The following is a translation of the telephone interview given to journalist Hugo Passarelli by Professor Stavros Xanthopovlos, consultant to Brazilian presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro and a likely future minister of education. Translated and published by written authorization from journalist Hugo Passarelli.
HUGO: What is your experience in education?
STAVROS: I have experience as a long-time educator, I began lecturing in 1977.
HUGO: But most recently your experience is in distance education (DE)?
STAVROS: In the last 15 years, we can say that yes, in terms of educational management.
HUGO: And how’s the quality (of DE)? According to the National Student Aptitude Examinations (ENADE), face-to-face higher education is better than DE.
STAVROS: We did a very large mass offering of programs with no focus on quality. In addition, students coming to higher education are not prepared to act in this environment.
HUGO: The problem comes from basic education then?
STAVROS: Criticizing the results of higher education is very easy, but there are other structural factors, such as unprepared students.
HUGO: Bolsonaro’s program indicates that it will eliminate a supposed “indoctrination” and “sexualization” in basic education. How will this be done?
STAVROS: The “hows” I will reserve the right not to talk about all of them right now. A plan will be presented that will ensure that there is a process for the cases to be approached and for things to happen in the end.
HUGO: Can you talk about this plan in general terms?
STAVROS: Regardless of the government, education has to be a state policy and not a government policy. That is why I agreed to work on Bolsonaro’s project.
HUGO: Would the government need to enter the classroom to eliminate this supposed ideology?
STAVROS: You do not enter the classroom, you reformulate how the teaching should be done.
HUGO: In what way?
STAVROS: After the 28th we will talk, but just think a little: a lot of people are scared that we will return to the old moral and civic education. But it is obvious that it will be a moral and civic education for the 21st century, which will not fail to try to talk about the values of the homeland and recover elements of nationalism, but this education must think of a citizen who can survive in the 21st century. It will be in this environment that we are going to work a digital citizenship. Let us work, in a more plural discussion, the behavior of the individual in this digital world.
HUGO: Does DE go into that?
STAVROS: No, it’s technology. This DE term is more than outdated today.
HUGO: The program says that DE is valid since kindergarten …
STAVROS: But the idea is not to take a kid out of school, it’s crazy. But he will learn, for example, programming logic, robotics, things that will be super useful to him as he builds a new neuroscientific form with no negative impact in the neuropsychological context.
HUGO: Is DE an alternative in rural areas?
STAVROS: Absolutely. You have to figure out how to do it properly.
HUGO: What measures do you intend to take in the short term?
STAVROS: We’re going to have to do a lot information gathering and speed up the best practices we already have.
HUGO: What are these practices?
STAVROS: We have such beautiful examples of teachers, secretaries, there’s a lot of beautiful things to start spreading in order to create ample motivation. We live in a lot of stagnation. We need to face it all now.
HUGO: What can be done from the Federal government to induce this?
STAVROS: I promise I’ll open up about it after the 28th. The hurdles will be much more political than technical.
STAVROS: You have technical difficulties, but the biggest obstacles are in the realm of ideas.
HUGO: Are you in favor of the current high school reform?
STAVROS: Absolutely. The greatest discouragement for students is to be studying and being unable to connect with real life.
HUGO: Would you make any adjustments?
STAVROS: I’m holding back in order not to tell. It is to weaponize the one who is commanding the second round in Paraná.
HUGO: What do you mean?
STAVROS: I’m joking, it’s things we want to talk in the future.
HUGO: Bolsonaro’s program also speaks of eliminating Paulo Freire’s ideology from schools …
STAVROS: Paulo Freire is one of the most cited person in the world when you talk about pedagogy and, like everything you propose, can be used in one way or another. And I think that what is mostly being associated here is the ideological aspect, not the pedagogical one. But this [which is in the program] was a more general interpretation of someone who is not a specialist.
HUGO: This interpretation is also an ideology, don’t you think?
STAVROS: For sure. It is difficult for you to arrive at conclusions that are totally free of some bias. The important thing is that if we want to continue as a nation, we can not have the educational process as it is.
HUGO: So then ideological bias is one of the problems of education?
