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How to Comply With the NEP, or Almost

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Ronaldo Mota – Chancellor, Estacio Group

The National Education Plan (NEP) establishes guidelines, goals and strategies for the next ten years of Brazilian education. By law (Law No. 13,005, dated June 25, 2014), it is the responsibility of the Government and society to respect it and to make every effort to make it a reality.

However, almost all scholars recognize that some of its goals, unfortunately, will not be met. The focus of this text refers to, specifically, Goal 12, which expects to raise the gross enrollment rate of the population aged 18 to 24 years in higher education to 50% and the net rate to 33%,and ensure that at least 40% of new enrollments are in the public segment.

The strategies foreseen in the annex of the law are based on the increase of vacancies in public institutions. As for the private sector, the main stimulus tools concern the expansion of the Student Financing Fund (FIES) and the University for All Program (PROUNI). However, the increase in resources for public universities has, realistically, little chance of occurring in the near horizon and FIES, as opposed to strengthening, shows evident signs of exhaustion.

We are behind schedule and this year we will reach an approximate percentage of 35% of the 50% gross target rate and less than 20% of the 33% net target rate. The most critical situation is still achieving about 40% of the new vacancies in public institutions, given that, currently, enrollments are mostly in the private sector, which continues to grow at rates higher than the public sector.
We can, in order to fulfill part of Goal 12, prioritize the achievement of the  50% gross enrollment rate. And, in terms of what the public sector can not meet, for short-term reasons, transfer that part of the goals to the private sector so it can try to do so.

Finally, we interpret enrollments in higher education in the broad sense, even if not just for undergraduate programs. Traditional undergraduate programs of 4 to 5 years will have as alternatives programs of shorter duration, appropriately designed.

Today, higher education has almost 9 million enrollments. To complete the expected 50% gross rate by 2025, we will have to add another 4 million students. We cannot depend only on high school graduates, fluctuating around 1.8 million per year, since this number has been stabilized for some time and without prospects of substantive changes in the short term.

Among the other potential sources of new students, I highlight the nearly 9 million aged between 18 and 24 who, although they have finished high school, did not enroll in higher education. The long duration and the approaches of the undergraduate courses in the traditional molds, although having succeeded in the recent past, seem to thwart the expectations of this contingent in the present world. New development models demand professionals and citizens with diverse and more complex characteristics than before. Shorter programs, with greater adherence to short- and medium-term interests, may eventually be more attractive.

For example, there are people who, for the most diverse reasons, even though they have not shown an interest in enrolling in Administration or Accounting Sciences programs, may be potential candidates for a one year program, with certification, in Management and Finance. If programs are well designed, in modules that interact with each other, students would also be encouraged to continue, in the spirit that the undergraduate degree would be the crowning of a sequential set of intermediate certifications. Likewise, programs in unpublished areas can be offered, such as: data processing and algorithms, conflict mediation, digital marketing, artificial intelligence or blockchain. These would also serve already trained professionals (of the order of 10 million) who, in the spirit of permanent lifelong education, should seek updating.

The proper thing to do is to comply fully with Goal 12. Given the evidence of the practical impossibility of its full compliance, we are encouraged to try to mitigate the losses, especially by exploring the challenges of alternative designs for short programs, eventually compatible with contemporary needs and expectations .

Figure / Source: http://www.cnte.org.br/index.php/comunicacao/noticias/13156-comissao-especial-vai-analisar-modificacoes-do-senado-ao-pne.html