PDF Achieving World-Class Education in Brazil. The Next Agenda

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The new agenda for the transformation of higher education in Latin America | Guni Network

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Education policy in Brazil

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services. Economic literature: papers , articles , software , chapters , books. Registered: David K. Education is improving in Brazil. The average years of education has almost doubled over the last 20 years, as has the proportion of adults who have completed secondary school.


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Brazil's high school students have improved consistently in math and language performance over the last decade. These gains stem from the federal government's priority attention to education through both reforms and resources over the past 15 years. The progress laid out in this book is impressive and praiseworthy, but Brazil still trails its competitors in several of the ways that matter most. Student learning, while improving, still lags far behind wealthier nations. Many secondary schools lose the majority of their students well before graduation. Teachers are drawn from among the lowest achievers and have few performance incentives, and it shows in how class time is used.

This important book explores not only the basis for Brazil's progress, but also what it must do to bridge the remaining quality gap to a first-rate education for its children.

It provides detailed recommendations for strengthening the performance of teachers, supporting children's early development, and reforming secondary education. In Brazil's highly decentralized basic education system, each level of government has an integral role to play. So far, the government has stood firm, convinced that students cannot truly master math without excellent teaching.

But the education reform shoe is pinching. Alarm about the global learning crisis has put quality at the core of the education agenda in developing countries. Higher academic standards for new teachers, more effective training, and performance incentives are elements of high-performing education systems, but all are lacking in most developing countries.

Reforms to raise teacher quality impose immediate costs on teachers, who are usually represented by politically powerful unions. Applying a political science lens, Hickey and Hossain do a great service to the education community with their review of the existing research on education politics. They then set out a promising framework for explaining education politics, test their hypotheses with richly researched case studies of six developing countries Ghana, Rwanda, South Africa, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Uganda , and invite two key figures in the field—Lant Pritchett and Merilee Grindle—to contribute chapters critiquing their framework.

If all books were this comprehensive, systematic, and intellectually honest, our knowledge base would be much stronger. Hickey and Hossain observe that any reform process must start with one basic question: What makes an elite group in power seek to change the status quo—in this case, improve education?

The form of these settlements differs across countries, along a continuum.

At the other extreme are autocratic systems where a dominant leader may consolidate power for longer periods without challenge. Hickey and Hossain observe that these phenomena play out at multiple levels of government, and the case studies provide fascinating details on how power relationships at the provincial and community levels also shape government policies, particularly efforts to decentralize education.

Hickey and Hossain theorize that settings of high elite cohesion, where power is strongly consolidated, can be good for education reform because leaders have the political space to focus on longer-term development outcomes.