University of São Paulo: For specialists, the crisis at Inep explains the federal government’s neglect of education

After facing more than a year of pandemic, Brazilian students from all regions of the country have to deal with a new challenge at the end of 2021, the National High School Exam, the Enem.

Although welcome, as it serves as one of the main entrances to the university, this year the exam is surrounded by a worrying crisis that involves the organization responsible for the exam, the National Institute of Educational Studies and Research Anísio Teixeira (Inep).

A few days before the assessment, which will be applied on November 21 and 28, a group of Inep employees requested removal from their current positions and functions. What began with a collective request for dismissal, initially signed by 13 civil servants , has grown to encompass a group of 37 employees who, until November 8, cited “lack of technical command” and “a climate of insecurity and fear” , promoted by the current administration of the president of Inep, Danilo Dupas Ribeiro.

Also known as career employees, those dismissed leave only their commissioned positions, but remain working in the body, without exercising a coordination function linked to the Exam.

In a message sent to the board, the group states that the request “is not about an ideological position or a union in nature.” In addition, officials reiterate that Dupas Ribeiro promoted a dismantling in the body, with decisions without technical criteria, according to a complaint by the Association of Inep Servers (Assinep).

The concern raised by the current crisis affects Enem, which, with just over 3.4 million subscribers this year, is at risk of failure in its application. In an official note , Inep confirmed the date of application of the tests and defended that they will not be affected by the resignation requests. The Minister of Education, responsible for appointing Dupas Ribeiro to the presidency of Inep, has not yet commented on the crisis.

The complexity of Enem

For Renato Janine Ribeiro, professor at the Faculty of Philosophy, Letters and Human Sciences (FFLCH) at USP and former Minister of Education, the current situation is seen “with great concern”.

The management crisis “really indicates that neither Inep nor the MEC give due importance to this exam, which is the second largest in the world, only surpassed by Gaokao, in China”, warns Janine Ribeiro.

According to the professor, the decrease in the number of enrollments compared to previous years , especially for the poorest students, was already an alert for the 2021 edition.

“The fact that there are few registrations indicates a certain dismay”, comments the former minister. “It is possible that many public school students believe they will not be able to compete because of the poor quality remote education offered during the pandemic.”

For him, it is urgent that the president of Inep receive the dismissed employees for a series of conversations, before applying the test. “The president of Inep needs to take the measures he has not taken so far. He has to receive the resigners and respond to their requests, because they are people who understand the subject much more than the Minister of Education and much more than the president of Inep”, he points out.

The fact is that Enem is one of the most complex educational exams in the world, since Brazil is a country of continental dimensions, which suffers from the inequality of its different regions, but which needs to apply a test equally and simultaneously for all. And it is the role of Inep’s coordination team to ensure the safety of this process, not only in the stages prior to the race, but mainly during its execution.

“Enem requires very good logistics that have been improved over the years”, comments the professor when listing the emergency situations that can affect the performance of the exam. “For example, each evidence package has a clock that indicates the time it was opened; if (the package) is opened before the due time, it may indicate fraud.” If a car that delivers the tests suffers an accident, there is a blackout at a school that applies or, for some reason, first instance judges try to prevent the application of the assessment via preliminary injunction, the Inep team needs to be ready to intervene and resolve the crisis. “And the team that resigned deals with this type of emergency”, stresses Janine Ribeiro.

where did the crisis come from

“The Bolsonaro government has always interpreted the Enem as something to be deconstructed, as an obstacle to management policies, and not as a State policy of democratizing access to higher education”, summarizes Daniel Tojeira Cara, professor and researcher at the Faculty of Education (FE) at USP.

For him, although every entrance exam has excluding components, in recent decades, the Enem has become a “well-structured and intelligent” exam, which allows admission to universities in Brazil and even abroad.

In 2021, the test received several attacks that came from within the federal administration, even requiring the intervention of the Court, which decided that it would not accept the request of the Public Defender of the Union regarding the exemption from the Enem 2021 registration fee for those who missed to the examination for fear of the pandemic.

“The current government considers that the knowledge established in assessments such as Enem is knowledge with an ideological bias, and the result of this is attacks in various forms”, argues Cara. For him, this generated an internal crisis at Inep that, in November, took enormous proportions. “What Danilo Dupas decided to do this year was to hold the servers responsible for management mistakes. He stopped investing in Enem’s logistical character and, at the same time, held the servers responsible for the decisions he failed to make”, he says.

Enem’s logistics involve, among other aspects, the safety of the race, which has already gone through several crises in the past.

In the professor’s opinion, the team made a “right decision” to withdraw from coordination positions, even though they remain employees of the institute. “They continue to manage the exam, but without accountability.”

For Cara, the structural solution to the crisis can only be achieved by changing the government. “As long as we are under the Bolsonaro government, Enem will be under attack.”

communication failure

For Reynaldo Fernandes, professor at the Faculty of Economics, Administration and Accounting of Ribeirão Preto (FEA-RP) at USP and president of Inep between 2005 and 2009, there is a clear “arm wrestling between employees and the [current] president of Inep” , however, “it is expected that, at this point, all structural issues involving the Enem have already been resolved”.

