Brazil: Something Rotten in Academia

Brazil: Something Rotten in Academia

The "business" of college education in Brazil moves millions of

dollars and it is attracting
the attention of foreign "investors"
who have already sensed where and how to bypass the
systems now in place. Unscrupulous politicians and educators
are all excited. Something has to
be done, urgently.

Alberto Dines


The Brazilian government, through its Ministry of Education, wants to assess the quality of the
teaching in our universities and to punish those institutions that do not meet satisfactory requirements, but it
no longer wants the Provão (big
test). Let us understand this correctly, though—what the
government doesn’t want is the Provão PR
(for "Paulo Renato", the former Minister); instead, it wants the
Provão CB (for "Cristovam Buarque, the current Minister).

Something needs to be done, and urgently, to avoid the calamities and shocking episodes such as the
one now affecting Cásper Líbero, dean of all journalism schools in Brazil, now practically paralyzed
because of faculty rebellion against its growing commercialism.

The government took nine long months to resolve the
Hamletian drama
"Provão or not Provão?"
While we wait for some kind of viable alternative to be put in action, it is important to remember who are
the villains in this story.

** The private university lobby was working inside the National Council on Education to try to avoid
the consummation of the punishments. Sabotage, pure and simple. Opposed to the idea of public control,
the privatist lobby decided to level everything down and protect the pygmies’ joints so as to prevent
large education companies to have to conform in the future. At the helm of the lobby was the
immortal (member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters) Arnaldo Niskier, embraced with tender loving care by
the media because he is an advertisement for the wealthiest universities in the country.

** The corporate lobby of Federação Nacional dos Jornalistas (Fenaj) and União Nacional dos Estudantes (UNE) have different interests but ultimately common objectives: to prevent the
social control of university education in Brazil. In other words, to forbid society from caring for the
education of the next generations.

Initially, Fenaj actually adhered to the idea of
Provão and even assigned some extremely high
level representatives to join the workforce that established the bases for the system supposed to assess
the quality of our Journalism schools. The decision was immediately regretted, though, and
Fenaj announced that it was "un-assigning" the people it had just assigned. And then an extraordinary thing
happened: most of the professors-journalists indicated by Fenaj agreed to remain in the workforce as
regular citizens, with no link whatsoever to any institution.

The concept of the Provão, as well as the very idea of regulating agencies, are democratic advances,
but the Provão did not succeed in moralizing and improving the teaching of Journalism because it
was boycotted on two levels: in the administrative level, when it undermined the effort to punish abuses
from the private sector; and in the political level, when the public sector engaged in a truculent fight
against the assessment system.

Minister Cristovam Buarque said that his wish is to close all programs that are bad.
Congratulations! However, what we urgently need is to stop the practice of licensing precarious institutions sponsored
by politicians of the so-called "allied base". This happened during the last administration and runs the
risk of happening again.

The "business" of college education in Brazil moves millions of dollars and it is attracting the
attention of foreign "investors" who have already sensed where and how to bypass the control systems now
in place. Unscrupulous politicians and educators are all excited.

The media never followed up on a full-page accusation published in
O Globo under the title "Contratos sob suspeita" (Contracts under Suspicion), 31-8, page 22), in which the Rio de Janeiro state
government is clearly shown to have paid in excess of 500 million reais (US$ 166 million) during the last three
years to a small group of private universities and foundations in order to avoid having to participate in
public bids. One of these "universities" is called
Unicarioca and it belongs to the same
"immortal" Arnaldo Niskier, who got almost 50 million (US$ 16 million), or 10 percent of the total.

Something is rotten in the kingdom of
Provão. One more piece of evidence for the attraction
between bad faith and the forces of backwardness against modernization and advancement.


Alberto Dines, the author, is a journalist, founder and researcher at LABJOR—Laboratório
de Estudos Avançados em Jornalismo (Laboratory for Advanced Studies in Journalism) at
UNICAMP (University of Campinas) and editor of the
Observatório da Imprensa. He also writes a column
on cultural issues for the Rio daily Jornal do
Brasil. You can reach him by email at

This article was originally published in Observatório da Imprensa 

Translated by Tereza Braga. Braga is a freelance Portuguese translator and interpreter based in
Dallas. She is an accredited member of the American Translators Association. Contact: 


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