In recent years, the challenges of teachers in Brazil have become a focus of the Brazilian government. With the introduction of a new Plan for Education, issues such as a shortage of teachers, inadequate pay and teacher training and unequal access to education in the country are now receiving greater attention.
Yet, a recent outbreak of violence in the form of a school shooting, controversy on the teaching of particular subjects, and widespread teacher dissatisfaction continue to make the profession an unappealing one. The following are the top 10 facts about teachers in Brazil.
Top 10 Facts About Teachers in Brazil
- Many Brazilian teachers report feeling undervalued. A recent study has shown that nearly half of the teachers in Brazil would not recommend the teaching profession to students.
- Educational reforms have targeted teacher quality. The district of São Paulo has introduced systems to improve its teacher’s skills. For instance, teaching coaches are provided in every school. This initiative awards teachers and schools meeting annual targets. Additionally, ongoing training place greater value on education and provide teachers with positive motivation.
- Class sizes in Brazil have dropped by eight percent between 2005 and 2016. Additionally, many teachers in Brazil are working at two schools daily. This is due to a shortage of teachers in many communities. As a result, they teach in four-hour shifts with little time for lesson planning and study.
- Teacher education has only recently been standardized. Before 1996, teachers were not required to have a post-secondary degree and many had not attended college. Now, there is a requirement for teachers to obtain a degree and pass a national examination. As of 2010, 40 percent of all working teachers in the São Paulo district remain unaccredited. As a result, free courses are now available to teachers to improve practical classroom skills.
- Salaries for teachers in Brazil are below average. According to the OECD, in 2018, the maximum average salary for teachers in Brazil was $24,100 USD. This is in comparison to the average of $45,900 per year in surrounding countries. This places many teachers in a lower socioeconomic status. Additionally, in recent years, low pay has also contributed to several teacher strikes in Brazil, some that have turned violent.
- Teachers provide support for students living in poverty. In 2013, 2.7 percent of students in Brazil between 5 and 14 years old were working, rather than attending school. Of those, many also make up the 7.2 percent of Brazilians reportedly illiterate as of 2015. Historically, many Brazilian parents doubt the value of education for their children. That being said, teachers are urged to monitor student attendance and encourage parents to keep their children in school with government ‘Bolsa Familia’ incentives.
- The number of indigenous teachers in Brazil has grown. Brazil is home to about 900,000 indigenous peoples. Children in mostly rural indigenous communities are four times more likely to work rather than attend school. Over the last two decades, the Brazilian government has adopted a commitment to provide education to indigenous children in their traditional languages and using traditional methods. Indigenous schools are autonomous, but legally overseen by the Brazilian government and staffed by specially trained teachers from within the community.
- Following the election of Jair Bolsonaro as president in 2018, a right-wing movement called Escola Sem Partido or School without Party (ESP) gained ground. Responding to allegations that teachers have spread left-leaning propaganda in classrooms, advocates have called for a ban on the promotion of controversial political and social views in education. Critics argue that the ban violates constitutional freedom to teach and learn. Conservative legislator Ana Caroline Campagnolo has suggested that students report teachers in violation, resulting in a rash of police encounters in classes.
- Recent violence has led to the death of two teachers. In March of 2019, two teachers and five students were killed in a school shooting in a public school in Suzano. The incident was one of a handful of school shootings since 2000, which remain rare in Brazil but are causing concern about the security of classrooms and the safety of teachers and students.
- The use of technology as an educational resource is growing. Half of all Brazilian teachers reported using technology, particularly mobile phones, in lesson planning and gathering resources for the classroom. The number of educational resources available, including apps, pre-prepared lesson plans, and online videos, has significantly increased. The district of Sao Paulo issued a $5.5 billion BRL contract in 2013 for technology and educational content. Samsung, Unicef, and the Brazilian organization, Nova Escola, are among the companies gathering original content, providing online lessons and teacher training materials and targeting plans to improve student engagement.
The top 10 facts about teachers in Brazil indicate obstacles to improvement, but a growing effort. Reforms are being put in place to fund schools and increase the number and quality of teachers. These improvements show promise to both Brazilian educators and students.
– Marissa Field
Photo: Agustin Diaz