Indigenous Languages: An extinction of interwoven narratives

Written by Caren Thomas

The world is a mosaic of culture and diversity. However, there is a continuous depletion in the inclusion of indigenous languages within this mosaic. The way in which conversation revolves around indigenous languages shows us that universality continues to remain a mirage.

We need to recognise the beauty and enrichment that comes from these languages. It spreads awareness about the language, cultures and traditions. Indigenous languages inform us about a community that has been wiped from the face of the earth. Indigenous languages contain intricate threads that help weave together identities and histories. The presence of the rich cultural heritage and other vibrant expressions and traditional knowledge in the form of ancestral wisdom from these indigenous languages recognises the need to be preserved and revitalised.

Revival of what is lost helps develop identities of potential persons who belong to these communities and are unaware of the same. Society must realise that recognition and revival of indigenous languages go beyond linguistic diversity. Acknowledging these indigenous languages is a sign of recognising and respecting the presence of these otherwise unknown communities. Furthermore, it is a recognition of the rights and contributions of the people within these indigenous communities.

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples clearly indicates, particularly through Article 13, the right to languages as a right for indigenous peoples. Boosting this element among indigenous communities enhances their position in the political, economic, social and cultural spheres. This will be a step closer to ending all forms of discrimination and eliminating much of the oppression and marginalisation they encounter daily. All indigenous peoples are entitled to all human rights recognised under international law. It needs to be reaffirmed that there is no discrimination regarding the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples. 

Your language is a part of your identity, and eradication of this due to various circumstances, including but not limited to colonialism, forced assimilation, and the influence of other dominant languages, is a devastating blow to the overall growth of the individual and the concerned indigenous communities.

Revival of these indigenous languages is necessary for the upbringing and education of the children within these communities. This will also ensure it is in line with the rights of the child. This will also help achieve a cultural resurgence. However, there is a decline in the transmission of indigenous languages from one generation to the next generation. It may always remain a missing piece in the narrative.

How do we take this leap towards achieving universality regarding indigenous languages? As a society, we must establish worthwhile and sustainable solutions that future generations can carry out to avoid the further extinction of indigenous languages. Even though there are treaties and agreements, States must maintain a positive partnership with these indigenous peoples. Steps must be taken to encourage intergenerational transmission of Indigenous languages. This would help empower younger generations to reconnect with their ancestral background through their linguistic roots. This will ensure that these interwoven narratives will help create a leap towards universality and may flourish for years to come.

Photo by Ken Kahiri on Unsplash

Educational Challenges in Brazil

Written by Daniel Ordoñez

Brazil stands out as the most biodiverse country on planet Earth, and with a territory covering more than 8.51 million km² is the largest country on the South American continent. Since its independence as a colony of Portugal, its territorial extension and political systems have directly influenced the development of the population, particularly in how the education system has been structured and designed. The constant socio-political changes and economic circumstances have been factors that have directly influenced the education system in the country.

This article will outline the different mechanics and factors that have influenced education in Brazil, as well as the different modifications it has undergone throughout the federal administrations, the projects underway and the challenges facing the system.

The sociocultural context and the education system

With the arrival of the Portuguese colonisers to the South American continent, Brazil would change its historical destiny forever, becoming the most important colony and the future of the Portuguese kingdom, as well as influencing politics, the structuring of the modern Brazilian state and its socio-economic evolution. The Catholic Church strongly influenced Brazilian society due to its past as a Portuguese colony. Unlike many European nations, Brazil was not affected by the various changes brought about by the Reformation movement in Europe.

During its early years of colonisation, Brazil was the destination of numerous Jesuit missions. These missionaries established the first colleges and educational centres in the country. However, in the 18th century, during the burgeoning Enlightenment movements, the Jesuit missions were expelled from the country. This period also brought about reforms in the Brazilian political system, according to Schwartzman (2006). These Enlightenment reforms led to the creation of Brazil’s national primary education system, which meant dismantling much of Catholic education in the country. Finally, it is worth mentioning that in 1838 Pedro II College was founded as the first primary school in Rio de Janeiro and marked an important milestone in the country’s educational system’s evolution.

Children attend school near Manaus, Brazil in the Amazon region. Brazil. Photo: Julio Pantoja / World Bank

By the 19th century, Brazil was a predominantly rural society with a highly centralised government that tried to adapt to ideas from Europe’s nation-states. In addition, most of the population was in a precarious economic state, with multiple disconnected provinces and economic models focused solely on mining and sugar exploitation (Schwartzman 11, 2006). A small white elite of Portuguese descent headed most of the decision-making, followed by a mixed majority of slave descendants, Native Americans and Portuguese settlers.

