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[Brazil] Early Childhood Education in Brazil

Summary:
The purpose of this paper is to identify current challenges faced by early childhood education in Brazil with the focus on targets set in the National Education Plan promulgated by the Minister of Education in 2001. The expansion and improvement of early childhood education has just started in Brazil but it is clear that to ensure good quality early childhood education to all children will certainly help in laying the foundation for later educational success, especially for those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and this might be one of the ways for Brazil to gradually build up a more efficient and less unequal education system.

Keywords: Ana Mami Yamaguchi, Brazilian Education System, National Education Plan, Early Childhood Education, Nursery School, Preschool, Education Gap, Education Reform, Elite Education
Japanese Chinese

>> Basic Data of Brazil flag_brazil.jpg

1. Introduction

Brazil is currently the seventh largest economy in the world and, with regard to education, there is still an urgent need to improve access to free, good quality basic education and build up a system compatible with its economic growth. Since the World Conference on Education for all in 1990, a national commitment has been made to address this challenge.

Brazil has considerably increased public spending on education in recent decades, from10.5% in 2000 to 16.8% in 2009*1. However, despite the sharp rise in education expenditure, the education system is still a very inefficient one with in 2009 only 63.9% of the students finishing 9 years of primary education at the age of 16 and 50.2% of the students finishing secondary education at the age of 19*2. Moreover, it is also an unequal system in which educational inequality is perpetuated and reinforced by regional and social disparities.

In an effort to overcome these problems and build up an education system compatible with its economic growth, since the 2000s, the expansion and improvement of early childhood education (ECE) has gained attention and become one of the main focus of the reform policies. The purpose of this paper is to identify current challenges faced by ECE in Brazil with the focus on targets set for ECE in the National Education Plan (Plano Nacional de Educação: PNE) promulgated by the Minister of Education in 2001.

2. Challenges, goals and achievements of the PNE 2001 in ECE

According to the 1988 Constitution, ECE is for 0-6 year-olds and is divided in two groups: nursery school (0-3 year-olds) and preschool (4-6 year-olds). In 2006, the starting age for the 9-year primary education was lowered (Law 11.274 ) to 6 years old and subsequently, the age for ECE was changed (53rd Amendment of the Constitution) to 0-5 year-olds. Furthermore, in 2009, preschool (4-5 year-olds) became part of compulsory education.

Education administration is decentralized and the provision of ECE is under municipal responsibility. On the one hand, the decentralized education system is essential to a large country like Brazil because it gives autonomy to the local boards of education to organize a school system that best reflects their local needs and culture. On the other hand, this makes it difficult to ensure equal educational opportunities to all because the regional socio-economic inequalities end up being reflected in the quality of education offered in each region. Besides this problem, the social class disparities aggravate this situation by creating a big gap in quality of education offered by public and private schools.

The 1988 Constitution recognized children's right to receive ECE and the country's obligation to ensure access to it. However it was only with the implementation of the PNE in 2001 that ECE was recognized as an important "level" of the education system and positioned as one of the keys to overcome educational problems. The PNE 2001 set for the first time specific targets for ECE to be achieved by 2010 including raising enrollment rate, improving school's infrastructure as well as ensuring professional qualification to all teachers. Table 1 summarizes the main goals set in the PNE 2001 and the achievements reached by 2007 (and by 2010 for some items).

Table 1
Main Goals Achievement
Enrollment Rate 2000 2005 2007 2010
Children aged 0-3 years: enroll 30% by 2005 and 50% by 2010 9.4% 13% 17.1% 19%
Children aged 4-6 (5) years: enroll 60% by 2005 and 80% by 2010 61.2% 72% 77.6%
(4-5 years)
80%
(4-5 years)
Infrastructure: all nursery schools and preschools should meet the minimum requirements by 2005 2000 2005 2007 2010
Electricity, running water, filtered water and sanitation 82.2% 79.2% 80.5%  
Adequate sanitation 31.7% 38.1%    
Kitchen and/or school lunches 83.2% 93.1% 94.6%  
Adequate playgrounds and/or "Brinquedoteca (toy library)*3" 33.7% 36.8% 32.6%  
Library/ reading rooms 27.9% 22.3% 27.1%  
Professional Qualification 2000 2005 2007 2010
Within 5 years, all teachers must have concluded secondary education with appropriate teaching license 79% 85.2% 85.3%  
Within 10 years, 70% of the teachers must have concluded higher education with appropriate teaching license 17.2% 32% 43%  
Learning materials and hours of schooling 2000 2005 2007 2010
Use of adequate pedagogical materials No data
Increase number of nursery schools (1) and preschools (2) that operate full time (more than 7 hours per day) (1)61.9%
(2)5.9%
(1)62%
(2)7.7%
(1)60.3%
(2)9.1%
 

Source: Avaliação do Plano Nacional de Educação 2001-2008: Políticas, Programas e Ações do Governo Federal.Brasília,Inep,2009; Censo Escolar da Educação Básica 2011. Brasília, Inep, 2012.

