For Better Schools, Let the Communities Take Over

Caring for education and personal development of the younger generation is a fundamental task to the future of Brazilian society. But we have never been so far from achieving these goals. Public administration sure “talks a lot” about “sustainability” and “development”, but it’s easy to see that administrators don’t have an effective plan to solve the real problems we’re facing nowadays. Authorities have failed in their effort to boost educational outcomes for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. For the poorest, the promise of quality education remains elusive. And the jobs, which were already insufficient, disappeared in the last years. Let’s remember that this happened in the years of the administration of the Worker’s Party. Ain’t that ironic?

What is the answer for education now? We cannot pretend that things will improve with unilateral measures, in a complex and diverse society like the current one. That’s not the right answer. Is it reasonable to believe that norms arbitrarily established by those who, in a contingent way, exercise power will transform reality for the better? Besides that, even if reform improved education, it is unlikely to do much about inequality. On the other hand, we must also confront those who specialized in the contestatory discourse. They are demagogues who are not concerned with younger people’s dreams. Otherwise they would respect their freedom of thought – the essential condition for building up a fair society. As well as in our personal life, in society we have to be the change. The policy will not revitalize education. They need to start by learning how to listen to those directly engaged in working with education. The truth is we will not “find” the solution. We must create it.

New forms of school organization need to emerge in response to new problems. The crisis should lead to a paradigm shift. Schools do not belong to political parties or rulers, not even belong to trade unions. But in these matters there’s a harmful centralized philosophy which empowers bureaucrats to exercise control over the classroom. Parents, teachers and community – the people closest to and most directly responsible for the students – have been shut out of the process. Far from it the authorities are replacing misguided policies with worse ones. It’s time to return education policy back to the local communities; it’s time to start putting our children first.

So, I believe that, even though experimentally, because that’s how the new one starts, it’s time for local communities to take over their schools. Only they can really take care of the public schools and those who attend them. I believe they would do this in the same responsible and generous way that people, all over the country, are rescuing and caring for abandoned public squares and gardens. In the same way that families come together to take care of the neighborhood. It is certainly unfortunate that we have come to this point. But we cannot wait any longer. It is time for decent and responsible people to confront this situation. It is time to transform our schools into a place of real learning.