During the 19th and 20th centuries, the demography of the country changed considerably, receiving an influx of immigrants from all continents and countries in the same hemisphere in order to replace the slave labour that worked in the coffee, tobacco and corn plantations and with the industrial revolution, a considerable part of the rural population moved to the big cities, with the promise of better-payed jobs and better life quality. By the mid-20th century, an estimated 25% of the population was literate, with primary and secondary education being the responsibility of the local state. German, Japanese and Italian immigrants formed their private schools, with a strong influence from their native countries.

On 15 November 1889, the Empire was replaced by the Republican regime, which fostered an even more modern state that could more coherently integrate the national community, and established the first public schools. During the process of industrialisation of the country, which began at the end of the 19th century, schools had no system to unify and regulate them, which in a way, it promoted the implementation of modernisation policies, focusing on the creation of “school groups”, using the most advanced architectural technologies for the construction of schools; organising students according to their age and proficiency, following a multi-serial and sequential programme. Likewise, schools for training professional teachers called “escoltas normais” were founded, introducing new teaching and training techniques.

With the government of Getulio Vargas, from 1930 to 1945 and 1951 to 1954, the first fundamental reforms in the educational system were created, promoting a more centralised methodology and creating the Ministry of Education and Culture. During this era, the provision of elementary or primary education, which was expected to be compulsory and universally accessible, spanned four years, accommodating children between the ages of 7 to 10. The gymnasium succeeded in this initial phase, perceived as secondary education, which, too, lasted four years. Lastly, the “college” stage was in place, extending for two to three years, and was designed as a precursor to university education. A vital characteristic that would mark the future of education in the country was the lack of governmental interest in training students and teachers in technical and industrial careers, which left the door open to the private sector to meet this demand. By 1931, the first legislation to promote universities was created with the “Manifest of the Pioneers of the New Education”, implementing a French educational model and an Italian one for the faculties of Philosophy, Sciences and Letters.

After the military dictatorship, which ended in 1988, the new constitution established the right to education for all citizens of Brazil, allowing universities autonomy in research and teaching and promoting free public education from primary to secondary school. Subsequently, in 1996, Congress approved a new reform that would give educational institutions greater freedom and flexibility in setting up courses and programmes.

Challenges of the Education System

The attempt to comprehend and interpret why education in Brazil did not progress as swiftly as in other countries hinges on historical context. In brief, the main reason is the absence of factors in Brazilian society that would encourage its citizens to establish and nurture their academic institutions. Further, at both the national and regional scale, the Brazilian government needed more human and financial resources and the necessary drive to integrate its population into a uniform, top-down educational system. Sources for the development of the educational system, two strong trends marked its evolution, the first was the proliferation of primary and secondary education, and the second was the establishment of institutions for conferring professional competencies and official certifications.

In his 2006 paper entitled “The Challenges of Education in Brazil”, Simon Schwartzman states that the country did not have a properly developed education system due to several factors that hampered its evolution. The domain of teacher education was demoted to less prestigious components of higher educational establishments and the private sector. It did not cultivate robust postgraduate and research programs like those in the more scholarly social sciences such as economics, sociology, political science, and the natural sciences.

The isolation of teacher education and traditional “teaching” social sciences has resulted in some unintended outcomes. This has led to a new generation of well-organised and politically driven teachers who often need more teaching skills or subject matter expertise. They often need clarification about teaching methodologies or content; shockingly, they dismiss these aspects as insignificant. They perceive society as unjust, with exploitation rampant and governments showing apathy towards educators and education. They believe meaningful change can only occur through substantial social transformation or revolution.

According to Schwartzman, another factor was the rapid and uncontrolled expansion of the education system without clear guidance and the early retirement of many retired teachers, with two clear consequences. First, the financial burden of public higher education escalated dramatically, which constrained the government’s capacity to meet the rising demand for higher education and maintain salaries that outpace inflation. As a second point, only a fraction of the appointed individuals possessed the education and skills required for advanced academic tasks. To enhance the quality of education, new laws were enacted, with the objective of promotions and salary hikes with higher educational degrees, resulting in an inflated growth of specialisation and master’s programs.

Another essential aspect to highlight is the rate of young people who drop out of primary education in Brazil, many students lose the motivation to finish their primary or secondary studies because of the low quality of teachers and classes, or they have to work to earn money for themselves or their families. This is due to the expansion of the academic system without proper structuring, with irrelevant courses for young people or teachers who need to be more motivated.

