good” public policy. The Brazilian political system distributes resources in accordance with the preferences expressed by voters, and it is not clear what right the Bank or other external agencies have to prescribe different policy choices.
16. The results presented by Barros and Lam in this volume suggest that inequalities in educational attainment among 14 year olds in São Paulo and the Northeast may be due in greater measure to inequalities in the supply of schooling than to differences in household demand for education.
17. In 1759 the Jesuits were expelled from Brazil, partly in consequence of a dispute with the Portuguese crown over the control of schools (Souza 1986, 25-26). In the two intervening centuries public authorities have assumed an increasing share of responsibility for education. As the educational system has expanded, the percentage of children enrolled in public schools has risen steadily (see Table 2). Private and confessional schools nevertheless continue to play an important and in many respects a privileged role in the Brazilian educational system.
18. In 1958, for example, the Archbishop of Porto Alegre asserted that “...a powerful group in the Ministry of Education and Culture in Rio de Janeiro is not only promoting secularism in education but secularism and materialism in every sphere of life.” The defenders of public schools meanwhile denounced the “...ambition of the Catholic Church to achieve the greatest possible dominion over educational administration and policy” (Martins 1976, 24-26, our translations).
19. The main lines of the compromise included the requirement that religion be included as a regular subject in the curriculum of all schools and that public schools receive priority in the distribution of public funds, with subsidies to private schools permitted in cases where public educational provision was insufficient. Speaking for the defenders of the public schools, Anisio Teixeira described the LDB that was finally approved as “half a victory, but still a victory,” while the leading advocate of liberdade de ensino called it “the best law we could get” (Saviani 1987, 98).
20. That private schools are an essential part of the school “system” is confirmed by the recent threat of the Minister of Education to sue the owners of private schools in order to force them to keep their schools open. The closure of significant numbers of private schools would have literally catastrophic consequences for the Brazilian educational system, and for the political careers of those who allowed it to happen.
21. This accounting of transfers to private schools excludes convênios between the state government and private agencies for the provision of specific goods and services and all subventions to private schools from municipio governments. It is, therefore, an underestimate of the total amount transferred. No systematic data on convênios or municipal subventions are available, but interviews and evidence from the Diário Oficial suggest that the amounts in question are large. Additional data on these issues are available from the authors.
22. The so-called ciclo basico integrates the first and second years of schooling, postponing promotion (or failure) until the end of the second year. The program allows children a longer time to master basic skills and is expected to reduce rates of repetition and drop-out in the early grades.
23. On a more pessimistic note, however, virtually all of these policy experiments have taken place in the states of the South and Southeast, where resources are more plentiful and educational problems are generally less severe. Insofar as these experiments are successful, the relative backwardness of the Northeast may increase, unless and until similar innovations are adopted in northeastern states as well.
24. Speaking of previous Brazilian constitutions, Souza (1986, 35) notes that “The responsibility of the State [to provide education] has always been circumscribed by philanthropic good intentions, which have served to deny legal recourse to those excluded from the educational system.”