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What do we want from the new minister of Education?

Young people are dropping out of schools, because they find them boring and unrelated to the real world or the labor market.

Thinking about what we want from the new minister of Education poses an opportunity to debate what sort of education Brazil needs if it is to realize its potential as an emerging country.

Education is a key priority for realizing this potential. The nation's educational level is a crucial factor for development. In Brazil today, we are already feeling the effects of the shortage of skilled workforce needed to meet the demands of economic growth.
However, our young people are dropping out of schools, because they find them boring and unrelated to the real world or the labor market.

The demand for higher levels of qualifications could be met immediately by realigning secondary education to provide technical, technological and occupational courses. They are undoubtedly of the utmost importance.

However, the question is more complex. We have seen many advances improving the quality of life of our people. Continuing these policies is crucial. But we still have a long way to go before for everybody to have access to quality education.

The Ministry of Education is responsible for deciding and inducing policy. But education actually takes place at state and municipal level, so federal government must put together an accord covering these levels. To get any real change in the quality of education, two points are priorities for this accord and they should be taken together: new parameters for professionalizing teachers and defining a 21st century curriculum, or learning targets.

We are undergoing a transition to a society in which the central axes are diversity, social justice, democracy and sustainability. The world has been discussing new ways of getting a greener economy with clean energy, and innovative products and services for agriculture, creative culture, industry and stewardship of natural resources.
Although not in orderly fashion, we have seen a wide range of expressions of political opinion in Brazil and internationally that have pointed to the establishment of creative and innovative relationships between government, the market, and civil society.
Technological progress has led to new forms of global communication for accessing information and building new knowledge.

A new curriculum for these new times is essential. Also crucially, the teaching profession must be valued socially, with decent wages and better working conditions.
Their initial and continuing education too must play key roles in teaching. Teacher education must be linked to the new skills required by contemporary society, so that the classroom can reflect the articulation of varied content.

In addition, teacher training and school curricula should be consistent with the country's regional and cultural diversity.

It has to be emphasized that there have been progress, and this should be recognized: the National Education Plan, which is about to be voted by Congress; and the debate over the curriculum, teacher training and the proposed a nationwide examination for teachers.

Therefore, we hope that the minister will move forward with new achievements and have the audacity to establish real dialogue with all of our society.
A dialogue based on clear goals for implementing policies that reflect not only the priority role education has for the country's development, but also that particularly addresses what society sees as important for the education of our children and young people.

MARIA ALICE SETUBAL, aged 60, holder of a doctorate in Educational Psychology from PUC-SP, chairs the following organizations' boards: Centro de Estudos e Pesquisas em Educação, Cultura e Ação Comunitária, Fundação Tide Setubal, and Instituto Democracia e Sustentabilidade (IDS) [Center for Research in Education, Culture and Community Action, Tide Setubal Foundation, and Democracy and Sustainability Institute]

Folha de São Paulo, 01/30/2012.

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