Educação no Brasil

Diversity and Access to Education

Diversity and education

The racial divide gets blurry for some Brazilian universities who are preparing for large numbers of Afro-Brazilian students. On April 16, 2012, the Brazilian Supreme Court unanimously ruled that affirmative action policies can take a person’s race into consideration for university admittance. The court found the use of racial quotas constitutional, allowing both public and private universities to reserve a certain percentage of slots for undergraduate students coming from public secondary schools. The law states by 2016, fifty percent of slots must go to students from families with incomes below $503 per month and that half of those must be allocated to students of black, mixed or Amerindian race.

In a recent opinion poll of the Brazilian Supreme Court’s decision on “The Law of Social Quota,” nearly two-thirds of Brazilian citizens stated that they supported racial preferences for university admissions. In a recent New York Times interview, Inacio Lula da Siliva Luiz, Brazil’s former president said that he is in complete favor of quotas and that with quotas no black student will be denied the opportunity to attend universities.

The issue of race and economic status in Brazil has recently been recognized as a major problem. Due to Brazil’s inadequate investment in education, the majority of Brazil’s local labor force is poorly qualified. Literature shows there is a direct relationship between race and educational opportunities that coincide with social and regional inequalities.

Outside of Africa, Brazil has the largest African-descendent population. Afro-Brazilians make up both 50% of Brazil’s entire population and constitute 70% of Brazilians living below poverty line. The majority of this population resides in Favelas (shanty towns) and, the Northeastern part of Brazil where many children do not receive adequate education to enter Brazil’s workforce.

Black Brazilian Kids

According to the 2002 Brazilian National Census, Afro-brazilians, 15 years or older have more than twice the illiteracy rate than white Brazilians and are twice as likely to be out of school than their white counterparts. On average, a student receives 5 hours of education in a public school whereas their white counterparts, the majority of whom attend private schools, receive 8 hours of education per day.

So when it comes to higher education and equal opportunities, many secondary school students are not able to attend universities because of the kind of education they received due to their socioeconomic status.  Aloizio Mercadante, Brazil’s Minister of Education states that “The Law of Social Quota,” will create “an opportunity for the best students from the public school system to have better access to universities which will in turn give some of Brazil’s jobs to its citizens.”

“Here the percentage of black people holding jobs, such as doctors, engineers, economist, and lawyers- is very low,” states Professor Marcelo Paizao, who lectures at the State University of Rio de Janeiro. Currently, only 2.2 percent of Afro-Brazilians have the proper education to even become doctors and lawyers. With “The Law of Status Quota,” the number of Afro Brazilians admitted into public universities will increase from 8,700 to 56,000 students, giving more Afro-Brazilians a chance to take on higher paying professions. But with an increase like this, there comes an even bigger debate.

Who is black? Critics of “The Status Quota Law” say it is difficult and even impossible to define who is black in Brazil, because of its history of racial mixing. In the early 20th century, after the abolition of slavery, the government of Brazil opened its doors to white immigrants from Italy and Germany. This began Brazil’s policy on “Whitening” the black population. These western immigrants were welcomed because their paid labor was desired over black labor, and that in time their “whiteness” would result in building a lighter skinned mulatto population. “Whitening” has left Brazil with a nation of people who classify themselves by their skin color. Preta, black; Negra, dark; Parda, very brown; Morena escura, medium to dark brown; Mulatta, dark tan to dark brown; Morena, Light brown; Morena clara, very light; Clara, light cream color and Branca, White.

Many critics of “The Status Quota Law” say that affirmative action becomes legitimized by statistical studies on racial inequalities that put black and brown into the same category. Keeping this in mind, the question of racial identity becomes more complex, given the race- based university selection process into some of Brazil’s most prestigious public universities. Other critics say that categorizing the population by race causes reverse racism by favoring Afro-Brazilians over white Brazilians for university for admittance into Brazil’s public universities.


With Brazil’s educational reputation and its growing racial divide, many policy makers believe that “The Status Quota Law” is the only way out. Gisele Alves, a Brazilian native with African ancestry who lives in a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Rio de Janerio, said that she probably would not have gone to college without help from the state. “I thought I was going to finish school, find work in a little shop, get married and pregnant and that would be it.”

With “The Law of Status Quota” Gisele got accepted to State University of Rio de Janiero.  Many students like Gisele will also get accepted thanks to this new law. Even though “The Law of Status Quota” will be discontinued in 10 years, this law is the next step for Brazil in guaranteeing equal access to education and a better future for all Brazilians.



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