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Brazil to Make Major Changes in Education System


In this Feb. 4, 2019 photo, students arrive for their first day of school, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is taking his anti-leftist ideological war to the country's classrooms and universities, causing angst among teachers. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquier
President Aims to Make Major Changes in Brazil’s Education System
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Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is looking to make major changes to his country’s education system

Brazilian officials recently announced plans to remove subjects related to feminism, homosexuality and violence against women from school textbooks. They say the military will take over some public schools. Bolsonaro and other officials also criticize the ideas of Paulo Freire, one of Brazil’s most famous educators.

The announcement concerns many teachers and education officials. They say the government wants to fight an enemy that does not exist.

Students may not find many differences as they return to school this month, but changes are on the way.

For the government, the ideological battle begins with the removal of Freire’s legacy in schools. Bolsonaro and others say Freire’s way of thinking turns students into, in his words, “political militants.”

They say Freire’s methods encourage students to go against traditional values such as family and the church.

This Feb. 5, 2019 photo shows three books by Paulo Freire at a public library, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
This Feb. 5, 2019 photo shows three books by Paulo Freire at a public library, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

Bolsonaro and his education minster appear to be taking ideas on education from people like Olavo de Carvalho. De Carvalho is a Brazilian who lives in the United States and is known for his anti-globalism and anti-socialist views.

Freire believed that the government has a responsibility to educate the Brazilian people, including poor farmers and those unable to read. But de Carvalho believes in reducing the government’s part in education. Instead, private or religious schools should have that responsibility.

During a talk about education on YouTube, de Carvalho said, “The government does not have to educate anyone; it is the society that has to educate itself.”

Brazil has 13 military-run schools. They are aimed at educating children of soldiers, but also accept some students based on merit. The military is the most respected institution in the country. Its schools are thought to be better than many public schools.

Last year, 39.5 million students attended a public school. Private schools served 9 million students. Opponents say the way military schools select students would end up being unfair to children living in poor areas.

Claudia Costin is director of Brazil’s Center for Excellence and Innovation in Education Policies in Rio de Janeiro. She said government efforts should center on things like improved training and wages for teachers and making the entrance test for teachers more difficult. She also supports the idea of building a common program of study for schools across Brazil.

The government “complains about indoctrination at school,” Costin said. “But it is not with laws that you solve these things.”

Brazil was 63rd out of the 72 countries and areas in the 2015 Program for International Student Assessment. The study was done by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The group says Brazil has one of the largest numbers of adults without a high-school education. Schools are overcrowded, teacher wages are low and school buildings are often in need of repairs.

Government reports say more than 5,800 schools had no water supply in 2017. Nearly 5,000 had no electricity and 8,400 had no waste removal systems.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

Diane Jeantet reported this story for the Associated Press news service. Jonathan Evans adapted it for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

feminism – n. the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities

homosexuality – n. showing a sexual attraction to people of the same sex

indoctrination – n. the teaching of someone to fully accept the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of a particular group and to not consider other ideas, opinions, and beliefs

legacy – n. something that happened in the past or that comes from someone in the past

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