Brazil: One More Year for School Basics

     Brazil: 
One More Year for School Basics

    Increasing the number
    of years of fundamental education in
    Brazil should make it easier to establish equivalence between
    Brazilian students and those from other Mercosur countries.
    While fundamental education lasts eight years in Brazil,
    it lasts nine in Uruguay, Argentina, Peru, and Paraguay.
    by: Marina
    Domingos

    The Brazilian Ministry of Education (MEC) is supporting states and municipalities
    that want to extend mandatory fundamental education from eight to nine years.
    The intention of the MEC is to apply the Law of Educational Guidelines and
    Bases (LDB), which foresees the extension of fundamental education as a way
    to guarantee quality in the learning process.

    "The goal is to ensure
    better learning conditions for all children. They would count on a longer
    experience in the school environment, geared to the quality of teaching,"
    explains the director of the Department of Educational Policy, Lúcia
    Lodi.

    To date, the states of
    Minas Gerais and Goiás, and over 350 school systems, have implemented
    the proposal. In effect, pre-school, made up of classes of six-year old students,
    will be considered the first year of fundamental education.

    "The inclusion of
    six-year old children in fundamental education does not mean that they will
    learn to read and write in the first year. To make the changes, schools will
    have to adapt their curricula," said Lodi.

    The proposal will entail
    a profound debate on the current system of fundamental education, which should
    begin to respect the age of each child. "We cannot treat six-year old
    children the same way seven-year olds are treated," she points out.

    For the president of the
    Basic Education Chamber of the National Educational Council (CNE), Francisco
    Aparecido Cordão, teacher training, which should include the universities,
    will be of primary importance in the process of extending fundamental education.

    "It will require
    an effort by the university in terms of restructuring teacher training and
    its consequences for methodological orientation. This is a task that will
    be much discussed in the course of this year in order for us to be able to
    implant it in 2004," he affirms.

    The professor, who will
    be participating in the Regular Meeting of the Chamber, in Brasília,
    this month, explains that increasing the number of years of fundamental education
    will make it easier to establish equivalence between Brazilian students and
    those from other Mercosur countries in their subject matters. Brazil is currently
    the only country with only eight years, while in the other member-countries
    (Uruguay, Argentina, Peru, and Paraguay) fundamental education lasts nine.

    "I am delivering
    a favorable opinion, which will be discussed this week, already considering
    the final year of pre-school as the first year of fundamental education for
    the sake of equivalence within the scope of the Mercosur," the professor
    affirms.

    It is expected that the
    opinion will be discussed and approved by the CNE and start to take effect
    as soon as it is sanctioned by the Minister of Education, Tarso Genro.

    Higher Education

    In another educational
    front, the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies approved, earlier this month, a Provisional
    Measure (MP) that establishes a new model for evaluating university courses
    in the country. The National System for the Evaluation of Higher Education
    (Sinaes) will replace the old National Course Exam, created under the previous
    Administration and known as the Provão (Big Exam). The MP now proceeds
    to the Senate for consideration.

    The text determines that
    students, courses, and institutions of higher education will be evaluated.
    The penalties for those who fail to substantiate educational quality range
    from the suspension of college entrance examinations to the closing of the
    institution and the suspension of course accreditation. Prior to the application
    of penalties, a letter of commitment will be signed by the Ministry of Education
    and the institution to try to reverse the situation. Sanctions will only be
    applied if the problem persists.

    The opinion presented
    by the rapporteur, Deputy Dr. Evilásio from the state of São
    Paulo, was approved without alterations. The Deputy classified the MP as an
    improvement on the existing educational system. "Up to now, we only had
    the evaluation of students through the Provão. Now, institutions and
    courses will be evaluated," he explained.

    The Minister of Education,
    Tarso Genro, said that he was pleased with the definition given by the rapporteur
    to the text submitted to the National Congress by his predecessor, Cristovam
    Buarque. According to Genro, the original MP represented an advance over the
    previous system but was too general. This flaw, in his view, was corrected
    during the passage through the Chamber of Deputies.

    "During the negotiations
    with the rapporteur, we produced a bill to convert the MP into a law, in which
    we made the process more precise, extending the scope of evaluation and providing
    better conditions for its technical operation," he said.


    Marina Domingos works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press
    agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at lia@radiobras.gov.br

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