O Globo reports today that governor Sérgio Cabral’s new state education secretary, Wilson Risolia, is creating a “goals program” to catapult Rio de Janeiro state from second-to-last in the national Basic Education Development Index (IDEB is the Portuguese acronym) to one of the top five by 2014. The program will use a merit system to select education coordinators and school principals.
Currently, Globo says, top positions in the state’s 1,693 schools and 30 regional coordinating offices are handed out on the basis of political criteria, as determined by state legislators.
Education specialists quoted in the piece say the challenge is huge, citing teacher training, infrastructure, crowded classrooms, lack of classrooms, and salaries as some of the critical areas. “The best professionals go to the federal education system or to municipalities, which sometimes pay twice as much,” says Bertha do Valle, an education professor at Uerj, the Rio state university.
Some measures that have been mentioned are performance-based pay bonuses and the extension of school hours to a full-day schedule. Brazilian schools, both private and public traditionally have half-day programs and thus serve two or more enrollments.
Rio is no model on the education front, but the new justice minister, José Eduardo Cardozo, cited the state as an example to be followed by others when it comes to public safety, “where the Union, the state, the city, the police forces, the armed forces, the media and society come together around a common objective, and results occur. We have to learn from this experience, deepen it, perfect it, and take it to the four corners of our national territory,” he said in an interview published today in O Globo. He too singled out political interests as a stumbling block to effective public policy. “When there are political, partisan, personal, corporativist, or other interests, these must yield to to agreements around the defense of the public interest, of our society and our country. The Brazilian state is stronger than organized crime, you can be sure of this. And we Brazilians, in and out of government, will demonstrate the truth of this, no matter who suffers as a result.”
Cardozo added that improved border controls are a priority of president Dilma Rousseff’s new government, which began work yesterday. According to the minister, Brazil is negotiating with its neighbors the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles over foreign airspace to perform reconnaissance missions. This is good news for Rio, since drugs and weapons have flowed quite freely from abroad and into the city’s favelas, to drug traffickers’ benefit. State public safety secretary José Mariano Beltrame has repeatedly invoked this aspect of Rio’s crime panorama as a problem he needs the federal government to address.