The impasse over the high school model in Brazil, in addition to making school planning difficult, threatens the production of textbooks. The preparation of the material for the more than 6.4 million students at this stage of education in the country’s public network is blocked, awaiting the Lula government’s definition of which curricular changes it will propose, changes that will still be voted on by Congress.
Depending on what is approved, students could be left without adequate teaching material in 2024, 2025 and even 2026.
The discussion takes place around the new secondary education, which began to be implemented for 1st year students in 2022. The country would have, at the end of 2024, the graduation of the first generation that studied under the new rules. The Lula government, however, pressured by criticism from students and teachers, suspended the implementation calendar for the new high school and began discussing another model. The “new high school”, therefore, could even be called “old”. And what should come into force will be a second version of the model, a “new high school 2.0”.
If the “new high school 2.0” comes into force in 2024, students will have outdated material. This hypothesis is not the most likely, because the changes have not yet been sent to Congress. But, even if the “new secondary education 2.0” only comes into force in 2025, the new books will hardly be ready by then.
The production of the material is organized by the PNLD (National Textbook Program), of the MEC (Ministry of Education), and lasts around two years. The process begins with the publication of a notice, and production is subject to strict supervision by the department. When they are ready, the books still have to be chosen by the schools and then purchased with funds from the FNDE (Education Development Fund), from the MEC.
These books are reused for four years, a measure that saves public resources. Students use them during an academic year and pass them on to the next class. After this cycle, another harvest arrives at schools, which went through the same production process as the PNLD.
The books that are currently being used by secondary education arrived in schools in 2021, suitable for the old “new secondary education”. The replacement of these books should take place in 2025. For this, production would have to have started at the beginning of this year. But, due to the impasse over the model, it did not start.
The notice for 2025 should have been published at the end of 2022. The draft had been prepared before the elections, according to Sheet found, but, with Lula’s victory and the government transition team’s signal that secondary education would be reformulated, the MEC chose not to publish the notice.
In April, the Lula government published a decree suspending the implementation calendar of the old “new secondary education”. A public consultation was carried out until July, and the MEC is currently preparing a bill, with changes to the model, to forward to Congress.
As it is already September, there should not be enough time to produce the “new secondary education 2.0” books until 2025, according to Ângelo Xavier, president of Abrelivros (Brazilian Association of Books and Educational Contents), which brings together the main publishers of school books in the country.
“PNLD 2025 should not happen and could be postponed by at least a year, becoming PNLD 2026”, Xavier said to Sheet. And, for PNLD 2026 to be viable, explained the editor, the notice must be published by November.
If it is not – which is possible, considering the progress in Congress –, the books will not even be ready in 2026. So, even if the “new high school 2.0” only comes into force in 2025, students will have to use the “new old high school” material for at least a year and maybe even two years. In other words, an entire generation will only have to study with adequate material in the 3rd and final year.
The divergences between the books can be considerable, depending on the degree of changes. The main one must be the workload. In the case of the old “new secondary education”, the curriculum is divided into two parts. One is basic training, common to all students, with regular subjects, such as mathematics, Portuguese, etc. The other is specific training (training itineraries), in which students choose an area. Basic training occupies 60% of the workload, that is, 1,800 hours. The itineraries, 40%, or 1,200 hours.
The “new secondary education 2.0” should maintain this division, but increase the burden of basic training and reduce that of itineraries. As a result, it is possible that current books have insufficient content. There is also the possibility that subjects excluded by the “new old high school”, such as Spanish, will be resumed, and then there would be no teaching material for these classes.
The reduction of itineraries is also discussed. The “new old high school” brings five (mathematics; languages; natural sciences; human sciences; technical), in addition to allowing the creation of others. With this infinity of options, the PNLD does not produce books for itineraries. If the “new secondary education 2.0” reduces it to two or three fixed itineraries, the government may determine that there are specific books for each one.
The mismatch between the teaching material and the high school format worries the authors. “The PNLD 2021 notice called for an excessively complex format, which was questioned by us, the authors, and has received complaints from teachers. If these materials are in force for another year, the problematic books will be kept beyond the usual four years”, he pointed out to Sheet Maria Cecilia G. Condeixa, president of Abrale (Brazilian Association of Authors of Educational Books).
The financial impact of this impasse is already large for textbook publishers, which may reflect on the quality of the material. The production of teaching materials requires specialization and is complex, which means that less than 20 companies participate in the PNLD. The program is currently responsible for around 40% of the publishing market’s revenue in the country – which corresponds to a total of around R$2 billion annually.
For smaller publishers, the production of textbooks represents more than 70% of revenue, with some being entirely dedicated to this. This is the case with Words. “We have many professionals standing still”, says Cândido Grangeiro, one of the publisher’s founders. “With this production halted, many end up getting other jobs, and it’s difficult to find people specialized in this area.”
When questioned, the MEC sent a note from the FNDE. “The process of reviewing the new secondary education is being guided by democratic participation, an action that the MEC understands as fundamental, in respect for all social movement around the topic. The publication of notices for the acquisition of books must respect what is defined. A public hearing is scheduled for this year to address the issue.”