The enrollment rate for children aged 4-5 years achieved the goal of 80%, as it was set as a target in the PNE for 2010. Nevertheless when looking at the enrollment rates by region, in urban or rural areas and of children from different income brackets, it is clear that access to ECE is not equitably distributed throughout the population, as shown in Table 2. Moreover, a similar situation can be found with regard to school's infrastructure. Table 3 shows data on the infrastructure of preschools by region in 2005.

Table 2

Age
Category
Year Nationwide North Southeast Urban
area
Rural
area
Lowest
Income
Bracket
Highest
Income
Bracket
Enrollment rate of children aged 0 to 3 2001 10.5% 7.2% 11.3% 11.8% 4.6% 6.6% 25.7%
2008 18.1% 8.4% 22% 20.5% 7.2% 10.7% 37%
Enrollment rate of children aged 4 to 6 2001 65.5% 60.1% 68% 69% 50.8% 56.5% 88.8%
2008 79.7% 72.5% 82.9% 82.2% 69.6% 72.7% 93.8%

Source: Campos, Malta Maria & Esposito, Yara Lúcia. Entre os planos e a realidade: desigualdades no acesso ao início da educação básica. CEDES/UNICAMP, February/March 2011.

Table 3

  Nationwide North Northeast South Southeast Midwest
Rural Urban Rural Urban Rural Urban Rural Urban Rural Urban
Electricity 90.3% 57% 99.5% 77.8% 99.8% 99.8% 100% 98.5% 100% 85.9% 100%
Water 99.5% 99% 99.8% 98.7% 99.9% 100% 100% 99.9% 100% 99.5% 100%
Sewage 94.2% 77% 99.4% 86.7% 99.6% 99.7% 99.9% 98.3% 99.9% 93.9% 99.8%
Toilet 37% 0.1% 43.5% 0.2% 43.9% 38.5% 68.9% 14.5% 72.9% 0.8% 61%

Source: Becker, Fernanda da R. Early Childhood Education in Brazil: The obstacles to a successful experience. Revista Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales, Niñez y Juventud 5(2):515-537, 2007.

Furthermore, in order to ensure the quality of early childhood education, there is an urgent need to invest in raising not only the professional qualification of the teaching staff but also their social status by offering them better working conditions and salaries.

Finally, to complement the budget necessary to the expansion and improvement of basic education, the Minister of Education established the "Fund for the Development of Basic Education and for Enhancing the Value of the Teaching Profession" -FUNDEB in 2007 with the purpose of redistributing resources among states and municipalities. ECE is recognized as the first step of basic education since 1996 and this fund was essential to complement the municipal budget. However, despite the existence of this fund, due to poor coordination between the municipal secretariat and the federal government, there was a lack of budget to implement the necessary measures to achieve the targets set in the PNE 2001.

ECE still faces major challenges and many of the goals set in the PNE 2001 were not achieved. It is possible to say, however, that during the first decade of the 2000s, ECE took a significant step forward in being recognized and positioned as an important level of education likely to positively affect future educational outcomes.

3. The gap between public and private ECE institutions

The Constitution stipulates that the municipalities must provide ECE free of charge to children aged 0 to 3 years that are willing to or have the need to attend nursery schools as well as to all children aged 4 and 5 years. Nevertheless, the public school system neither expanded enough to attend to this need nor improved its quality, a situation that opened a space for private institutions to expand and take an important role in ECE . Table 4 shows the growth of private institutions in ECE in the last decade.

Table 4
Nursery School/ Preschool 2000 2005 2007 2011
Public 73.3% 71.6% 76% 72%
Private 5.5% 7.1% 19.4% 28% (nursery school: 36%, preschool: 24%)

Source: Avaliação do Plano Nacional de Educação 2001-2008: Políticas, Programas e Ações do Governo Federal.Brasília,Inep,2009; Censo Escolar da Educação Básica 2011. Brasília, Inep, 2012.

