This article has been published in Enabling Education 4
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Title: Brazil Wants all Children in School: Government initiatives and reality
Author: Ferreira, WB
Publisher: EENET
Date: 2000

Brazil wants all children in school – government initiatives and reality

Windyz B. Ferreira

‘O Brasil quer toda a criança na escola’

Brazil, the only Portuguese-speaking country in South America, embarked upon an EFA campaign in 1996 entitled: ‘Brazil wants all children in school’. The government is calling upon the wider community to support access to education for all children. Here Windyz examines some of the barriers to inclusion within the education system: a highly selective approach; ‘academic failure’; a high drop out rate; and areas of regional deprivation.

According to the Ministry of Education and Culture the opportunity to access fundamental schooling had almost been achieved for every child in Brazil by 1996. However the attendance rate is still unsatisfactory in the Northeast of the country, where around 60 per cent of children of school age are not on roll. Currently 45 million children are on roll in compulsory basic schooling, out of Brazil’s total population of 160million.

A Ministry of Education report in 1998 stated that around 67 per cent of children drop out of school (‘abandono escolar’). There is clearly a gap between the Brazilian government policy and the reality of school access. Large numbers of Brazilian children, who belong to socially excluded families living in poverty, are unable to access schooling. This is particularly true of the Northeast region; the garimpo, or gold prospecting areas; and areas of charcoal production and sugar plantations.

A child in Brazil may be on roll but this does not mean that effective learning is taking place. The results of a recent study indicate that only 27 per cent of pupils who enter school in Year 1 complete the eight years of fundamental education. Pupils who have difficulties with learning are sent to clinics to have their learning problems treated because schools do not know how to respond to their educational needs. In Brazil, the term ‘special needs’ is mainly used for children with disabilities. A child who has difficulties with learning is said to have ‘academic failure’ (fracasso escolar). The Brazilian government should review the issue of academic failure in partnership with all key stakeholders. It should not be considered a ‘pupil’s problem’, but a school and curriculum issue.

Windyz Ferreira is a Lecturer in Special Education at the Federal University of Paraiba, Northeast Brazil. She is completing her PhD at the University of Manchester. She can be contacted at EENET’s address or