Ronaldo Mota – Chancellor of Estacio Group
The report “Fiscal Aspects of Education in Brazil”, released by the National Treasury Secretariat of the Ministry of Finance on July 06, addresses a pertinent and strategic issue for the country. The Brazilian investment in education, of the order of 6% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), is compared with the average investment of 5.5% of GDP of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries.
The initiative is meritorious and the numbers are accurate; even so, there is a risk of trying to justify investing less in education because management needs to be improved. Such reasoning is as inadequate as neglecting timely management improvements before more resources are secured for the area. More investments, management enhancements, and correct priority definitions are urgent missions and need to be done simultaneously and synchronously. In education, restricting resources is deadly, because it suffocates definitely, and being sloppy with the immediate implementation of standards of efficiency and effectiveness are also crimes against the motherland.
The essential role of learning processes is to emancipate the learner, preparing him for life, in all its dimensions. One of the strategic functions of education is to ensure a skilled workforce, so that a country’s products and services can be globally competitive. Having an educated generation guarantees domestic environments that favor the learning process of the next. Nations with greater educational needs, such as Brazil, will naturally demand more investments than the average of their main competitors. Thus, in a scenario where the adult population is educationally fragile, the state is overburdened with its task of ensuring adequate conditions for the young.
The report points out that of the primary expenditure of the Union with education (R$ 117.2 billion in 2017) almost 70% goes to higher education and the rest to basic education. The Law on the Guidelines and Bases of Brazilian Education (LDB), Law 9394/96, establishes that basic education is primarily a responsibility of States and Municipalities, in a collaborative way, with assistance from the Union. It also defines that the Union is responsible for the regulatory processes of higher education institutions and the establishment of their educational system. Thus, in practice, the increase in the Union’s share of investment in education from 4.7% to 8.3% between 2008 and 2017, while having a positive impact on basic education, has mainly migrated to the maintenance of higher education. Unfortunately, the growth of the Union’s investment in GDP in this period, from 1,1% to 1,8%, was not accompanied in the same proportion by the States and Municipalities.
The national tragedy is that while we have recorded significant advances in vacancies across all levels of education, we remain extremely deficient and occupy the last positions in international assessments. As an example, in Pisa (Program for International Student Assesment), promoted by the OECD and aimed at young people in the 15 years, we are, among 70 participating countries, in 63rd place in science, 59th in reading and 66th in mathematics. They are, in fact, alarming and unacceptable results for a country with the potential that Brazil has and which must immediately promote sustainable economic, social and environmental development.
The report, while pertinent in its theme, shows a worrying bias in establishing as the main challenge the improvement of management in educational processes. The obvious risk is to end up being one more explanation for investment cuts and fewer reflections towards a systemic vision that aims to combine efforts of more resources accompanied by improvements in the management processes. In short, investing more and better is deciphering the false dilemma between two aspects that do not contradict each other. Rather, they are interdependent, complementary, and essential ways for us to have some perspective on the future as a nation.