According to the Secretary of Education in the municipality of São Paulo, in 2011 there were about 190 thousand children aged 0-3 year-olds enrolled in nursery schools and of these, about 40 thousand children were enrolled in private institutions; besides these children, there are still about 127 thousand children on the waiting list for public nursery schools*4. The situation in the municipality of São Paulo reflects the Brazilian reality that shows that without the private ECE institutions, there would be more children on the waiting list than those enrolled in nursery schools.

Moreover, while most of the public institutions offer full-time nursery schools (7:00 - 17:00) and half-time preschools - two shifts of 6 hours (7:00 - 13:00, 13:00 - 19:00) or three shifts of four hours (7:00 - 11:00, 11:00 - 15:00, 15:00 - 17:00), private nursery schools and preschools can offer schooling hours up to 12 hours. For instance, "Escola Modulus," a prestigious private nursery school/preschool in São Paulo, is open from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM everyday all year round and parents are able to choose the schooling hours according to their needs.*5

Furthermore, with regard to quality of education, many of the prestigious private schools in Brazil are integrated from preschool to high school and all the schools are evaluated every year through the National Exam ENEM that students take upon graduation from high school. The ranking of the schools is published every year and according to ENEM 2010, public schools account for only 10% of the top 100 schools. As a result, although 85% of the high school students are enrolled in public schools, at the best higher education institution in Brazil and Latin America - University of São Paulo (USP), about 75% of the students are graduates from private schools*6.

The same gap can be found in the international test scores: according to PISA 2009 results - Programme for International Student Assessment, a test conducted by OECD since 2000 - while private schools scored 519 points, attaining Level 3, public schools scored only 398, remaining in the lowest Level 1*7. Moreover, although Brazil is one of the countries that scores the lowest in the PISA test, when considering the PISA results only for private schools, Brazil would rank 9th in reading literacy, 20th in science and 29th in mathematics*8.

As a result, admission to the ENEM leading private schools like Colégio Vértice*9 can be very competitive. In this school for instance, the admission criteria is based on the order of registration; therefore, despite its very expensive school fees that vary from 500 to 1000 dollars per month, parents apply for a spot in the school as soon as they find out about the pregnancy*10.

Because of the poor quality and lack in quantity of public ECE institutions, parents from the middle and upper classes do not hesitate in sending their children to expensive private institutions and at the end, the people with lower income that cannot afford a private ECE institution are the main victims of the current situation.

4. Final considerations

In 2011, the Minister of Education announced the PNE 2011-2020 and with regard to ECE, it set the audacious goal of enrolling all children aged 4-5 years in preschools by 2016 and half of the children aged 0-3 years by 2020. It is clear that in order to achieve these goals, there is an urgent need to increase the number of public ECE institutions as well as to ensure the minimum quality of education in all public ECE institutions. Nevertheless, one of the main challenges to achieve these goals is to increase the budget allocated to ECE and to this end, as we have already mentioned before, a serious reform in how the budget is transferred from the federal government to the municipalities is needed.

Finally, good quality ECE for all children will certainly help in laying the foundation for later educational success, especially for those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and this might be one of the ways for Brazil to gradually build up a more efficient and less unequal education system compatible with its economic growth.


Notes


References

  • Avaliação do Plano Nacional de Educação 2001-2008: Políticas, Programas e Ações do Governo Federal. Brasília, Inep, 2009
  • Becker, Fernanda da R. Early Childhood Education in Brazil: The obstacles to a successful experience. Revista Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales, Niñez y Juventud 5(2):515-537, 2007
  • Censo Esolar da Educação Básica 2011. INEP, 2012
  • Campos, Malta Maria & Esposito, Yara Lúcia. Entre os planos e a realidade: desigualdades no acesso ao início da educação básica. CEDES/UNICAMP, February/March 2011
  • Plano Nacional de Educação 2001-2010. Lei No 10.172, de 9 de janeiro de 2001
Profile

Yamaguchi_Ana.jpg Yamaguchi Ana Mami (Hokkaido University of Education, part time lecturer)

Born in São Paulo, Brazil. After graduating from University of São Paulo with a B.A. in English, she obtained an M.Ed. from Kobe University and a Ed.D from Hokkaido University. Accompanying a family member on a job transfer, she resided in the Netherlands for two years. Main research themes are education in Brazil, Paulo Freire’s concept of education and school education. Works include: “Paulo Freire as a Policy Maker: Changing the Face of Public Schooling in the Municipality of São Paulo” in Kyouikugaku Kenkyu (Journal of Educational Studies) 2000, the Japanese Educational Research Association, and “Education in Brazil – Economic Growth and education reform policies”. In: Web Magazine “Ryugaku Kouryu”, 2012.
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