My own story, the story of thousands

Education as we know today was something far far away for many of us in the past (let’s say about 20? 30? 50? 70? years ago?). I’m one of the few in my generation to get an university degree. It sounds strange to my own ears, but last night while I was taking my shower and thinking of the book I have to read for uni (Literacy and Politics for the education of young adults and adults in Brazil) I realized that not many in my own family had the chance to finish even high school. Odd as it sounds, this is the story of many in Brazil.

Although education is a hot topic nowadays and we see it being featured on various medias, and also the fact that there is a growing opportunity for people to have more access to education especially in hearing about it through mass media, in practice people have to have a certain income to assure that their children go through all the academic life there is to go. Not even mentioning here post-graduation like specialization, Masters or Doctorial degree. Just plain simple higher education.

Back then, going back to my memories, going to college was a distant dream to most of us. One would be lucky if had the support and motivation to finish high school. In my mom and dad’s generation again few had achieved as far as high school. To tell you the truth I don’t think my father did. My mom, I’m pretty sure she didn’t even started it. It was actually her dream, but being married and with kids… there wasn’t enough motivation to get it done. Or let’s say lack of purpose. There is a huge difference from my mom’s generation and mine. We can’t deny history.  My mom did finish middle school though as an adult. My father even started technical course in eletronics if my memory serves me well when I was nine. But I’m sure he didn’t finish it. My brother did finish high school, I was told. I’m the first one in my family to get a higher education degree. And it wasn’t something without tears and sweating. I have to work hard to manage a full time schedule (30 hours) as a teacher, coordinate family, be  a wife, a mom to my lovely Emanuel, my teenage daughter and eldest son in college  who I don’t give as much time as I would love to, and university subjects I have to dedicate myself to. I have dreams that are beyond getting a degree. I have goals that are set for my future. Goals that do not include fame, but service.

When I have the chance to step in spaces like the one I blogged about recently. An educational institute created as I have stressed there to provide underprivileged people the opportunity to be citizens and not be excluded by the social system, my heart cries out with joy. It’s a start. And on a very positive note, yesterday my internship supervisor gave me a copy of the first stage for literacy booklet, the one that guides their practice and it is based on Freire’s literacy method which I plan to blog about it soon. I was so happy to hear that, and what I read so far made my heart sing. So, I have the opportunity to be learning from people who are applying Freire’s ideas in class with kids who are the oppressed. This is a huge thing for me. I’ll be sharing more about it soon.

Then and Now? Or Now and Then?

Education nowadays might not be seem as distant to some as it used to be. My own children have much better chances than I ever dreamed when I had their age. My son for example is 21 and is going to finish his 4-year study in Informational System in a year and half (don’t even ask me about that, so many types of jobs being invented, it’s hard to keep track of what is exactly what). He is already a certified computer programmer and has been working as one for the last 3 years, since he completed high school. Last week thanks to Linkedin, he got a new job offer, passed the interview stage and is going to work for a company that offers a better salary and benefits. My daughter on the other hand struggles to survive the educational system. She is 17 and suppose to be in her senior year of high school. She’s struggles to move along the system and make to college. She aspires for medical school. Most people tell her that she won’t make it. It’s too hard to enter one and she never had the academic score and profile of someone who can. Can you imagine what I actually tell my daughter? Well, I usually say: “Time is not the issue here. Look at your mom.” That usually helps her to feel better about the whole school thing. She is thinking of becoming a physiotherapist. I love her choice.

Historically, education has been marked by inequality and discrimination. Aranha in his book History of Education (História da Educação) explains that there is a duality in the concept of schooling. For the elite, it is to form to higher and more intelectual levels of education while for the labor people all it is necessary is to learn to be able to read and write to a basic level of skills. That is, enough for them to be able to perform a job.

Paulo Freire knew that well. He fought for change. He suffered not in his body inasmuch as in his soul. He hoped for education to become democratic and society not to be divided anymore in a social cast. A place where there is no more oppression, but as he had stated in work, the oppressors won’t ever want to let the oppressed be set free. And we all can understand why, can’t you?

Have things really changed? Do people really have equal opportunities? There has been a lot of emphasis and discussions around methodology forgeting that the problem lies deeper in the root of our people and the history of education. There is a need to change people’s mindset  in order to once for all everyone understand that education is much more than just preparing for work and getting better jobs. So, as long as schools keep helping maintaining the duality that Aranha points out, I’d say that no. Nowadays for example there is an interest to invest technical courses in order to prepare more workers. It is easy to conform. It’s easy to believe and accept that you do not have the right or need to enter university. If you get yourself trained in a job is good enough. They might easily have thoughts like, “I know how to read, write and do basic math. I’m not going to college, so why should I bothered to even finish high school?”

Although we have a large number of people attending schools in basic education (from 06-14), now extended to high school (14-17) and pre-school (04-06 years of age), most of them in public school ends middle school in acquiring a low level of literacy, that is, knows only how to read words, write them and make simple math operations but unable to operate critically in our society.

