The Brazilian population is becoming better educated. According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics’ (IBGE) Synthesis of Social Indicators, 2004, the average number of years of schooling rose from 5 in 1993 to 6.4 in 2003.
Among young people in the 20-24 age bracket, this index reaches 8.5. Among people 25 or older, however, the average is only 6.3.
For the head of the IBGE’s Division of Social Indicators, Ana Lúcia Saboia, the indicators point to great disparities among the diverse layers of society.
“The difference in schooling between the wealthiest 20% of the population and the poorest 20% amounts to 6.5 years,” she observes. “The question of income is still very important in education.”
Disparities also are evident when the different regions of the country are compared. Whereas the average for members of the population over 10 in the Southeast is 7.1, in the Northeast the schooling index is only 5 years.
Among units of the federation, the differences are even more pronounced. In the Federal District, for example, average schooling is 8.3 years, as against 4.4 years in the Northeastern state of Alagoas.
Alagoas, moreover, is the state with the greatest degree of inequality among different social classes, when the population 25 and older is considered.
While the wealthiest 20% in that state have the highest level of schooling in the country (11.8 years), the poorest 20% are the worst off (2.6 years).
“These data probably indicate that there should be a greater distribution of income in order for the social indicators to improve. I imagine that, with a better distribution, the population will have more opportunity to attend school and obtain a better education,” said the coordinator of the study.
Mirian Paura, professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of the State of Rio de Janeiro, believes that even if Brazil is able to increase the average schooling of the population, this is no reason for commemoration.
“We saw an increase of 1.4 years over a period of ten years (from 1993 to 2003). Can it be that in 2013 we will achieve only another 1.4?” she wondered.
In her view, one of the ways for Brazil to achieve better results in education is to universalize secondary education, as was the case with fundamental education, which in 2003 covered around 97.2% of the population in the 7-14 age bracket, for which school attendance is mandatory.
“We have nearly 200 thousand regular school establishments. 88.5% of them are for fundamental education and only 11.5% for secondary education. A large part of the municipalities offer no secondary education. These children and young people don’t continue their schooling,” Paura affirmed.
Translation: David Silberstein