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commemoration

Education and democracy

Capes reaches its 50th anniversary, betting on the education of human resources

On July 11th, the Coordination of the Perfecting of Personnel of Higher Level (Capes) celebrated its 50 years of existence. Created as a campaign of the Ministry of Education (MEC) to perfect higher education, in the course of its history the agency has performed an important role in training human resources. Since the advent of post-graduate programs in 1965, they have multiplied at a swift rate. Now they add up to over 1,500 programs, with more than 2,300 courses for masters’ and doctors’ degrees. Last year, these courses registered a total of 100,000 students enrolled.

“Capes was imagined by a group in which one of the leading figures was Anísio Teixeira. It was born of the realization that qualifying higher education, with the creation of structural conditions and the formation of personnel, was fundamental for the development of the country.” comments Luiz Loureiro, the agency’s director of Programs. An adept of the vision of education of the American philosopher, John Dewey, Teixeira founded the University of the Federal District in 1935. In 1960, he also founded the University of Brasilia, where he became rector in 1964. “Anísio Teixeira, who remained at the helm of Capes until 1962, was a fervent advocate of public education as an instrument for democracy.” says Loureiro.

“There were three factors that contributed towards the foundation of Capes.” observes historian Shozo Motoyama, the director of the Center of the History of Science of the University of São Paulo (USP). “The first was the inclusion, in the 1946 Constitution, of the requirement for the federal government to set aside 10% of its budget for education; the second, a strong movement among Brazilian intellectuals for improvements in education, which came to be known as the New School.” he says. “Finally, the third one was the importance of science and technology during World War II, which called the attention of the Vargas government to the need to improve higher education, to form engineers, scientists and researchers.”

“In its early days, as it was a just campaign of the MEC, Capes had its action limited by the lack of a budget of its own, and it concentrated its activities on educating grant-holders abroad.” says Loureiro. The institution was to achieve a budgetary allocation at the end of the 50s, and consolidated itself in 1966, when it reverted to reporting to the Ministry of Education, after a period of reporting to the Office of the Presidency of the Republic. “Another important moment in Capes’s history was the creation of its system to evaluate post-graduation, in 1972, which came to be publicized in 1976.” he comments.

Based on commissions made up of specialists from the most diverse areas, the system serves as the basis for the defining and carrying out the policies for the development of post-graduate studies in Brazil, and, in the last instance, decides the discontinuation of courses of low quality. In 1990, Fernando Collor de Mello extinguished Capes, causing a strong reaction from the academic community. A few months later, the agency was brought back into activity, this time with the status of a foundation.

Capes’s budget, states Loureiro, has remained stable since 1998, at around R$ 450 million. The programs of the institution can be grouped into four basic categories: grants at home and abroad; institutional cooperation in national and international spheres; support for the infrastructure of education and research; and smaller ventures to meet the specific needs of post-graduate education. In the first group, the main program is the distribution of grants, for which R$ 308 million was allocated last year. Capes distributed 20,827 grants of this kind in 2000, of which 11,652 were for masters’ degrees, and 9,175 for doctors’ degrees. The number of grants distributed abroad by the institution remained stable, at around 1,500.

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