We have already written on this Blog about the precariousness that Higher Education in Brazil has been experiencing for years, as a result of the concentration of enrollments in a few private and financialized groups, which opened their capital on the stock exchange in the 2000s, and have been using distance learning intensively (EAD ), which are most often of low quality, and which have high student dropout rates.
A research report recently released by the Centro de Estudos SoU_Ciência shows that on average 60% of students enrolled in distance learning courses from the 10 largest private groups do not survive the end of the second year of graduation and that the few who achieve a diploma obtain results, via as a rule, very bad at Enade. Some are truly disastrous.
Last year, 2.03 million students entered EAD from just 9 (nine) institutions maintained by 6 (six) private groups, in a total of 4.8 million students who entered all public and private higher education in the country. country, in both teaching modalities, face-to-face and distance learning. This means that 42% of entrants across the entire Brazilian higher education system, in 2022, did so in distance learning at Colleges, University Centers and Universities, belonging to just 6 (six) large private groups.
Although this situation has been diagnosed and its consequences analyzed for years by experts in the field of Education, it has only recently achieved greater repercussion, as shown by the recent Letter to the MEC in defense of structural changes in initial teacher training in Brazil. The Charter was signed by Conced (National Council of Education Secretaries), the Mixed Parliamentary Front for Education, the SBPC (Brazilian Society for the Progress of Science) among other entities.
This situation has also been worrying the MEC, as shown by the repeated demonstrations regarding the current Minister of Education, Camilo Santana, and the public consultation that was organized and is ongoing regarding distance learning undergraduate courses.
Firstly, great care must be taken not to immediately and thoughtlessly demonize all distance learning. Brazil has good examples of offering courses in the distance learning modality, as is the case of the Cederj consortium, which brings together seven public universities (UFRJ, UFF, UERJ, UFRRJ, Unirio, UENF, and Cefet-RJ), which currently has around 40 thousand students enrolled in centers distributed throughout the State of Rio de Janeiro, and who have been achieving performance on Enade equivalent to students taking face-to-face courses at these prestigious Universities.
Secondly, a great effort is needed by the MEC to curb the bad practices of distance learning courses by large private groups, as was done in the past by the MEC, under the direction of the then Minister Fernando Haddad.
In 2006, the MEC observed an exponential growth in the supply of private undergraduate courses in the distance learning modality, which were of low quality. At that time, the situation was combated and overcome with the support of 400 experts in the field of Education, linked to public and private Universities, scholars of the subject of distance learning, as well as technicians from the MEC’s Distance Education Secretariat, who visited dozens of institutions and hundreds of distance learning centers. They collectively understood the fragility of low-quality offers and then established and participated in the execution of supervisory mechanisms and the development of regulatory rules that worked to curb the abuses committed at the time.
Among the main abusive practices observed at that time were: offering subjects with very superficial content; mechanisms for evaluating enrollees that do not minimally assess what should be learned in an undergraduate course; a franchise system in the offering of enrollments, by the centers, disconnected from the teachers of the Educational Institutions and a very high number of students enrolled per teacher, which becomes the main source of excessive profit in the offer of low quality courses.
As mentioned, the MEC recently launched a public consultation on the courses offered in the distance learning modality. One of the main propositions of this consultation is that only Higher Education Institutions with an Institutional Concept – EAD (CI-EAD) equal to 4 or 5, on a 5-point scale, can operate.
However, unfortunately, almost all HEIs belonging to large private groups, which offer low quality courses as mentioned above, present concepts 4 or 5. Therefore, one of the bases of the aforementioned consultation appears to be very fragile and iniquitous.
On the other hand, the consultation also proposes to restrict the offer of courses that present more than 30% of practical activities in their curricular matrices, which can in fact minimize the losses of low quality offers.
Currently, the MEC has a team involved in the issue of the quality of Higher Education provision, with social commitment, a good time to reverse the difficult situation that the country finds itself in.
Our suggestion has been to immediately begin a broad process of supervision of undergraduate courses in the EAD modality, offered on a large scale, and to this end, it will certainly count on the unrestricted support of thousands of professors from public and private Universities with knowledge of EAD.
Another important measure is to immediately and significantly increase EAD funding for the 138 public institutions that make up the Open University of Brazil (UAB), operated by the Capes distance education directorate, and which have historically done an excellent job of formation and democratization of Higher Education in our country.
Our youth wants and deserves us to take responsibility for quality Higher Education!