Marked by scandals and a series of exchange of ministers, the management of education in the government of President Jair Bolsonaro brought a setback mainly due to inaction and lack of coordination, which became more disastrous during the pandemic, experts and representatives of the student movement point out. DW Brazil heard. Ideology, they judge, remained more in speech than in action.
“At the federal level, there have been four years of tragic governance, not counting the accusations of corruption,” says Gabriel Corrêa, head of education policies at the civil society organization Todos pela Educação.
The Ministry of Education under Bolsonaro’s leadership is accused of a recognizable lack of dialogue with students, civil society and local authorities. “Since the first day, we have been trying to present the students’ demands, but there is no opening. Bolsonaro has been with us for the entire mandate at protests in front of the MEC, and the MEC does not give any answer,” says Bruna Brelaz, a student at the Autonomous Faculty of Law (Fadisp) and president of the National student union (UNE).
Protests were also organized during other governments. The difference, she points out, is that in other administrations, “ministers, despite the differences, had the respect to receive students”.
“Bolsonaro does not see education as a central element for the development of the nation. All the administrations of ministers of education that he led should have cut funds and attacked universities. These are corrupt administrations that divert resources to make re-election viable,” condemns Brelaz. “We consider Bolsonaro the number one enemy of education and students.”
The lack of dialogue, UNE and Todos pela Educação emphasize, was also the key in the relationship with the ministers of education, something that brought more damage during the covid-19 pandemic.
“In this context [da pandemia]we saw the MEC arranging a conflict with states and municipalities, completely failing to coordinate the response to the pandemic,” criticizes Corrêa, who is an economist and master of education at the University of São Paulo (USP).
“In a country like Brazil, which is large and unequal, federal action is very important to reduce asymmetry. Without this coordination and dialogue, each state and municipality does it in a different way, some open schools earlier, others don’t,” he says. In addition to harming learning, long school closures worry experts by exacerbating problems such as dropping out.
According to Corrêa, under Bolsonaro, education was instrumentalized to maintain the loyalty of ideologically motivated voters. “The strategy of promoting a fake and pretentious culture war stems from the need to ignite a base of more convinced supporters and show that Bolsonaro is doing what he promised,” he comments.
“After all, the president won the election by saying that the problem is Paulo Freire, the ‘gay kit’… Speaking against universities, saying that schools are sexualizing children, for example, is a strategy to please this base”, he analysed. . “And when you appoint managers in the MEC to do that, they will be people who don’t know how to manage the public machine and nothing goes wrong.”
Focused on fighting “unreal problems” based on certain beliefs, the MEC ended up not talking to states and municipalities or doing “anything concrete”, not even in terms of an ideological agenda, which may have prevented significant changes in the consolidated programs, according to Corrêa.
“The government is so incompetent that it could not even change the policy it wanted to change. In the Enem (state high school exam), the president was concerned about several questions that spoke of a historical fact with which he does not agree and there are objections that there were censorship in some subjects, but this did not affect the quality of the exams”, he comments.
Constant changes of ministers – four have been in position since 2019 (Ricardo Vélez Rodríguez, Abraham Weintraub, Milton Ribeiro and Victor Godoy), and only one did not take office because he lied on his resume (Carlos Decotelli) – and secretaries in the MEC. it resulted in fragmented governance. “There is no vision and no continuity,” observes Corrêa.
Professor at the Faculty of Education at the University of Brasília (UnB), Remi Castioni agrees that “the MEC got lost in some agendas” and that, amid constant changes, it did not have the necessary stability to deal with the challenges of the area. He believes that there has been an improvement lately, after the departure of Abraham Weintraub, when he believes that there has been a “reduction of the customs agenda” in education.
“Although the incoming minister, Milton Ribeiro, was caught up in unrepublican talks involving influence peddling in the granting of parliamentary amendments, a group of technicians took over the posts in the secretariats of primary and higher education,” comments the economist and researcher of public policy and education management. , referring to the scandal that became known as the “shepherd’s raid”.
Major advances are excluded from the MEC
According to Corrêa, in addition to isolated positive implementations, the failure and mismanagement of the MEC left a gap in the area, which forced other entities to act more firmly, “in an attempt to overcome this lack of coordination and avoid more deadlocks”.
