Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Same policy, different thinking

I disappeared early from the seminar this week as I was told about a meeting at very short notice up at the Institute of Education. Fernando Haddad and some education ministry officials were in town, ahead of Lula’s state visit which is currently taking place here in London, and I had the opportunity to hear the minister speak.

Unfortunately the earlier discussions overran, so Haddad didn’t start his presentation for almost 45 minutes after the announced time. That meant while I was able to listen to everything he said, I wasn’t able to stay and ask questions. Unfortunately I had to get back to the LSE for my new job which started Monday afternoon.

Still, it was quite useful, as he provided an overview of the PT’s record in government on education. This gives me some themes, projects and issues to consider. Most notable was his initial comment that they were seeking to take politics out of the education debate – a real contrast with his party associated in Porto Alegre, who last year stressed the importance of ideology in driving their education policies until 2002.

The other highlight was his announcement that this year the department is to publish all the assessment results by school in Brazil (which is a sample rather than every child and school as it is here). He mentioned that education professionals, unions, etc, were opposed to the idea, on the basis that it might cause embarrassment for those badly performing schools. But he claimed that it would actually help, as it would provide information to the education community about the obstacles they face and allow informed discussion to take place.

What is so striking about this issue is not that the PT is willing to publicise this data; it’s the different meaning the party attaches to what has commonly been thought of as a neo-liberal idea. For the Right supports the publication of such data to encourage competition between schools and enable consumers (parents and students) some degree of choice over which school to attend.

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