By Lise Alves, Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – After almost four years of debates in Congress, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff finally signed into law the country’s new ten-year National Educational Plan (PNE). Among the PNE’s goals are investments of ten percent of the country’s GDP in education by 2024.
Currently the federal government allocates 6.4 percent of the country’s GDP to the sector. In addition, a law passed last year by Congress already approved earmarking 75 percent of petroleum royalties and fifty percent of all sub-salt layer oil royalties for education.
Brazil’s Education Minister Jose Henrique Paim hailed the plan as ‘innovative’. “The plan has twenty goals and a set of strategies which will allow us to monitor the effectiveness of the program,” he announced. The previous ten-year plan had 295 goals with only thirty percent of them actually being met by the end of the period.
More money for education has been one of the major demands made by demonstrators who have taken to the streets in Brazil since June of 2013. Protesters complained that the billions of dollars used by the federal government to host the 2014 World Cup could have been used to improve the country’s poor health and education systems.
According to Minister Paim some of the main goals to be achieved in the new plan include increased access to education, improved quality of education and reduction of inequalities. “We know that the root of [educational] inequality lies in the early-year, primary education,” he said.
The official added that one of the main objectives of the PNE is to increase access to pre-school and primary education, especially for the poorer population. The plan also stipulates that the country will try in the next ten years to eradicate illiteracy, offer full-time schooling in half of the country’s public schools and increase teacher salaries so as to make the teaching profession more attractive.
Although there has been some criticism about the new PNE, Ricardo Falzetta, content manager at Todos Pela Educação (All for Education), says this does not mean the program should not be implemented. “It is definitely better than no [education] plan at all,” says Falzetta.
One of the criticisms by the organization is the establishment of the goal which states the student must read and write by the third grade. “The student can be ten years old and still be in the third grade,” says Falzetta. “We would have liked the goal to be determined by age not by the educational grade,” he adds.
As for the goals in general, Falzetta says that the government is really only trying to correct some of the historical problems Brazil faces in regards to its education system. “There is no innovation for the future in the plan. This program is just Brazil basically trying to catch up to the education system of other developing countries.”
According to the manager nearly three million school-aged children currently do not attend school in Brazil. Data from the Observatorio do PNE (PNE Observatory – a group of twenty organizations which monitor the education system in Brazil) shows that only approximately half of all Brazilians over nineteen years old (51.8 percent) finished high school.
One highlight of the plan, says Falzetta, is the establishment of an educational cost per student. “This has a tendency to reduce the educational inequalities between regions in Brazil,” says the executive. As for overpraising the plan, Falzetta is cautious: “We should only celebrate ten years from now. By then we will know if all the goals were met.”