Evidently, according to the professor, mishaps can happen during the execution of the exam, that’s why “commissions are made that are on duty to solve problems” and the absence of dismissed employees can impact the solution of these possible conflicts.

About the motivation behind the leaves, Fernandes theorizes that employee dissatisfaction has not emerged now. “The information I have is that there has been some dissatisfaction for a long time. There were several changes of minister, changes of president [of Inep], lack of continuity in the administration”, he lists with fear.

Filling the vacuum left by the coordinators should be a priority for Inep, in the opinion of the former president.

According to professor Mozart Neves Ramos, specialist in public education, former secretary of Education of the State of Pernambuco and current holder of the Sérgio Henrique Ferreira Chair at the Institute of Advanced Studies (IEA) at USP-Polo de Ribeirão Preto, “only if does education if it has permanent dialogue, both horizontally and vertically. In other words, it is necessary to talk among their peers, but also talk to the technical staff, to improve the institution’s processes and results”.

The absence of conversation between employees and the command of Inep, theorizes Ramos, did not come about with the administration of Dupas Ribeiro, although it may have been exacerbated during the period. “This crisis has been going on for a few moments so almost silent in others with noise quite high,” says the teacher to remember that the former president of the agency, Alexandre Lopes, f hi exonerated in February this year.

“The then president Alexandre had been coordinating, with different sectors of education, the improvement of educational processes, which included Enem himself, due to an important change in the new high school. He was suddenly dismissed and then came the current president, a person trusted by the Minister of Education, but who was not aware of the structure of Inep”, he says.

The professor also agrees that the team’s dissatisfaction with the lack of dialogue and the possible lack of knowledge on the part of Dupas Ribeiro about the functioning of the institute may have led the group to leave. “It would be better not to be in the position to avoid failure”, sums up Ramos.

“Not having opened a dialogue with these technicians at such a crucial moment is a demonstration of what is not being done. Education requires this permanent dialogue, even when we have different positions”, defends the teacher.

“Healing intervention”
For José Marcelino de Rezende Pinto, professor and researcher at the Faculty of Philosophy, Sciences and Letters of Ribeirão Preto (FFCLRP) at USP and former director of Inep, the professionals involved in the coordination of Enem are “very qualified” and when they take an attitude Such radical changes as the collective exoneration give cause for general concern.

The firm attitude, for Professor Rezende Pinto, involves defending the interests of the millions of students who will take the test in the next few days, most of them harmed by the pandemic. “Brazil is already a country with extremely exclusive access to higher education”, he reinforces.

In his opinion, given the crisis, the appropriate measures should also involve the National Congress. “It’s no use just calling the president of Inep, we would need the National Congress to act, we need to call these civil servants, especially those who occupied strategic positions in relation to the exam, to try to understand what is happening, and what these accusations are”, he postulates The specialist.

In addition to calling employees for clarification, the professor assesses whether postponing the test would be a possible solution at this time of year. “The postponement of Enem is something that generates gigantic impacts, and that worries us.”

For the teacher, to get around the problem and avoid new crises, a “sanitation intervention” would be necessary, not only at Inep, but at the Ministry of Education itself, who knows, even involving the Judiciary.

Throughout the interview with Jornal da USP , the former director of Inep recalls moments when the current minister, Milton Ribeiro, the fourth to assume the portfolio during the government of Jair Bolsonaro, was the pivot of controversies involving access to higher education in the Brazil.

In an interview with TV Brasil , Ribeiro stated that the “stars” of the future would be the federal institutes, capable of training technicians. Universities, according to him, “are not that useful to society”.

Another controversy involved the minister’s criticism of the content charged in previous editions of Enem. In an interview with CNN Brasil, in June of this year, he mentioned a question about the salary difference between players Neymar and Marta, and another that addresses the dialect of gays and transvestites (pajubá).

On the same occasion, the minister expressed his desire to have prior access to the exam in order to avoid what he calls “issues of an ideological nature”. A statement by the president of Inep, Dupas Ribeiro, was necessary, clarifying that the minister of Education would not participate in the preparation of the exam.

Taking all this into account, professor Rezende Pinto goes further and focuses on structural issues that involve the current management of the ministry. “Today when you analyze, for example, the MEC budget in relation to the best year, 2012, the current federal spending on higher education is less than half, corrected for inflation, compared to nine years ago. I mean, we had a very large expansion until 2016, Brazil practically doubled the vacancies in federal universities. Which was a great achievement, but after the Temer government and especially the Bolsonaro government, a systematic cut began,” he says.

For specialists, the crisis demonstrates the current government’s lack of concern with education in Brazil. According to ex-minister Janine Ribeiro, “the MEC is very complex, but you have a very adequate technical body, you need to listen to it. You don’t build a qualified team overnight.”

“It is very easy to destroy, but very difficult to build”, concludes the professor.

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