STAVROS: One of them certainly is. I, for one, am very sure that this does not produce any benefit for the population and the nation. Look at the bipolarity that is happening today.
HUGO: One of the proposals is to have guidelines that take this out of schools?
STAVROS: The school has to be a teaching environment where the person realizes that what he is learning will free him. I do not remember when I was in school worrying about the girl, the Japanese, the Black, the fat, the skinny, I remember that I used to hang out. I do not know if it is just lack of memory or if it came from my upbringing.
HUGO: But these issues need to be discussed …
STAVROS: Without a doubt, but what you can not do is create discrimination and things that can create anger and conflicts.
HUGO: But is it not better to expose differences and deal with them?
STAVROS: What one can not to say, then, that because of these issues, someone is going to have that privilege, you’re discriminating against the guy right now, and I’m not just talking about blacks.
HUGO: Are you talking about racial quotas? What is your position?
STAVROS: I’m in favor of social quotas. Let us suppose: a person who is not part of these minorities and has an unfavorable condition, why is he not part of that quota? It’s much fairer. But the ideal is to have no quota, to have education for all.
HUGO: Do you know that your name has been mentioned as a future Minister of Education?
STAVROS: There’s talk, but no one’s let me know yet officially and I do not worry about that. I am an extremely “soldier” person. My role is to help develop the program, ensure that he [Bolsonaro] will have the necessary information if he wants to use it. He does not use much, he has a way of his own.
HUGO: Could this style of behavior generate friction if you, as a minister, presented a diagnosis and he did not want to do it?
STAVROS: So far everything I’ve shown him I’ve maintained in a coherent course. But if he is the chief of the nation, he will have the last word. [When we met] he did not promise me anything. The only thing I said was that we would have to implement some state policy, not government policy.
HUGO: How to ensure continuity of this policy?
STAVROS: The only guarantee is if you take the correct attitudes in terms of ensuring that Congress turns it into a State policy.
HUGO: Pass laws?
STAVROS: I do not know if laws, but legal guarantees that things will continue. The public machine is produced by the people who do the work, the power moves around. If you can provide a machine that gives results and legacy to those who will have power, nobody changes, they just add to it.
HUGO: Would you change the National Education Guidelines Law (LDB), if necessary?
STAVROS: Something like that, but I do not have anything specific to tell you at the moment. The instruments to ensure political continuity will be a good restructuring of the Ministry of Education (MEC) and eventually elements that will have to pass through Congress. It is the structure of the country, you cannot infringe any law. But you can see which of these laws may be affecting positively or negatively, reinforcing one and changing others.
HUGO: Are you going to work in partnership with private foundations and institutions linked to education?
STAVROS: The idea is to bring everyone in to help because it’s a task that will require everyone’s work. We cannot forget that the world is in a network, if we work in a hierarchical way we will continue the same way that we are now.
HUGO: Do you want to make bachelor’s programs more flexible in order to prepare teachers?
STAVROS: Yes, for the professionals of the exact sciences, like engineers, for example. There are lots of people who work and like to teach, you’re talking to one. How many people are not in the market because of the crisis, but have a reasonable technical background and could teach? Why not create a postgraduate degree course that will allow these people to teach?
HUGO: Do you want to review spending on education?
STAVROS: No, it is great at this level. I assure you that 6% of GDP is the second or third largest in the world in proportion to the GDP of the OECD countries [in fact, Brazilian spending is slightly higher than the OECD average of 5.5%. Value per capita, however, is equivalent to one-third of the OECD average].
HUGO: What do you think of homeschooling?
STAVROS: I am in favor of ways to make education more flexible, and not just homeschooling. In other countries, the student studies at his own pace, in a tutored way, but with the support of accredited schools. It’s an interesting way of studying, imagine for those who choose to live on a farm, for example. I have to think about possible methods of teaching flexibility. What does not make sense is to have to pass all the instruments of flexibilization by the Supreme Court.
Originally published in Jornal Valor Economico on 10/15/2018 (https://www.HUGO.com.br/politica/5923413/STAVROS-quer-volta-da-educacao-moral-e-civica). Excerpts translated from The Press Reader (https://www.pressreader.com/brazil/HUGO-economico/20181015/281655371039753)