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Strengthening the base of the public school

The improvement in public education in Brazil involves necessarily the training of teachers. Starting from this premise, university researchers are drawing up projects for ongoing education, which enjoy the direct participation of the teachers, directors and pedagogical coordinators of the state school network – and the support of FAPESP, which has been investing over R$ 2 million a year in this sector since 1996. We will deal with four of them below.

Collaborative model

Maria da Graça Nicoletti Mizukami, a teacher from the Department of the Methodology of Teaching, of the Center of Education and Humanities of the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar), carried out her first project of research in the area between 1996 and 2000, working with 27 teachers from the 1st to 4th grades (who won grants for further studies) at the state primary and junior high school Prof. Luís Augusto de Oliveira, in the city of São Carlos. Its aim was twofold: to build up knowledge about the processes of learning and development of the teachers; and to intervene so that this knowledge could be “built or rebuilt in a collaborative manner among the participants”.

The proposal was met through meetings that made it possible to discuss “subjects like pedagogical methods, components of the curriculum, and challenges put out by the public educational policies”, says Maria da Graça. “We had positive results along three axes: in the conception of the teachers as to their work routine; in the development of their knowledge base; and in the consolidation of the university/school partnership”, she says. The theme continues to be exploited now, at the same school, in a supplementary study that Maria da Graça is coordinating, also with the support of FAPESP, which started last February and is expected to end in 2003.

“The first project was more centered on the teachers. Our intention now is to analyze how the teachers are translating the parameters of the curriculum and current public policies into the learning process of the pupils”, explains the researcher from UFSCar. Professional development – In Araraquara, the researcher Alda Junqueira Marin, from the School of Sciences and Literature of the São Paulo State University (Unesp), also adopted the strategy of collaborative research with teachers from the public network. Her project encompassed two state and junior high schools located in a district on the outskirts of the city: Luiza Petrilli, from the 1st to 4th grades at the time, and E.E.P.G.

Angelina Rolfsen, from the 5th to the 8th years (after it had finished, the grades focused in the two schools were inverted). The central goal of the project, which wascarried out between September1996 and August 2000, “was toput the university and primary schools together as partners, in the search for solutions to overcome chronic school problems, like underperformance and dropping out “, says Alda.

She came across a few hitches in the course of the project, particularly in the school from the 5th the 8th grade (where the final pedagogical project was not completed). ” The great problem was the high turnover of teachers for those classes, as well as several changes in the school's directors and technical staff.” Even so, the work was not in vain. There arose satisfactory results in, for example, the reorganization of the schools' libraries and in the implementation of theReading for Ever project, under which the students would devote two hours a day to reading. “We managed to conclude a few proposals for work and to instigate the teachers to a number of reflections”, Alda adds.

Turnover

In the first four grades, the majority of the teaching staff in the public network is usually fixed, but this policy is not followed for the classes from the 5th to 8th grades. This brought problems to the work carried out at the Maria Luiza Bastos by Yoshie Ussami Ferrari Leite, from the Department of Education, in the School of Sciences and Technology at Unesp/Presidente Prudente. Besides offering formal education, this school also acts as a Center for the Teacher Training and Further Studies (Cefam), which gets teachers ready for basic education (along the lines of the former Normal School).

“We managed to get a total of 20 grants for further studies by teachers from FAPESP, but we could never fill all the openings, because of constant migration by the teachers. In the course of a full year, the most we managed to get together was 14 teachers”, says Yoshie, in the plural, on behalf of two fellow researchers from Unesp, teachers Alberto Albuquerque Gomes and Gélson Guibu.

In Yoshie's opinion, “public policy in education does not favor carrying out continuous research, a necessary condition for doing projects of this kind”. In spite of this, in the study that is forecast to be completed in December, she has been managing to “reflect on the failure of schools from the point of view of training teachers for the initial grades”. “The teachers have gotten several benefits from the project”, says Yoshie. “One example is that they take more care in choosing the topics to be discussed in the classrooms.” Other gains came from the awareness of the importance of public school in the context of society, and the enhancement of students as human beings – which, according to Yoshie, used to be far from the teachers' perception in their routine activities.

Cutting edge technology

Following the same trail of collaborative methodology which is present in the other three research projects, Selma Garrido Pimenta, who teaches at the Department of Methodology of Teaching and Comparative Education, of the School of Education at the University of São Paulo (USP), also coordinated (between 1996 and 2000) a teacher training project, carried out jointly with 25 teachers from the state high schools Prof. Ayres de Moura, in Vila Jaguara, and Alípio de Barros, in the Pirituba district, both in the western region of the state capital.

“Our objective, which was fully achieved, was to investigate the process the teachers use to produce knowledge, starting from their own reflections on pedagogical practices,not only in the classroom, but also in the general context of the school”, she says, adding: “Five teachers who took part in the project were so stimulated that they decided to take a post-graduate course”.

Selma makes a point of stressing the importance of the collaborative methodology. “In Brazil, it is innovative, and it is in harmony with research projects under way in the United States, Spain, France and Portugal”, she says. “They are studies made with the teachers, not just about the teachers, and they are more advantageous than the traditional techniques.” In the next few months, the researcher will be publishing the results of her work, which has already been presented at national and international events. The next step will be to put on, shortly, an international symposium on the theme, to be hosted by Brazil.

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