This is what students in Brazil are encouraged to aim for: get accepted at university, find a good job, and make money.
Imagine yourself entrenched in a system, which constantly demands you to be the best, which cares neither about your needs nor about your psychological conditions or even about your dreams. This is the reality faced by high school students in Brazil who aim for a place at university in Brazil and in other parts of the world.
Forget personal background, social projects, sports, essays about your life, how you have improved your community, or activities you are good at. The only thing that matters is the mere and raw accumulation of knowledge, may it be truly useful to your life or not.
Even if you want to take History or Art at college, you must, regardless, spend three years at high school studying chemistry, mathematics, physics, biology and many other subjects, so in the end you can take a long and difficult test through which you must defeat those who are competing for the same course as yours at a specific university.
What this process does to our generation
Thereby, not everyone has the chance to attend college if not approved, having to try the exact same process again the following year. Meanwhile, those with poor conditions to prepare themselves and with no access to a good-quality education, fall behind from those who do, the ones with money, who can pay for private schools.
However, the cruelest aspect of this system is how it kills creativity, assassinates the genuine will for learning, and makes those who do not succeed in the tests believe they are not good enough, as if knowing all the answers for math or geography questions could shape you as a human.
Hence, students are not stimulated to think critically, to express their ideas or to make an enjoyable experience out of the learning process; but rather they are exposed to a large amount of information that will often not make sense to them, but that must simply be memorized so as to be remembered later in the tests.
The situation is even worse: students leave high school having to know several physics formulas, but without necessarily knowing topics for everyday life, such as personal financial management, consumer education, rights and duties from the Constitution or the relevance of conscious voting.
Another sad thing is students leave school straight to university to study the course they chose, without even having the chance to try other areas; imagine how difficult it is for a 17 year-old teenager to make such a decision at this period of his life!
Anxiety and depression by constant charging are easily found among students; a mental rape has been happening in classrooms. Nevertheless, teachers have no fault.
Brazil is one of the worst countries for a teacher: these indispensable professionals are underpaid, disrespected by students and carry a big stress load, having very little power to change the system (if only teachers had the same prestige as soccer players do here). Actually, the curriculum is designed by politicians, who have not been willing to alter anything.
How politicians in Brazil are dealing with it?
Instead, a Constitutional Amendment Proposal called PEC 241 is underway on Congress, aiming to freeze expenses with health, education, welfare and social security for the next 20 years, which is in fact counterproductive and makes a fundamental change in our educational system to a much harder thing to reach.
The proposal, sent by Brazilian president Michel Temer’s team, is part of the New Tax Regime, which states such expenses cannot grow above inflation accumulated in the previous year.
Why not cut the exorbitant salaries of politicians and the privileges they enjoy instead of cutting social and educational programs? Why not create measures to reduce corruption?
According to data from FIESP (the Federation of Industries of Sao Paulo State), corruption could have costed $53 Billion in 2013. Besides, a Congressman in Brazil currently costs R$ 1 billion per year for Brazilians – their salaries are R$ 33,7 thousand, and their benefits cover airline tickets, aircraft charter, food, postal mail and telephone, fuel and lubricants, consulting, rent and other expenses of political offices, TV and internet subscription, security services and housing assistance.
True power of education
As said by Paulo Freire – a Brazilian educator and leading advocate of the Critical Pedagogy– “If education alone cannot transform society, without it society cannot change either”. His works tell us the key to positively modify society lays upon a releasing education, a view that has always been denied by government.
I truly hope democracy speaks louder in Brazil, and that politicians turn themselves to listen to youth’s needs.