University of São Paulo: Education, one of the biggest challenges for the country’s development

ANDthere are some consensuses more or less vocalized in Brazilian society. The kind of belief that is, at the same time, felt within oneself and seems to be stamped on practically every newspaper and magazine since we learned the alphabet. An equation that fits perfectly to this model is one that reveals the country’s deep problems and determines education as the key to overcoming such issues.

If nations wished each other happy holidays and exchanged New Year’s wishes, Brazil would have received sincere and moving messages for decades of improvements in its education. It could be an election year or a doubt between one vote and another, there are politicians from across the ideological rainbow talking about the need to renew, reform or revolutionize education. From the delusions in front of the blackboard – not all schools have computerized projectors, remember – to the repeated refrains of the importance of reading, understanding and putting into practice the words of Paulo Freire, the true national unanimity is the certainty that it is I need to fix Brazilian education.

With this in mind, the Jornal da USP heard experts in the field to find out what paths could be taken in 2022 to put education on track. A brief overview of how we ended 2021 and what can be expected or expected for the coming year, in the view of committed professionals in the sector.

“Today’s panorama presents us with full of disorienting dilemmas”, observes Bernadette Gatti, advisor to the Chamber of Higher Education and member of the Advisory Committee of the Chair of Basic Education of the Institute of Advanced Studies (IEA) at USP. “We need to privilege the common good, the public good, respect for diversity, maintaining ethical and social principles, without despair.”

For Luís Carlos de Menezes, academic coordinator of the Chair and senior professor at USP’s Physics Institute (IF), the years of pandemic have widened and deepened the country’s inequalities, especially in education. On the other hand, one of its consequences was to disseminate technological information and communication resources that proved to be important for teaching.

It wasn’t just the health crisis, however, that affected education, points out the professor. The role of the President of the Republic, Jair Bolsonaro, contributed to the picture that emerges at the end of 2021. “The years of the current federal administration of authoritarian populism also have different central impacts, that of reactionary customs and scientific-cultural denial, with health and economic damage, accompanied by a corresponding political polarization”, analyzes Menezes.

An example of these damages and the neglect of the federal government with education can be seen in the recent crisis at Inep, when just a few days before the Enem assessment, in late November, a group of Inep employees requested removal from their current positions and functions, alleging “lack of technical command” and “a climate of insecurity and fear”. “The Bolsonaro government always played the Enem as something to be deconstructed as an obstacle to management policies, and not as a state policy, democratization of access to higher education,” he told Jornal da USP Daniel Tojeira Man, teacher and researcher at the Faculty of Education (FE) at USP.

Overcoming or, at least, containing the damage caused by these impacts, according to Luís Carlos de Menezes, involves an essential expansion of support for the excluded. “Especially in education, it will be necessary to recognize the school in its centrality as a space for reception and development, for which policies to compensate for disparities and gaps will be essential. Public policies for basic education must take into account our enormous economic and cultural diversity, considering potential and insufficiencies”, recommends Menezes.

For USP educators, the pandemic intensified and widened social inequality. However, there have been advances, especially with regard to the digital literacy of teachers and students, which opens up prospects for recovery in 2022. But there is still a lot to be done. Educator Mozart Neves Ramos, holder of the Sérgio Henrique Ferreira Chair, at the IEA Ribeirão Preto Pole, believes in valuing teaching to change the course of education in the country. ”, create a mechanism to make the career attractive for young Brazilians who, today, “do not want to be teachers in our country. We need to change that”, he told Jornal da USP no Ar .

Professor Elaine Assolini, from the Department of Education of the Faculty of Philosophy, Sciences and Letters of Ribeirão Preto, assesses that the pandemic has intensified, mainly, “the social inequality that marks this country” and that, in order to change the course of education, “it is It is essential that public policies take care, above all, of literacy and literacy for children, youth and adults in this country. Otherwise, we will continue with very low rates when we are evaluated by different bodies”.

It is also to take care of schools and their autonomy, as preached by Paulo Freire, whose centenary was celebrated this year. At the heart of the defense of school autonomy is also the realization that it is not the isolated teacher who guarantees the quality of the school: it is necessary to have a group of professionals committed to a proposal for society, with a conception of the type of young person they wish to train. “This means the right, but also the duty, of each public school to elaborate what Freire called a political-pedagogical project”, explained Lisete Arelaro, professor emeritus at USP’s Faculty of Education (FE), to the USP Newspaper.

It will not be in the short term, however, that the damages of the current government can be reversed, ponders Professor Menezes, from the IEA. This is because they were not gestated from 2017 onwards, but rather the aggravation of historical problems, whose central issue is the growing social exclusion, motivated by structural unemployment. “The development of community co-responsibility to promote the occupation and qualification of excluded people needs to be followed by overcoming mere assistance through grants or aid, which ‘naturalize’ poverty, through effective productive and cultural insertion.”

Given this scenario, what would be decisive for entering the 2022 presidential agenda? For Bernadette, it is crucial to formulate clear proposals guaranteeing that the school trajectory of children and adolescents has the necessary support for essential learning, thus avoiding the historical process of school dropout.

The professor also emphasizes the importance of the presence of higher education in the candidates’ programs. “Valuing higher education and scientific knowledge, proposing and maintaining programs that support access to higher education and better qualify this education”, says Bernadette. “Scientific research programs must have the necessary support to provide advances in knowledge that sustain a better living/coexistence and that help to find ways to overcome demeaning inequalities.”

For Menezes, the aforementioned productive and cultural insertion should be part of the government programs of those candidates committed to political responsibility. This agenda would be in opposition to what the professor considers a predatory ultraliberal proposal, which intends to release the State from its social and economic protagonism.

“Unlike the alleged seduction of voters and funders by alleged bartering of advantages”, says the professor, “the programs to be debated are expected to reveal how production, culture and services will be promoted and articulated according to popular interests, to that our country is no longer seen as an environmental, social and diplomatic pariah”.