2017 school year comes to an end, the numbers of a silent tragedy with a major impact on Brazilian social life will have completed a new perverse cycle: about one-quarter of 15-17 year olds – a contingent of 2.8 million people – will not have enrolled at the beginning of the year, will drop out of school during the school year, or have simply been excluded from school. Only a little more than half of the young people aged 15 to 17 will complete high school with a maximum of one year of delay, causing damages to individuals and also to society, such as the waste of R $ 35 billion per year.

Ayrton Senna Institute Educacao

The information is included in the Public Policies for Reducing Abandonment and School Dropout study, led by Ricardo Paes de Barros, chief economist of the Ayrton Senna Institute and professor at Insper, the result of a partnership between the Brava Foundation, the Ayrton Senna Institute, Unibanco and Insper.

With current data and unpublished statistical treatments, the paper seeks to illuminate the causes of what it calls the “disengagement of the young” from the educational process, broadening the concept of guaranteeing the rights of education beyond the supply and quality of education. In addition, it points out ways for the development of public policies by the States, making a broad survey of the main national practices that have already been developed to combat the problem and benchmark of relevant international initiatives.

The findings of Paes de Barros contradict the idea that Brazil is moving towards eliminating the gap in attendance, or even achieving the objective of universalization of Secondary Education, foreseen in the National Education Plan for 2016. In addition to pointing out a stagnation in the enrollment of those aged 15 and 16 in the last 15 years, data show that the percentage of 17-year-olds out of school increased by 6 percentage points in this period, from 34% to 39.8% of the population in this age group.

With this, Brazil is moving against international trends. UNESCO data from the economist point out that 74% of the world’s countries are advancing faster in the inclusion rate of 15 to 17 year olds in school than in Brazil. Today, more than half of the nations have a lower percentage of youth out of school.

At the current rate of progress in the inclusion rate of young people in high school, Brazil will take 200 years to reach the goal of the National Education Plan, which is the universalization of school attendance for the entire population aged 15 to 17 years. Even considering the pace of the two most advanced Brazilian states (Pará and Espírito Santo), the delay in relation to the target would be 32 years. But if the pace is similar to that of the West Asian countries – those that have advanced most rapidly in this respect – this could occur in 2030, 13.8 years behind the target set in the National Education Plan.

The study also identifies and classifies the top 14 reasons for disengagement by creating a map that helps define more accurately possible strategies to combat dropout. In addition to presenting already discussed and accepted factors in the field of education, the study brings an innovative vision by reinforcing the free will and the ability of the young person to rationalize their engagement in school, so that the decision to evade or abandon is also a decision rational and that should make sense.

In this way, the 14 factors are grouped into 3 sets. The first set refers to factors that do not stem from the lack of interest, but from the existence of external impediments, such as limited access or physical impossibility; the second is the lack of interest as a well-informed and rational decision, implying that the decision of the young person’s free choice to leave school may be justifiable, given such issues as the quality of teaching and school climate, Finally, the third group of determining factors concerns the lack of interest without adequate information and low emotional resilience, in which the decision to leave school is taken without adequate information or without proper reflection.

In addition to providing a systematic framework of causes that can guide the creation of more effective public policies to combat the problem, the study contributes to the debate by listing more than a hundred national and international programs focusing on the engagement of young people of childbearing age to attend high school. The international programs pointed out have proved effective, but in Brazil, although there is a great diversity of actions, almost all still need to be evaluated more precisely of their effectiveness so that they can be improved. This fact demonstrates the lack of evaluation and non-evidence-based policy making, which compromises the efficiency of expenditure and the effectiveness of results.

Ayrton Senna Institute