If you are interest in learning more about literacy, functional literacy and the state of education in general in Brazil read the Research articles in English below:

http://download.inep.gov.br/acoes_internacionais/pisa/resultados/2013/country_note_brazil_pisa_2012.pdf

http://www.bdae.org.br/dspace/bitstream/123456789/2308/1/pesqconclucommitments.pdf

More video documentaries that portrays public schools whose leaders participated in the International Leadership Program of the British Council.

http://archive.teachfind.com/ttv/www.teachers.tv/series/international-school-leadership.html

http://www.teachersmedia.co.uk/series/international-school-leadership

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12 thoughts on “My own story, the story of thousands

  1. What a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing this with us.And kudos to all those going back to school now and learning to read. It makes me realise what a wonderful gift we were given when we were sent to school at age 5 to learn what those markings on a page meant. Reading and education have always been such a major part of my life, I can’t imagine what it must be like not to have that opportunity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Government managed to raise the number of children in school, but still don’t seem to be able to to solve the problem of drop-outs and low literacy skills when comes to finishing middle school or high school which is what concerns me the most. But to be fair, some teens in the private sector also leave high school with low level of literacy skills. A survey from 2013 shows that 98% of the children/teens between 6 and 14 years old are in schools, that means they are attending primary and elementary/middle school – 82,6% in public schools run by the city or the state, 0,6% in federal governament facilities and 17,4% in the private sector.
      The most important thing is to change the mindset of the next generation by changing the mindset of the teachers of today. Teachers need to believe that they are important for the development of the education in the country and believe also in their learners. We can complain about history, about the system and even talk about our challenges, but not put students down. More often than not, I have seen teachers forgetting this. I love Lorax message in Dr. Seuss book: “Unless someone like you care a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Thank God there are educators out there that care. People who dedicate to research and fight for political change too.
      Do you know Airton Senna – the Formula 1 race driver? well, there is a foundation in his name run by his sister Viviane Senna. sharing a video to show a bit of what they do, + they contribute to teacher development online which I had been blessed to participate many time from 2008 until last year.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve seen that video tons of times so far and I never get tired of watching it. Thanks for adding it here. I have just lined out a number of historical events that helps us understand the background in which Paulo Freire started and continued until his death fighting for education. Not counting of course the period he was abroad and how it influenced him.
      http://eltreflections.wordpress.com/2014/04/26/changing/comment-page-1/#comment-396
      It adds to the post my comment over Nathan Hall’s blog.
      Talking about Chomsky, I found this video and I’m watching it at this moment.

      Like

    • Wow thanks for mentioning Chomsky Geoff. It led me to the video below. I’m 2/3 through it and I’m speechless. Useful for my university studies. Thank you.

      Like

  2. Rose, you are a constant source of inspiration! Just as I was thinking how much work I have to do I read your post and it puts everything into perspective! Good luck with your studies, I’m sure you’ll be amazing as always 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you, Rose, for I admit to having tears in my eyes while reading the post. The situation really is difficult to imagine for me, as you’re saying. thank you for bringing it out in your blog. I respect you deeply for your true empathy and sensitivity, for sharing the story of your family, for answering to your daughter the way you do.

    It just makes me stop and think. So, thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I really appreciate your friendship Anna. I can’t wait to hug you someday. Thanks for your respect. In a world where respect is usually given to you upon how much money you have, the appearance or status quo you hold, I really appreciate yours.

      Like

  4. As the teachers before me have said, thank you for sharing your story and your family’s story. It reminds me of how much I’ve taken my education for granted, but as Gemma writes, it also reminds me of why I do what I do. It also encourages me to look at Korea through a different lens. I look at all the students who are stressed out at school, loosing sleep and sometimes their lives in order to pass a test in order to be the one who beats his/her peers in the race to enter university. Is this the flip side of the education coin? But it also makes me think of the students who have given up on that race. The ones who slip through the cracks. The ones I hear teachers lose interest in because they aren’t “good” students.

    I know your story is a bit different from what I shared, but in the end it seems to tell the same tale and makes us ask similar questions: how can teachers value all students equally? How can we make education/literacy/critical literacy relevant to the lives of the students within our own cultures?

    Keep on going my dear! Your passion and pain weave an incredible international web of care and thought.

    Josette

    Liked by 1 person

    • Josette,

      That doesn’t reflect education, I’m afraid. It reflects the social-economical standards that are impossed on us through politics. I know nothing of politics and let alone all the -isms there is for government models. But we don’t need to be phd to see that the goals are set for us. Paulo Freire’s was very political yet an educator who fought to change things through the power of education.

      You might not have seem this summary I wrote for Nathan’s blog. I hope you find it useful. It’s based on the history of education.
      https://docs.google.com/document/d/1e5con_isKFbpgc9gd37XAYwoI7xPgc9k9sX7PxPCVt8/edit?usp=sharing

      Thanks so much for always been there for me and for offering me and my family so much love.

      Like

  5. Pingback: Rose Bard’s Blog: Teaching Journal | aplinglink

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