Females already comprise the majority of students in secondary and undergraduate education in Brazil. They also receive the majority of scholarships for master’s and doctoral degree programs.
These data are drawn from the study, Women’s Trajectory in Brazilian Education, launched by the Minister of the Special Secretariat of Policies for Women, Nilcéa Freire, the executive secretary of the Ministry of Education (MEC), Fernando Haddad, and the president of the Anísio Teixeira National Institute of Educational Studies and Research (Inep), Eliezer Pacheco.
According to the study, which analyzed the period 1996-2003, females represent 54% of the students enrolled in secondary schools, as against 46% for males. At the undergraduate level, the difference between genders amounted to 12.8% in 2003, compared with 8.7% in 1996.
In terms of regions, the North and Center-West are especially noteworthy at this level: In the former the difference widened from 3.9% to 21.2%, while in the latter it grew from 15.8% to 19.9%.
Other data reveal the increase in women’s presence among university faculty members. Between 1996 and 2003, the increase in the number of male professors (67.9%) was surpassed by that of their female colleagues (102.2%).
The same is true when holders of master’s and doctoral degrees are contemplated.
Among men, the 106.1% growth in the number of those with master’s degrees was below the average, while the number of women with master’s degrees grew 119.4%, more than 7% above the average. This also the case with holders of doctoral degrees: a growth of 104% among women, compared with 69.2% among men.
“It is very important, when it comes to education, to note women’s progress, because the majority of developing countries face the opposite challenge. If we look at the developing countries as a whole, we find that the challenge of including women remains enormous.
“It is important for Brazil to demonstrate figures that show that the issue of democratizing access, with regard to gender, is a stage that has, in some ways, already been surmounted,” the executive secretary of the MEC observed.
He draws attention to the fact that the statistics that deal with the labor market do not reflect the situation revealed by this survey of formal education in the country. Studies indicate that women earn 30% less than men. In 2003, the difference in salaries amounted to 53%.
“We are not managing to transpose onto the labor market what is already a reality in education. This is troubling when we associate it with figures that show that the number of female heads of households is growing constantly,” Haddad points out.
For Minister Freire, the survey serves as a starting point to effect changes.
“The study represents the beginning of a research project using Inep data, ranging from pre-school education to the doctorate, in order to permit educational interventions, in educational content, so that the level of schooling achieved by women will have repercussions in other dimensions of their lives.”
According to the Minister, the significant female presence at advanced educational levels reflects the unequal dispute for job positions.
“As if it were a race, a swimming meet. The starting points aren’t the same: we have to make a greater effort. Women know that if an undergraduate degree is required for a job position and they have only an undergraduate degree and are competing with a man, the place will surely go to the man,” she affirms.
With respect to pre-school and fundamental education, although the number of males enrolled is greater than the number of females, the number of enrollments increased for both genders during the 1996-2003 period.
Translation: David Silberstein