The IMF ranked Brazil as the 6th-largest economy in 2011. Yet despite its impressive economic performance, the country faces certain challenges, education chief among them.
Your May 4th article, “Court Oks affirmative action in largely black Brazil; Supporters say it balances historic debt,” helps to expose the deeply-rooted racial and social inequality problems in the country. However, the government’s recent approval of a policy of racial quotas should be seen as a promising step forward, and may solve the problem in the short term by providing spots in universities to poor students who otherwise would not have the opportunity. But affirmative action, it should be noted, does not solve the Brazilian education system’s core problem. Access to good education during early years is vital in providing children with the initial knowledge about the world that will undoubtedly help them to later succeed in college. The use of programs such as Bolsa Família and Brasil Carinhoso motivates families to play an active role in their children’s school attendance, despite the population’s distinct lack of labor opportunities. Programs to engage children early on are not an immediate solution, but they are likely to be more effective than anything else in producing better-equipped professionals in the long run.
One major problem with the policy of quotas is that it does not solve Brazil’s weak public education system. Being accepted into a Brazilian university does not guarantee any success. Indeed, with poor access to education at the elementary stage, economically disadvantaged students often skip critical steps of the learning process, which can affect their college and professional careers later in life. With the Brazilian economy growing at such a rapid pace, it is crucial that the nation invest in improving access to education, and in the quality of that education, so as to develop the skilled labor force that sustained levels of growth require.