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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