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