Inclusive Education in Brazil

Leaving No One Behind

Social inequalities in Brazil directly affect the different conditions for accessing education in the country. Almost all Brazilian indicators highlight this fact. 

Inequalities are perceived in conditions for accessing education and in education results of Brazilian children, youth and adults especially penalizing some ethnic-racial groups, rural and the poorest populations, young and adult people that have not concluded compulsory education at adequate age, as well as children and persons with deficiency. 

Deep and broad racial and ethnic inequalities continue to exist in Brazilian society (especially in relation to some specific groups such as Indigenous population, African Descendents, quilombolas, prisoners and rural population). The specialized literature shows that there is a strong correlation between ethnic background and educational opportunities. These relations coexist side by side with social inequalities – including regional inequalities within the country –, which result in the educational exclusion of a considerable number of youth and adults.

There must be a guarantee that all students have access to a good-quality education that can respond to all basic learning needs to enrich the lives of youth. This is the way for the right to education for all to become a real fact. The UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education (1960), other International Human Rights Treaties, as well as the Brazilian Legal Framework, prohibit any exclusion or limitation of educational opportunities. Socially attributed or perceived differences, such as gender, ethnic-racial background, language, religion, nationality, social background, economic situation, deficiencies, etc.   Inclusive education is not simply a matter of turning the school accessible.  It is being proactive in the identification of barriers and obstacles that students face when trying to access quality educational opportunities, and on the elimination of barriers and obstacles that drive to exclusion.

UNESCO intends to support the country on the implementation of affirmative actions to promote equal opportunities for access to quality education, including all groups of Brazilian society.

Persons with Disabilities

More than a billion people in the world live with some kind of deficiency. Among them, almost 93 million are children. In Brazil, there are over 45 million people – which represent almost 24% of the Brazilian population – living with some kind of deficiency.

The societies distinctly perceive the kinds of deficiency and the limited capacity of social and governmental stakeholders to accommodate special needs, many times living them aside.  Persons with disabilities daily experience inequalities in their lives. They have fewer opportunities to have access to quality education and to develop themselves in an inclusive environment. 

UNESCO supports various International Human Rights Treaties and Conventions that defend the right to education for all people, among them are: the Article 26 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1946), the UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education (1960), the UNICEF Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), and the Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights to Persons with Disabilities (2006).

Through the rights-based approach, UNESCO promotes policies, programmes, and practices in the area of inclusive education to ensure equal educational opportunities for persons with disabilities. Some action areas are:

  • Promoting effective practices and sharing knowledge through various data-based platforms, such as the Educação Inclusiva em Ação (Inclusive Education in Action) developed in cooperation with the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education and the Building Inclusive Societies - Online Knowledge Community.
  • Creating institutional partnerships through the Education task force of the Global Partnership on Children with Disabilities linked to UNICEF and UNESCO, which aims at providing orientations to State Members on the implementation of the Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights to Persons with Disabilities.
  • Strengthening the capacity to develop guidelines and tools that are capable to help build an inclusive educational environment, as well as teacher training and information and communication technologies in education for persons with disabilities.
  • Advocating the right to education on the occasions of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities that is celebrated annually on 3 December. Also advocating the launch of the UNESCO Prize Emir Jaber al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah every semester to promote quality education for persons with mental deficiency. The prize awards the individuals, groups, organizations, and centres that actively promote inclusive education.

Indigenous Peoples

Great part of the members of Indigenous communities have lived marginalized and in precarious circumstances, many times, due to forced migration, globalization impacts or climate change.

Some areas of intervention for Indigenous peoples:

  • Developing guidelines for Indigenous peoples that are relevant to their needs and aspirations, incorporating their culture, language and learning styles.
  • Supporting thoughts and actions to make teaching curricula and methodologies aware of the rights, perspectives, experiences, and aspirations of the Indigenous peoples, normally through the involvement of Indigenous peoples in the work to be developed.
  • Developing educational training programmes for Indigenous peoples in relation to their rights, technical negotiations, and leadership abilities.

In Brazil, the Indigenous population was around 897 thousand, 305 ethnic communities and 274 languages in 2010. From the Indigenous members aged 5 or above, 37.4% spoke an Indigenous language and 76.9% spoke Portuguese (IBGE, 2010). 

Within this context, UNESCO in Brazil has developed a series of publications called Série Educação preventiva para DST/HIV/Aids e hepatites virais entre os povos indígenas do Vale do Javari. Vale do Javari is one of the regions where there is the greatest concentration of Indigenous peoples in the country. The series is a plurilingual and intercultural pedagogical material, which aims at providing subsidies to teachers of the Marubo, Matis, Mayoruna (Matsés) e Kanamari Indigenous peoples in activities related to disease prevention in Indigenous schools and community contexts where they are located. The material offers to teachers contents to work with students of different age groups, genres, and school levels.

African Descents

Recognizing the value of African culture and the importance of its influence on the Brazilian population, Law 10,639 was established to promote the teaching of African and Afro-Brazilian culture in schools throughout Brazil. This law serves as a basis for promoting the inclusion of people of African descent in the country's educational system, as well as combating discrimination.

General History of Africa

In 1964, UNESCO launched an unprecedented task: to tell the history of Africa from the African perspective. Showing the world, for instance, that many techniques and technologies used nowadays are originated in the continent, as well as proving that the region was constituted by organized societies and not by tribes, as one may think.

Almost 30 years later, 350 scientists coordinated by a committee of 39 experts, two-thirds of them Africans, met the challenge of rebuilding African historiography free of foreign perspectives and stereotypes. The nearly ten thousand pages comprising the eight volumes of the General History of Africa Collection, published in English, French, and Arabic, were completed between the 1980s and the 1990s.

Besides providing a perspective from the continent, the work fulfills the role of showing to society that African history is not confined to the slave trade and poverty. In order to disseminate this new look on the continent among the Brazilian population, UNESCO in Brazil, in partnership with the Department of Continuing Education, Literacy and Diversity of the Ministry of Education (MEC) and the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCAR), has made possible the complete edition of the Collection in Portuguese, today still considered the major reference work on the matter.

The initiative aims at filling a gap in the Brazilian educational development concerning the legacy of the continent for the national identity.