Brazil made strides, but still ranks low on PISA

The OECD commended the country for its performance

Published in 03/12/2019 - 16:02 By Mariana Tokarnia - Rio de Janeiro

The increased number of students in school across Brazil may have played a role in the country’s mark on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), said the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), responsible for the test. According to Camila Lima de Moraes, an education specialist with the organization, keeping the performance in the current landscape, marked by expansion of opportunities, is a remarkable achievement.

“In 2003, [Brazil] brought back students that would quit. These students tend to show a lower performance and pull [the country’s PISA] average down. A scenario where the country manages to retain the same level is a victory as it is,” de Moraes argued.

PISA, which is performed every three years, is acknowledged worldwide. Last year, 600 thousand 15-year-old students from 79 countries and regions wrote the exam. In Brazil, some 10.7 thousand students from 638 schools took the test, which gauge such skills as reading, mathematics, and science.

The results from last year, published Tuesday (Dec. 3), found that Brazil gained a few points compared to 2015, but shows stagnation in its performance since 2009.

In the view of Moraes, who took part in a webinar with journalists, analysts evaluating the marks should take into account the coverage and permanence of students in the education system. As per Pisa figures, Brazil started bringing more students to school in 2000. From 2003 to 2012, the country ensured the permanence of 500 thousand students and 15 years in school.

“We may assume that those going to school were doing better, and that those not doing [so good] were not going to school,” the specialist pointed out. “[And this] can conceal possible improvements,” she added.

The results show that Brazil is among the countries with globe’s lowest performance. Here, approximately 43 percent of students are below level two (levels go up to ten), seen by the OECD as the minimum proficiency, both for reading and mathematics and sciences, the three fields surveyed. Among OECD countries, the average is 13.4 percent with this performance.

In reading, Brazil ranked 57th among the 77 countries and regions with notes available. In mathematics, the country came 70th, and 64th in sciences, along with Peru and Argentina, on a ranking with 78 nations. China and Singapore was atop the list for the three disciplines.

To the judgment of Daniel Cara, coordinator-general of the National Campaign for the Right to Education, Brazilian education needs investment to offer quality education. “Brazil hasn’t been able to make strides, hasn’t done its homework, hasn’t invested in teachers. Our students cost three times less than in developed countries. Brazilian public schools are trying to get blood from a stone,” he said.

Pisa marks, Cara said, must not serve to attack public schools and should be seen as a warning stressing the need for current legislation to be enforced, including the National Education Plan (PNE), which lays out the targets to be met in education in Brazil by 2024, and the so-called Floor Law, which sets a minimum for the salary of public school teachers. This year the pay was adjusted to $608.86 a month.

Translation: Fabrício Ferreira -  Edition: Nádia Franco / Nira Foster

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