A school in the Northeast region of Brazil (Escola Duarte Coelho) Photo by: Passarinho/Pref.Olinda

During the OECD’s economic report for 2020 and 2021, during the Covid-19 era, several aspects of the education system that Brazil lacks were highlighted, and challenges about its future and evolution were presented. According to the report, the governmental composition of the country and its bilevel bureaucracy between states and municipalities means that no national system allows the harmonious functioning of roles and responsibilities in the guidelines of how to manage schools and present a coherent education policy. Considering Brazil’s devolved education structure, which places federal, state, and municipal bodies equally, establishing a National Education System is complex. This issue, along with the numerous proposals previously mentioned, continues to be a hot topic of discussion among government bodies, civil society, and the public.

Another aspect highlighted by the OECD report is the growing disparity between the public and private education systems. While the public system covers more than 81% of the youth population, the private system meets the demand for tertiary education, technology and university training. In Brazil, over 75% of undergraduate students are enrolled in private universities, contrasting to less than a third in OECD countries. The previous decades have seen a surge in private sector enrollments and the number of private higher education institutions due to relaxed regulations since the late 1990s. Government funding programs such as the Student Financing Fund (FIES) and the “University for All” Program (ProUni) have facilitated access for underprivileged students to private institutions. However, a more significant proportion of less affluent individuals are enrolled in the public higher education network compared to private institutions (9.7% versus 5.5%). In general, higher education is primarily accessed by the more advantaged individuals.

These figures are also supported by the report presented by the US Department of Commerce in 2023, which shows how private institutions represent the majority of the education system, while public institutions are shown to be small bodies, unable to meet the demand for higher education. Public higher education institutions are positioned as hubs of high-quality learning and research, having extremely selective admission procedures and constrained expansion capabilities. On the other hand, private higher education institutions have crafted a distinct role, primarily addressing the professional demands of the job market. Consequently, they have formulated adaptive programs to cater to the requirements of the working demographic.

Latest projects and policies

Within the report presented by UNICEF in 2018, Brazil introduced a programme for developing the education system for the year 2021. Under national priorities and following the guidelines established in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the country focused its education projects on promoting and “facilitating the generation and knowledge exchange to identify the most excluded children and to monitor and measure the progress of actions in the fulfilment of their rights” (UNICEF 4, 2018). Using the ‘Theory of Change’, Brazil focused on creating partnerships between public and private entities, encompassing civil society, media and private sectors, on ensuring quality education access for all Brazil’s children, regardless of their strata, ethnicity or social conditions.

These UNICEF-driven policies had four fundamental components. Firstly, “Enhanced policies for excluded children”. Secondly, “Quality social policies for vulnerable children”. Thirdly, “Prevention of and response to extreme forms of violence”. Moreover, as a fourth and final component, “Engaged citizenship and participation”.

UNICEF’s final report showed results and progress in several facets of education in Brazil. In the first instance, more evidence was gathered on the causes of the increased exclusion of children through the development of the School Active Search strategy (SAS) and the Successful School Path (SSP) programmes, using the SAS system to monitor and measure the identification and reintegration of out-of-school children.

As a second development, specialised programmes for the most excluded children were created at national and subnational levels; “by the implementation of the SAS, through intersectoral articulation, population engagement, dialogue with families and school involvement and exchange of experiences among participating municipalities and states” (UNICEF 5, 2018).

Thirdly, the retention of both girls and boys in the primary education system has significantly increased, thanks to intersectoral policies that emphasise diversity and incorporate contextualised education. These policies are embodied in a variety of initiatives. For instance, research has been conducted on age-grade distortion and practical guidebooks have been produced to support educational strategies. Moreover, a seminar was held to introduce the “Indicators on Early Childhood Education Methodology”. This included the provision of materials and guidelines to facilitate self-assessment of school performance, this initiative aimed to foster a democratic management style that encourages the participation of children, families, teachers, and employees. One notable effort is the “Open Doors for Inclusion Initiative”, a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). This course guides how to enhance the inclusion of children with disabilities in schools, signifying an essential step towards inclusive education.

The fourth advance, presented by UNICEF, is the improvement in guidance and policies for the promotion of satisfactory schooling trajectories, including children and adolescents who were victims of violence and have dropped out of school or are at risk of dropping out, as well as victims of child labour and children without civil registration.