He and Castioni mention, among the institutions that played a prominent role in that period, the National Congress, the National Council for Education (CNE), the National Council of Secretaries of Education (Consed), the National Union of Municipal Directors of Education (Undime). ).), trade union movements, as well as civil society and third sector organizations, such as Todos pela Educação itself.
Castioni and Corrêa see the new Fundeb (Fund for the maintenance and development of basic education and for the valorization of educational professionals) as one of the main advances in national education in recent times. And the unprecedented role of the Brazilian Congress, with the Joint Parliamentary Front for Education, was fundamental for, against the will of the federal government, the regulation of the fund, by Law no. 14.113/2020, which made it permanent.
Castioni notes that the CNE also played a leading role like never before “in guiding the process of re-enrolment in schools, since the MEC itself was left out”.
In recent years, the CNE has also approved important standards, such as the National Curriculum Guidelines for Initial Teacher Training for Primary Education (Resolution No. MEC).
side of higher education
Castioni sees more progress and connectivity in primary education than in higher education. The former will have more funds through the new Fundeb, but there is no equivalent for the latter, which, in addition to having budget cuts, is limited by Constitutional Amendment (EC) no. 95/2016, on the upper limit of consumption.
The president of UNE points out the “cutting of discretionary funds by more than R$ 400 million” and “putting the democracy and autonomy of universities under control” by appointing about 20 deans who did not win the internal elections in the institutions as the biggest shortcomings of the Bolsonaro administration in the scope of federal universities.
“And all this is intertwined with the government’s ideological bias, which has already started by saying that the university is just a mess, and Bolsonaro himself by disrespecting the student movement, saying that CA [Centros Acadêmicos] they were a ‘rat’s nest,’” he recalls.
Brelaz and Castioni point out that budget cuts also affect scholarships for low-income students, which are critical to ensuring their permanence in public higher education.
Brelaz also criticizes the actions carried out in the University for All Program (Prouni) and the Student Financing Fund (Fies) without dialogue with the student movement. In the first, he condemns the inclusion of students from the private network without a scholarship for “removing public school students in order to wait in line for others who would be better able to pay.”
In Fies, the possibility of debt renegotiation open to about one million defaulters would be a partial progress. “There was no forgiveness, but renegotiation. We wanted these students to be forgiven,” says the president of UNE.
Challenges for the next government
Regardless of the outcome of the election, whoever takes over the education portfolio in 2023 will face several challenges. The current government leaves the MEC and its autarchies weakened.
Improving learning is another hurdle. Brelaz defends himself that the next administration should prioritize the emergency recovery plan for education due to the pandemic as a short-term project.
“We are monitoring a worrying increase in the dropout rate of elementary school students, especially in final and secondary schools,” he notes.
Castioni indicates that there are “a number of very important definitions that need to be implemented” in the next government. Among them it lists the National Common Curriculum (BNCC), the New Secondary School — which is applied in 26 units of the Federation and will be implemented in Bahia in 2023 — and the National Curriculum Guidelines for the initial training of teachers for primary education.
Contacted by DW Brasil, the MEC did not respond at the time of writing this report.
Remember who were the ministers of education during Bolsonaro’s time
- Ricardo Vélez Rodríguez, January to April 2019 Driven by ideological interests, I wanted to patrol the content of Enema and change the way the dictatorship was taught.
- Abraham Weintraub, from April 2019 to June 2020 Follower of Olav de Carvalho, created conflicts with various sectors, gave speeches against universities, the National Congress and the Federal Supreme Court (STF), and ended up being the subject of an investigation by the STF.
- Carlos Decotelli June 2020 He didn’t even take office after he was caught lying about his training and acting curriculum at colleges in Brazil, Argentina and Germany.
- Milton Ribeiro, from June 2020 to March 2022. A Presbyterian pastor who was caught favoring the transfer of funds to mayors who negotiated with Assembly of God pastors. He was even arrested by the PF and will be held accountable for corruption.
- Victor Godoy, since April 2022. He was No. 2 during Milton Ribeiro’s administration and succeeded him.