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Policy, Education and Development

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Gabriel Mario Rodrigues
Chairman of the Board of Directors of ABMES

“If your candidate does not know how to change education, change the candidate.” JBAO [1]

Brazilian education, according to the Constitution, is subordinated to the Ministry of Education (MEC), which controls it through a vast normative system, including regulations and supervision. Ultimately, everything is based on what can or cannot be done, with a focus on preparing professionals for the job market – not unlike, by the way, from the 50s or 40s, 30 or 20 years ago. Over the past 10 years, then, it’s been the same story. These realities allow us to say that the Brazilian educational standards, created to guide the structuring of courses, despite the efforts, have an outdated view, typical of our cartorial and corporate culture.

As the world has changed so much, and continues to change rapidly, new demands are required for the new realities of developing countries. For this, government, companies and the university system would need to be united to face the challenges not only of the present, but above all, focusing on the scenarios of the future. This is the policy adopted for some time by nations that emphasize education and are at the forefront of teaching modeling, from the perspective of global competition and in particular by loosening the regulatory ties that trap so much new ideas and innovative experiences.

In the recently televised debate by the presidential candidates it was expected that everyone would signal more clearly about their future educational policies (as they did), but since they are not of the branch, all that remains is to wait for the winner and who will be nominated as minister of education. Given the way things go, it will be a Herculean mission: to implement the already approved BNCC, the BNCCM (still in development), the PNE and many other actions that have serious implications in the educational policy and, consequently, in the development policy of the country.

There is also an urgent need to modernize organs that are part of the Ministry of Education -mMEC, such as the CNE, Capes, Inep and others, all of which are stuck in the past and have difficulties in acting more creatively and innovatively, at least in a less bureaucratic way, with a more modern vision.

There are not many apprehensions about the regulatory daily life to which the HEIs are subjected, incessantly, consisting of an authentic spiderweb of regulations to which all education operators turn to, reaching the limit of the unbearable.

As a result of the October election, a new trustee will occupy the Palácio do Planalto and, as a result, the indications will appear for the various ministries and complementary organs, some with unusual highlights that carry many political dividends. We only hope that the indication for the education folder is a middle person, with an active voice and a lot of proactivity to stop the many evils that delay the performance of schools, students, companies, commerce, economy, industry, society as a whole, enjoying new technologies and advances.

But the best educational policy will only be possible through a vigorous economic policy. So the question is how do candidates intend to break the vicious circle of poverty?

According to João Batista Araújo and Oliveira, in his series on presidential candidates and education,

“Education has never been and possibly will not be an important or decisive theme in the upcoming presidential campaign. But this can be an opportunity to start a qualified debate on the subject. There are three major sets of issues that should be considered in the candidate’s agenda. The first one refers to the paradox of the enormous expansion of vacancies in schools – and the increase in the population’s education rate in the last 30 years – and their zero effect on productivity. But it will not be enough to recognize that education is not helping to increase the country’s productivity. Candidates, irrespective of their parties, need to recognize that the educational policies of the last 30 years – and the fact that per-capita resources have more than doubled in the period – little or nothing contributed to improving this impact. ”

And he goes further, adding the indisputable as the authentic axiom:

“This discussion could have two important derivatives. The first goes beyond education and would allow us to understand why productivity does not increase in Brazil. The same factors that impede productivity growth, especially protectionism and lack of competition, also impede the improvement of the quality of education. The second would be to examine the type of school and curriculum that a country needs to boost its economy, and in particular the role of technical secondary education and the participation of the productive sector, especially System S. This would expose the weaknesses of National Curricular Common Base and the trampled high school law, which lack deep adjustments. ”

The question is whether candidates have already identified these two major problems, i.e. whether education should continue to be treated as expenditure, as a “social policy” of a typically countervailing and populist character, or as a central part of economic policy focused on human capital formation. This will have taken a big step.

Another question is whether education will continue to be addressed in corporatist forums dominated by ideological groups, or whether it will be treated in legitimate, qualified and appropriate forums along with other issues crucial to the country’s development such as science, technology and innovation.

There are other issues that will lie on the lap of the future Minister of Education: the overwhelming fiscal in-balance and the consequences of student financing, since the public sector, states and municipalities are “broken”. Despite the demographic reduction, the increase in expenditures caused by policies directed by the Federal Government, especially with the establishment of mechanisms such as the National Education Plan and the Pay Floor Law, these expenses have been increasing sharply.

On the other hand, the easy model of expansion: more schools, more vacancies, more scholarships, more teachers, more salaries, more investments, nothing has resulted in quality and efficiency. (Un) fortunately, there is no more money to continue this inefficient spending.

And Professor John the Baptist asks:

“Will the future government do more of the same? Will it continue policies that have proven not to work for decades? Will they continue to ignore scientific evidence and best practices by cultivating extensive plantations in the educational landscape? Will they create new and innocuous programs, always launched with pomp and circumstance? Are they going to promote ridiculous ‘management shocks’? After all, what do the candidates know about the real problems of education? What do they want to do to change the current vector? Or at least, where do they want to start? ”

The beginning of the change begins with the debate, but this must be placed at a level that only statesmen, stimulated by competent, incisive and well-prepared debaters, will be able to promote and sustain.

There is no doubt today that the best educational policy is a vigorous economic policy that generates wealth, skilled jobs and a broad social protection networks – reducing poverty and its negative effects on human development in general, and education, in particular.

When we analyze the students’ school performance, the factors that most explain the results are related to the socioeconomic level of their parents. Poverty, in particular, is the great enemy of early childhood and unsuccessful schooling.

Without a doubt, education is the only passport known to break the vicious circle of poverty.

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[1] João Batista Araújo Oliveira is a national reference in education. He is the founder and president of Instituto Alfa e Beto, an NGO that promotes practical education policies that prioritize literacy. She is a psychologist and Ph.D. in Education from Florida State University (USA). He has already published dozens of books.