Fifth, the involvement of citizens in advocating for the rights of boys and girls has grown, mainly through public advocacy efforts. The general election in the latter half of 2018 was seized as a unique chance to highlight the rights of children and adolescents. This was accomplished through the “More than Promises” advocacy campaign, designed around six central issues young people face. The campaign also proposed specific actions for elected officials to address these issues, demonstrating a proactive approach to realising children’s rights.

Finally, the report states how the level of knowledge and the opportunities for mobilisation and participation of adolescents in public decision-making forums have significantly increased. This growth has been particularly evident in actions that aim to enhance the development and participation of adolescents and youth in various debates. Key topics have included the safe use of the Internet and gender issues. As a result of these efforts, more than 30,000 adolescents were allowed to participate in the School Active Search program in 2019, reflecting a notable increase in youth engagement.

Cover image by Matheus Câmara da Silva on Unsplash

References

The Brazilian education system | Education in Brazil : An International Perspective | OECD iLibrary. (n.d.). Retrieved May 9, 2023, from https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/c61f9bfb-en/index.html?itemId=/content/component/c61f9bfb-en

Brazil – Education and Training. (n.d.). Retrieved May 9, 2023, from https://www.trade.gov/country-commercial-guides/brazil-education-and-training

Brazil Education System. (n.d.). Retrieved May 9, 2023, from https://www.scholaro.com/db/Countries/Brazil/Education-System

Education GPS – Brazil – Overview of the education system (EAG 2022). (n.d.). Retrieved May 9, 2023, from https://gpseducation.oecd.org/CountryProfile?primaryCountry=BRA&;treshold=10&topic=EO

Education system Brazil. (n.d.). Retrieved June 11, 2023, from https://www.nuffic.nl/sites/default/files/2020-08/education-system-brazil.pdf

Reforming Brazil’s Education System – BORGEN. (n.d.). Retrieved June 11, 2023, from https://www.borgenmagazine.com/brazils-education-system/

The education system of described and compared with the Dutch system. (n.d.).

The_Challenges_of_Education_in_Brazil.pdf. (n.d.). Retrieved May 9, 2023, from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/225088750_The_Challenges_of_Education_in_Brazil

UNICEF BRAZIL Programmatic Area – Education Thematic Report March – December 2018. (n.d.). Retrieved May 24, 2023, from https://open.unicef.org/sites/transparency/files/2020-06/Brazil-TP4-2018.pdf

Educational Challenges in Croatia

Written by Matilde Ribetti

Introduction

Education stands as the bedrock upon which a nation’s future is built, empowering generations to thrive and contribute to the growth of their societies. In the enchanting land of Croatia, a country known for its stunning landscapes and rich cultural heritage, the quest for a quality education system has been both a journey of remarkable achievements and persistent challenges. As we delve into the realm of Croatian education, we find ourselves confronted with a tapestry of complexities that demand attention, innovation, and collective action.

From the vibrant city streets of Zagreb to the picturesque coastal towns of Split and Dubrovnik, Croatia’s diverse landscape is mirrored by the diversity of its educational challenges. While Croatia has made significant strides in reforming its education system since gaining independence in the 1990s, it still grapples with a range of obstacles that hinder its quest for excellence. These challenges affect the lives of students, teachers, and parents and have far-reaching implications for the nation’s social cohesion, economic prosperity, and global competitiveness.

The education sector in Croatia has requested the government to reduce budget cuts and promote active changes to improve quality and access. Photo by the European Trade Union Committee for Education.

Preschool Education

Preschool education in Croatia faces several significant challenges. Insufficient infrastructural capacity, with a lack of institutions and limited enrollment places, makes it difficult for many children to access preschool education. This issue is further exacerbated for disadvantaged families, who face more significant challenges in terms of availability. Additionally, there is an inadequate human resources capacity, especially in rural and less developed areas, resulting in a shortage of educators and professional staff. Moreover, the funding model for preschool education is ineffective, with a suboptimal division of responsibilities between central and local authorities.

Primary and General Education

Primary and general education in Croatia also encounters various obstacles. The low number of teaching hours compared to the European average leads to underachievement in educational outcomes, as reflected in PISA scores. In addition, insufficient infrastructural capacity to introduce a whole-day school model effectively would increase the number of teaching hours. The partial implementation of education reform, including a lack of teacher preparation and inadequate reform assessment systems, hampers progress. Furthermore, the lack of systematic educational policy measures to attract and retain the best candidates for the teaching profession contributes to the challenges. The underutilization of data and modern evaluation instruments further hinders effective policymaking. Lastly, there is an imbalanced enrollment structure, with excess VET (Vocational Education and Training) programs and a deficit in gymnasium programs.

