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Brazzil - Education - March 2004

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.

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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