By David N. Plank
Brazil lags behind all but the poorest countries in Latin America on most indices of educational development. There is near consensus on the nature and severity of the problems facing basic education and considerable agreement on what must be done to resolve them. Nonetheless, the problems persist; agreement has not produced the actions needed to bring about improvement. David Plank argues that the backwardness of Brazilian public education can be traced to a political system that favors private over public interests. Policy debates focus on the control of resources rather than on accomplishing public purposes, and thus they almost invariably end in reaffirmation of the status quo. Current policies are held in place by powerful interests; those who seek change are divided over who will administer the desired changes. Plank concludes that lasting improvement in Brazil's public schools will require broader participation in educational governance and policymaking. The field research on which the book is based was carried out during five extended visits to Brazil between 1986 and 1990, augmented with data from shorter visits after 1990. The analysis is based on interviews with administrators and policymakers, as well as government documents and the scholarly literature in English and Portuguese.