Higher Education

Higher education in Croatia presents its own share of challenges. The country experiences a low rate of completing tertiary education, coupled with a low employment rate for individuals with completed tertiary education. Disparities exist between the offer of study programs and the capacity of student dormitories. Insufficient resources are allocated to ensure the quality of study programs. The lack of systematic data collection and integration between existing databases hampers effective monitoring and evaluation of higher education. Moreover, there is a need to develop stronger connections between teaching and scientific research activities within higher education institutions and society. Additionally, the internationalization of Croatian higher education remains at a relatively low level.

Proposed Solutions

Croatia has developed a comprehensive plan known as the National Plan for the Development of Education and Training to tackle the existing educational challenges until 2027. This ambitious plan outlines ten specific goals the country aims to achieve within the given timeframe, addressing various aspects of the education system.

One of the primary goals is to provide universal accessibility to preschool education, ensuring that every child has an equal opportunity to receive high-quality early childhood education. This involves expanding the infrastructural capacity of preschool institutions and increasing the number of enrollment places.

Another crucial aspect is the improvement of educational outcomes in primary and general secondary education. To achieve this, the plan focuses on enhancing the education system’s overall quality, efficiency, effectiveness, and fairness. This includes implementing reforms, refining teaching methods, and providing adequate resources to schools.

Lifelong learning among adults is also prioritized, aiming to boost participation rates by enhancing the quality and relevance of adult education programs. This involves expanding the range of available courses, promoting collaboration between educational institutions and employers, and ensuring continuous professional development for adult education experts.

Furthermore, the plan emphasizes the need to ensure the quality, relevance, and accessibility of higher education. This encompasses addressing completion rates, employment outcomes, and program quality while also strengthening connections between academic institutions and the labour market.

In line with fostering inclusivity, the plan aims to ensure access to education for students with developmental disabilities and disabilities. This involves creating an inclusive environment that supports their unique needs and promotes equal opportunities for learning.

Gifted children and students receive special attention through the establishment of a coherent system that identifies and supports their talents. This includes providing appropriate educational pathways, tailored support, and enrichment programs to nurture their potential.

To foster cultural diversity, the plan focuses on improving the education of children and students belonging to national minorities. This involves developing inclusive curricula, promoting cultural exchange, and providing support to facilitate their educational success.

Additionally, the plan addresses the education of Croatian nationals residing outside the country, ensuring that they have access to educational support and opportunities that align with the national curriculum.

Lastly, the integration of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) across all education levels is a key priority. This entails leveraging modern technologies and digital tools to enhance teaching and learning experiences, promote digital literacy, and prepare students for the digital age.

By implementing these proposed solutions, Croatia aims to overcome its current educational challenges and pave the way for a more inclusive, effective, and high-quality education system. Through strategic planning, resource allocation, and collaboration between stakeholders, Croatia endeavours to create a robust educational framework that nurtures the potential of every learner and prepares them for a successful future.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Croatia’s educational challenges are diverse and multifaceted, spanning from preschool education accessibility to disparities in primary and secondary education, higher education quality, and inclusivity. However, Croatia has outlined a comprehensive plan, the National Plan for the Development of Education and Training until 2027, which addresses these challenges.

By focusing on preschool education, improving outcomes, enhancing vocational training, promoting lifelong learning, ensuring quality higher education, fostering inclusivity, supporting gifted students, addressing minority education, and integrating ICT, Croatia aims to create a more effective and inclusive education system.

Collaboration, resource allocation, and continuous evaluation are crucial to achieving these goals. Croatia’s commitment to transforming its education system will empower learners and prepare them for the future.

Croatia’s journey towards educational excellence serves as an inspiration globally, emphasizing the transformative power of education. By investing in education, Croatia is building a brighter future where every student can thrive and contribute to societal progress.

 

Sources

https://eurydice.eacea.ec.europa.eu/national-education-systems/croatia/ongoing-reforms-and-policy-developments

https://mzo.gov.hr/UserDocsImages/dokumenti/Obrazovanje/AkcijskiINacionalniPlan/Nacionalni-plan-razvoja-sustava-obrazovanja-za-razdoblje-do-2027.pdf

http://www.seepro.eu/English/pdfs/CROATIA_Key_Data.pdf

https://eurydice.eacea.ec.europa.eu/national-education-systems/croatia/population-demographic-situation-languages-and-religions

https://welcomm-europe.eu/croatia/education/