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New study group will make proposals for public basic education

by Richard Meckien - published Aug 11, 2017 12:30 PM - - last modified Jun 04, 2019 10:55 AM
Rights: Original version in Portuguese by Mauro Bellesa.

Crianças em sala de aula

Public basic education needs to improve in many ways, but the Brazilian educational system is not a complete failure, as many evaluate. This is the opinion of Nílson José Machado, a professor at USP's Faculty of Education (FE) and coordinator of the recently created Brazilian Public Basic Education Study Group: Apparent Difficulties, Actual Challenges.

Among the actions he considers crucial for the improvement of the system, Machado defends: the elaboration of a state project for education; the improvement of the working conditions of teachers; the application of available resources in relevant projects and objectives; the emphasis on teaching the fundamental ideas of each discipline; and the formulation of strategies for the recognition of good schools and for their example to inspire other educational institutions.

The target of the new group is to produce documents with public and private partners that are internal and external to the University in order to inspire and substantiate actions to meet these priorities. This work will be done from dedication to three lines of action:

  • organization of debates and dialogues on the actual problems of Brazilian education, with the participation of professionals working on different fronts in the area of education, including the different levels of education, as well as the public and private sectors;
  • mapping of good Brazilian schools aiming to identify common characteristics despite the diversity of institutional projects, in order to propose conditions for the number of these schools to be expanded;
  • mapping of innovators, both in terms of used technologies and in terms of methodologies or management, with the objective of formulating practices for the dissemination of these experiences.


To achieve these goals, the group will promote a cycle of five seminars from August to December, 2017. At the end of the cycle, each line of action will present a document. The three papers will be a summary of the discussions and proposed actions to be submitted to educational decision-making bodies.

The topics of the monthly seminars are:

  • August - Teaching in Public Basic Education: What is the Profile? What are the Working Conditions?
  • September - Quality of Public Basic Education: What Does it Really Mean?
  • October - Innovative Schools and Experiences: What Can Be Admired, in Spite of Everything?
  • November - Technologies, Distance Education, Integral School: At Which Point Are We?
  • December - Official Documents (Curricula, National Basis, Plans): Do They Impede or Prevent Educational Actions?


In addition to Machado, nine other researchers from USP are part of the group: Chao Wen, from the School of Medicine; Elie Ghanem, from the Faculty of Education; Guilherme Ary Plonski, deputy director of the IEA; Helena Singer, from the IEA and director of the Cidade Escola Aprendiz Association; Hélio Dias and Luiz Carlos de Menezes, from the Institute of Physics; Lino de Macedo, from the Polytechnic School; Paulo Saldiva, director of the IEA, and Yvonne Mascarenhas, from the IEA and the Institute of Physics at São Carlos.

Assumpted and actual reasons for the crisis

"Proclaiming the existence of a crisis in Brazilian basic education is easy because there is no lack of data that supposedly characterize it and reasons considered as legitimate to justify it," according to Machado.

"However, some of the more seductive narratives on the subject place the roots of difficulties in apparent problems, shifting the focus from the attentions of the actual challenges to be overcome."

One of the false arguments is to attribute educational problems to the lack or poor preparation of teachers, says the coordinator of the group. "The lack of teachers in some areas is directly related to the working conditions offered; that is the problem to be faced."

He recalls that USP has had a postgraduate program in science and mathematics education for decades, responsible for training hundreds of professors and doctors, "however, a tiny percentage of such are in classrooms in the basic school".

"The better prepared they become, the more they move away from the basic school classroom, seeking better working conditions in other spaces."

In the opinion of Machado, the shortage of resources also can not be held responsible for the difficulties. For him, a country with so many needs can not aim to have sufficient resources for education and health. "The lack is the rule, but this does not deprive significant and transformative actions. The real problem to be faced, in this case, is the lack of well-founded projects with well-defined objectives at the various levels of education."

The country lacks a state project for education, according to Machado, who criticizes the excessive preoccupation with the improvement in indicators - "not always reliable or expressive of the actual situation of the country" - and initiatives in which the measures take the place of the targets: "Ambitious goals like providing a computer to each student may look like defensible actions, but they are just pseudo-projects."

"There are many examples where the allocated resources are immense, without the counterpart of an effective improvement in educational practices. On the other hand, there are specific projects in progress or already completed in which, even with few resources, the effective mobilization and the expected transformations are fully recognized."

Another problem of basic education would be the excess of taught contents. Worse than that is the non-existance of an interdisciplinary and / or transdisciplinary vision, which results in the intention to drastically reduce the number of disciplines. For Machado, the actual problem to be faced is the presentation of each discipline in an "excessively fragmented way, including Portuguese language and mathematics."

He considers that the effective way to combat this excessive fragmentation is the recognition and appreciation of the fundamental ideas of each discipline, leaving aside the immense amount of detail present in each one of them.

Machado also questions the view that the Brazilian educational system is a complete failure, an erroneous conception reinforced after the dissemination of the results of periodic evaluations carried out by various national and international instances. "By giving more prominence to negative performance than to multiple examples of good schools at different levels of education, government programs fuel a chaotic environment policy, failing to stimulate important partners in the pursuit of improved education."

"The actual problem is to find ways and strategies for good schools to be recognized and ways of articulating collective actions designed so that their examples inspire other schools."

According to Machado, there are a number of other so-called solutions that do not effectively contribute to the improvement of teaching, among which:

  • the expansion of vocational education "without a substantive discussion about the meaning of professionalism and what characterizes a good professional formation at the present time";
  • the search for the implementation of full-time schools, "instead of understanding what 'integral school' is, which deals with the total formation of the individual as a person and is effectively integrated with the community it serves";
  • the emphasis on encouraging the "protagonism" of the students, when "what really matters is a formation that will make them capable of any role that fits in society, whether the protagonist, the coadjuvant or even the mere character."

Photo: Ludi/