Ronaldo Mota – Scientific Director of Digital Pages and Member of the Brazilian Academy of Education
The state regulatory policy in force in Brazilian higher education is the result of decades of experience and has been impregnated by the correctness and misunderstanding of an admittedly complex and dynamic area. In a simplified way, it is the responsibility of the National Education Council (CNE) to accredit and re-establish educational institutions, the Ministry of Education (MEC) is responsible for the processes of authorization and recognition of courses, while INEP conducts assessments based on the National Student Performance Examination (ENADE) and on-site visits through ad hoc committees. In addition, each higher education institution has its own Evaluation Committee (CPA), responsible for internal self-assessment.
The current model has been criticized for excessive bureaucratic burden, for prioritizing processes to the detriment of objective results, and especially for the difficulties of adequately measuring essential aspects of learning. Moreover, it is not clear the compatibility and consonance of the regulatory system with the National Plan of Education (PNE), whose pretensive goal is to raise the enrollment rate of students in higher education aged 18-24 from 18% to 33 %.
In an ideal and imaginary society, it would be tempting to think of a system that completely waived the formal regulation of the state. We would only count on the self-regulation of the sector, counting on the discretionary capacity of the conscious citizen. We imagine a mature and prepared consumer with regard to products and services that may be of interest to her/him.
Migrating from the abstract and general world and landing on the real ground of the peculiarities and frailties of each context, there are two relevant variables that demand to be analyzed together.
The first of these is the undeniable national vocation for cartorialism, where an educational diploma represents more than simply an attestation of acquired knowledge. In this case, a higher-level diploma qualifies for professional practice, the holding of public examinations and the application for other job vacancies, in addition to special treatments provided by law. All this is independent of the quality of the training previously acquired.
The second variable, almost a natural consequence of the phenomenon of formal valuation to the detriment of the effective domain of content, procedures and techniques of each profession, would have the possible stimulus and attraction of private enterprises anchored solely in profit. In the absence of the State and the lack of clear rules, we risk bringing together an immature consumer concerned solely with the diploma, with the excessive financial appetite of educational companies, especially those that bet on short-term profitable results.
In the dichotomy between state regulation and pure and simple self-regulation, a hybrid attempt to combine greater agility, flexibility, and efficiency of the regulatory process is possible. A modern regulatory arrangement would be anchored in a greater shared accountability of both the state and educational institutions, through a regulatory process based on co-regulation, associated with the intensive use of digital technologies.
As for co-regulation, one suggestion would be to encourage accrediting agencies that would collaborate, especially in the authorizing acts, of recognitions and renewals of course recognition. It would be up to the MEC, guided by the INEP, through specific notices, to grant authorizations, renewable periodically, so that evaluation agencies, specifically built for this purpose, usually via consortiums of educational organizations, could fulfill this complementary role. Agencies that do not meet quality assurance expectations would be discredited by the MEC at any time, or they may not have their renewals granted.
Educational institutions, in turn, would choose, at their discretion, one of the accredited agencies, and the more rigorous they are, the greater the credit given to the quality of the education provided.
Regarding the use of digital possibilities, we would have a progressive reduction of bureaucratic cost, with gain in the publicity of the academic information and the precision of information, which would validate the evaluation processes, within what is foreseen in the spirit of the National Evaluation System of Higher Education (SINAES). The on-site evaluation, carried out by INEP, is the costly analog version of a possible digital solution, efficient and contemporary. Instead of thousands of annual visits to more than 2,000 educational institutions, we could explore multimedia information, instant and reliable. Each institution would make public its Institutional Development Plan, its Pedagogical Course Projects and other documents, including general infrastructure and teaching career plans, which express its specific mission.
In the same way, the respective teachers, as well as their complete data, the disciplines being taught, would be associated to their registered courses, naming, in real time, the registered students and the available facilities, having fully discriminated their intended uses. They would be standard templates, filled and permanently updated, with change records, easily computable and verifiable, with corresponding sanctions for possible misunderstandings in the information collected. Thus, the visits of INEP, as we know them today, would be destined to specific situations, in which the collection of data and, specially, of measured learning results so justify them.
One of the objectives of a successful co-regulation process would be to act firmly, inhibiting the fact that the obsession for profits can harm the quality of teaching. To do so, it is necessary to prove to those who do poorly that it is good business to do well instead.