Implementing the Human Capital Agenda: The Agency of Corporate Foundations in the Reforms of Public Education in Contemporary Brazil

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 16:21
Oral Presentation
Miqueli MICHETTI, Fundação Getúlio Vargas - Escola de Administração de Empresas de São Paulo - FGV, Brazil
There is a consensus regarding the need for reforms in the Brazilian public educational system. Virtually nobody is satisfied with the quality of public education in the country. Nevertheless, the consensus stops there. Several players with unequal amount of economic, social, cultural and political capital take part in an ongoing dispute about the terms and goals of the reforms. One major debated issue is the creation of a national common curriculum. Some private foundations linked to corporate power are the main agent forming a coalition to advance the agenda of a national curriculum inspired in the US Common Core and in other international experiences, such as the Australian and Chilean cases. Even though facing criticism, some powerful corporate foundations together with the public sector are advancing the project meant to improve the “human capital” and hence the competitiveness and the economic development of the country. One of the main goals is to make the school system more accountable, especially through rankings defined by national and international standardized tests. In spite of the blatant political element of this issue, the foundations try to enunciate it as a technical or post-political matter, as it is often the case in the neoliberal discourse. Since the most powerful foundation acting in public education in Brazil extensively funds research centers in important US universities (Columbia, Illinois, Harvard, and Stanford), the research is based on a field research at events funded by the private foundations both in the US and in Brazil in the last three years. We also attended public hearings about the common curriculum, in which we could trace the dispute regarding the future of public education in Brazil. The paper will present the agents of this controversy and their ways of influencing government, facing resistance and converting economic capital into political power.