Whenever anyone asks for an explanation of the educational shame in one of the world’s great economic powers, the answer is that Brazil prefers the top of society rather than the base. We care more for our universities than for our elementary and secondary schools.
Almost no one defending racial quotas for university admissions, for example, is also fighting to abolish illiteracy or to increase the number of black youth who finish secondary school. In addition, in Brazil we worry that we have only 13% of young people between the ages of 18 to 24 – the so-called university age – enrolled in the university.
We do not consider the fact that only a third of the students who enroll in elementary school successfully graduate secondary school. Today, the number of spaces for university admission is 2.8 million, greater than the number of those who complete secondary school, 1.8 million. People are organizing to increase the number of spaces in the university, however, and not to increase secondary school graduations.
The result is a university without a base: the students entering are in no condition to follow fully the course that they have chosen and are without a basic education to complement the specific knowledge of their course. The universities are suffering a dilemma: whether to allow spaces to remain unfilled or to admit students incapable of fully following their course. Secondary Education without quality is pushing down the quality of Higher Education.
The great fraud of the National Secondary Education Exam (ENEM) – which was going to serve as the college entrance exam but was stolen and made public – was not the disclosure of the confidential test. The great fraud is the ENEM results evaluating the quality of Secondary Education in Brazil.
For us to have such low grades in the ENEM is a greater fraud than the crime of stealing copies of the test before it is administered. Those grades, moreover, measure only the performance of the students who finish secondary school, while ignoring those who remain behind. The fraud of all frauds is that almost two-thirds of our children and young people do not even successfully complete secondary school.
The greatest fraud is not the violation of the test confidentially but, rather, the horrible performance of those who pass the ENEM. Moreover, of those who do complete their schooling, few receive a quality Elementary/Secondary Education. We have almost universalized enrollment in the first grades of elementary school, but we disdain maintaining frequent attendance, preventing school dropout and encouraging learning until Secondary-Education completion.
But the great fraud – the exclusion of the young and the low grades on the ENEM – did not matter to public opinion until this fraud menaced the smoothness of the university admissions process. As long as the ENEM was not linked to college admission, the great fraud was invisible.
While the solution to the lesser fraud lies in improving the test-preparation system, including the confidentiality, the greater fraud will be overcome only through a revolution in Elementary/Secondary Education.
Among the necessary actions are the creation of a National Career of the School Teacher and a Federal Program assuring all the schools full-day sessions with well-prepared, well-dedicated, well-remunerated teachers with access to the most modern equipment. The teachers should be selected through federal competition and should have salaries paid by the Federal Government. The buildings and equipment should be financed and monitored with federal funds.
Fortunately, society is beginning to wake up. The “Todos pela Educação” (Everyone for Education( movement brings together business people; the “Pacto pela Educação” (Pact for Education), promoted by the Brazilian Society for the Progress of Science (SBPC) brings together scientists; the “Movimento Nacional pela Educação” (National Movement for Education) brings together the Masons; the “Movimento Educacionista” (Educationist Movement) brings together principally the youth. They are movements of a Movement.
Cristovam Buarque is a professor at the University of Brasília and a PDT senator for the Federal District. You can visit his website – www.cristovam.org.br – and write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Translated from the Portuguese by Linda Jerome LinJerome@cs.com.