João-Batista Oliveira and François Orivel
Brazil has been named Belindia by economist Edmar Bacha. By that he meant a country similar in some aspects to the development level of Belgium coupled with the widespread poverty of India. A country of contrasts, with an excessive concentration of wealth on one side and the poorest pockets of poverty of Latin America in the majority of its territory.
Education and educational policies follow the same pattern. Rich minor-ities send their children to elite, private schools, and, later on, to the free public universities. The majority of the population send their children to the mass government-run schools. Over seven million of the 32 million school-age children are out of school. In rural areas, where over 30 per cent of the population remains, the typical arrangement is the one-teacher school taught by an untrained teacher. The poorer the area, the worse the quality of educational services delivered.
Being a federal state, Brazil divides educational tasks in a very peculiar way. The central government is in charge of overall regulation and primarily concerned with higher education. Individual states are mostly in charge of secondary schools. Municipalities are responsible for primary education. Under a highly concentrated fiscal policy, the periphery has been increasingly unable to cope with its tasks. The results—which are part of a long history of a country which has never adequately faced its educational problems—is a chaotic educational system for the majority, topped by first-class schooling, including graduate-level education, for the minority.
A recent evaluation of a World Bank funded project in north-eastern Brazil (EDURURAL, 1982) revealed what was already known: over 50 per cent of the students either flunk or abandon school before their second year; less than 15 per cent reach the fourth grade; and, in all cases tested, no student was able satisfactorily to pass a minimum competence exam. Textbooks are rare, the national average in public schools being less than