10 SES 05 B, Programmes and Approaches: Assessments
The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), a document signed by countries which were members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995, defined education as a new commodity to be traded in the global economy. Although GATS only started working effectively from 2005 onwards, the signing of this document whetted the appetite of powerful economic groups for lucrative and profitable investments in education worldwide.
The purpose of this paper is to analyze how the current teacher education policies in Brazil have been strongly influenced by the so-called hegemony of corporate and market education in this country and all over the world. Statistical data will be presented showing that the expansion of higher education in Brazil has been taking place in the last thirty five years, especially through “private investments.” As a consequence, teacher preparation programs in Brazil, which had been hosted almost exclusively by public universities until 1980’s, have been increasingly assumed since then by for-profit private higher education institutions, called now “corporate universities,” through offering mainly evening and online learning programs. It is quite important to highlight that in Brazil higher education programs (both undergraduate and graduate programs) at public universities (both federal and state ones) are still totally free – even after many attempts at privatizing the whole higher education system in Brazil during the “neoliberal era” in the 1990’s – ; that is, students pay no tuition at all!
According to Oliveira (2009), on a global scale, the international education “industry” makes annually U$ 2.2 trillion. In Brazil, it is estimated that the private education sector makes per year, U$ 30 billion, i.e. approximately 3% of Brazilian GDP. Also according to this author, from 2001 to 2008, the private education sector in Brazil increased its capital flows from U$ 3 billion to U$ 90 billion which makes it the fastest growing sector in the Brazilian economy.
Online learning, mainly in higher education, is another “market” that has grown exponentially in Brazil in recent years. The exploding growth of online learning in Brazil, which has been concentrated mainly in private higher education institutions – 74% of the total – was an impressive 808% between 2002 and 2007 (Brasil, 2009; 2013). Enrollment increased from 31,712 in 2002 to 838,125 in 2009, which represents more than 12,000% increase in the online learning enrollment (Giolo, 2008).
Thus, privatizing the teacher education system in Brazil has been seen by the neoliberal agenda as “the solution” to deal with the supposed shortage of certified schoolteachers in Brazil, mainly in public schools. This lack of certified teachers has been critical in some regions of the country, as well as in some subject areas such as Mathematics, Physics, and Chemistry (see Gatti, 2009; 2010). However, recent research has shown that there might be enough certified teachers to satisfy the demand of Brazilian public schools. These certified teachers are not currently teaching because of the poor working conditions and the low salaries in many state and municipal school districts throughout the country (see Rezende Pinto, 2009). Instead of choosing to improve teachers’ working conditions and their incomes, the option has been to certify a huge number of new schoolteachers through alternative routes, such as online learning programs, mainly at private higher education institutions. The quality of these teacher education programs and, as a consequence, the quality of the new teachers, has not been seriously discussed.
Finally, the paper advocates for some reversals in the current Brazilian teacher education policies hoping this scenario will change radically in the near future.
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