Over the last few decades, Brazil and Chile have achieved tremendous economic progress, making the two countries to scale up the ladder to an extent of taking a portion of the top progressive societies in the world. Education is of the sectors that have gained greatly from the recent prosperity achieved by the two countries. In Brazil, elementary education is free in public-funded schools and is enshrined in the constitution as a social right. These schools compete alongside the resource-rich K-12 private schools. The availability of public schools and the proliferation of privately-owned academies have increased the demand for education as more Brazilian families embrace education to meet the demands of the country's phenomenal economic expansion (Akkari, 2013; Otis, 2013). Similarly, elementary education in Chile is free in public schools. For years now, Chile has been regarded as a leader in education reforms in Latin American with recent data placing the country among the top education systems of the developing world (Zinny, 2018). Despite both countries achieving remarkable success in the last 30 years, Brazil and Chile continue to struggle in tackling problems of inequalities regarding access to elementary education, albeit in varying degrees.
Racial Inequality in Brazil and Chile Regarding Elementary Education
Like many other countries comprising of people of different races, Brazil is not an exception to this centuries-old problem. The problem of racial inequality dates back to colonial times when Brazil was under Portuguese rule. Colonial experiences were characterized by racial discrimination of native and Afro-Brazilians which in turn denied opportunities to these groups from accessing resources (Silva & Hasenbalg, 1999). Lack of access to resources was introduced by Government whiting policies which were aimed to develop a more homogenous culture and color (Gammage, 2013). For instance, whiting policies increase the level of racial discrimination. Blacks and natives were not allowed to share same social resources such as schools with whites. People of European descent had unlimited access to social resources and this gave them the opportunity to go to school and make wealth which they have passed on to the current generation (Walker, 2002). Although people of mixed race form the majority of current Brazil population, years of unequal access to resources between whites, native Brazilians and Afro-Brazilians has disadvantaged many young Brazilians in terms of access to basic education because the current equation can only be solved by gaining access to good schools of which many non-white families often fail to afford.
Despite the existence of racial discrimination in Chile, it was not widespread as the case of Brazil. Over the past years, both colored and white populations have had the opportunity to access social resources such as schools and churches (Reichman, 1999). Due to non-discriminative policies children of all races in Chile can access educational resources because there are no laws and other policies which tend to give certain advantages to some groups of the population. In that case, racial inequality does not affect elementary education in Chile (Zinny, 2018; Chant & Craske, 2003). However, the level of income of families plays an influential role in determining the type of education Chilean children access.
Income inequality is a major problem for Brazil and Chile though it is much higher in the case of Brazil. With the recent proliferation of private schools in Brazil, many children from low-income backgrounds do not access quality education. K-12 children from impoverished neighborhoods attend public schools which are located in insecure neighborhoods. Such an environment makes these children vulnerable to crime and drug abuse. Additionally, public schools are ill-equipped in terms of learning materials and personnel (Otis, 2013; Chant & Craske, 2003). As a result, they do not access quality learning, resulting in hopeless in so far as attaining personal dreams is concerned. Conversely, Children from high income families attend the best schools thereby increasing their chances of progressing to tertiary institutions. Indeed, a majority of admissions to Brazil's top universities are allocated to top performers from private schools (Akkari, 2013). There are few students from poor families who pass university entry tests because most of them attend public schools where there is low-quality education. This makes them miss the chance to go to national universities (Otis, 2013; Chant & Craske, 2003). Lack of progression of children from impoverished families due to lack of opportunity in life perpetuates the cycle of poverty and income equality.
Although there is a high-income disparity in Chile, there are more opportunities for children from poor backgrounds due to drastic educational reforms undertaken in the recent (Zinny, 2018). There is free choice to either attend private and public school without discrimination. Children from rich families have the opportunity to go to private schools where they can receive a quality education. Similarly, some children from poor families can also attend these schools to a variety of choices available to them. For example, the elementary education system includes private not-for- profits and for-profit schools, public schools, and the subvencionadas, which are financed through subsidized tuitions (Zinny, 2018). Such an offering gives parents better choices which, in effect, give opportunity to children from low-income backgrounds. However, education in Chile is still characterized along economic lines and a good number of poor children lack access to quality education. According to Dowling (2016), public schools have been left behind and schools are not evaluated as private schools .Besides discriminate evaluation policies, the Chilean education is highly market-oriented and the government is yet to institutionalize access to education as a social right. Therefore, Chile and Brazil have similar problems of income inequality vis-a-vis education opportunities for K-12s though Chile fares better than Brazil.
Gender inequalities in Brazil and Chile
Gender inequality has tremendously reduced in Brazil as compared to Chile. As reported by IBGS (2010), the number of educated women increased significantly than the previous years. Currently, there are more women in Brazil that participate in tertiary education than the number of males. This is the same case with K-12 schools (Gammage, 2013). In Brazil, there are no cultural practices or beliefs that restrict women in playing family roles and parents view children of both genders as important. Therefore there is no segregation of female children in regard to education and because women are devoted to education than men (Reichman, 1999). Economic factors affect the education of either women or men in Brazil although there are some beliefs that women should be responsible for family chores.
On the contrary, there is a wider gender inequality in Chile in relation to elementary education. Fewer female children in Chile attend school (Shriver, 2003). This is because they are bound by their cultural practices which require them to take care of the family. The people of Chile relate womanhood with motherliness. In most cases, girls are associated with household duties and therefore they do not have the time to attend elementary schools (Chant & Craske, 2003). These cultural practices and beliefs prevent many girls to go to school past secondary school.
Political Power in Brazil and Chile
In Brazil, quality education is associated with tuition fees and only parents with a stronger political authority and resources can access education with good resources. Because women are the minority in the political arena, it is necessary when they make their voices heard as they are the people who can stand for the discriminated people (Lopes Ribeiro and Emerson, 2012). In Brazil, white men and some few Afro-Brazilians men and women have the political power to influence socioeconomic activities of the country. Blacks and women are labeled as passive, illogical, reliant and do not have business and political knowledge (Hausmann & Rodrik, 2003). Women and Afro-Brazilians cannot gain political authority because the above stereotypes are used for self-defeating so that blacks and women do not vote for one another. It, therefore, prevents women and black men to gain political authority to help them fight for their rights (Bruschini, 2007). Lack of political authority also hinders black and women from accessing quality social resources such as private schools (Reichman & Oliveira, 1999). Women and Afro-Brazilians cannot also acquire suitable political office because they do not have good academic qualifications which result from poor backgrounds and racial discrimination.
In Chile, men have a stronger political authority than women (Chant and Craske, 2003). Cultural practices and beliefs that women should be more concerned with family affairs restrict them from participating in politics. Only the rich and those who have strong economic backgrounds also have the opportunity to engage in political affairs and therefore it becomes an affair for the rich only (Silva & Hasenbalg, 1999). For that matter, a majority of women in Chile has the opportunity to gain political authority and this affects their level of education. Political authority is a very important aspect that affects the educational background of the people of Chile. Those in political authority are able to access good social resources such as schools and hospitals because they have political influence and resources (Silva & Hasenbalg, 1999; Zinny, 2018). Because people who do not have strong political authority cannot take their children to privates schools because they do not have political influence and money to join such schools. From those schools, they are able to receive a quality education that can allow them to attend best universities and colleges.
There are some differences and similarities between elementary education in Brazil and Chile. The education of these countries is both affected by racism, political power, gender inequality and income inequality. In Brazil, race affects the ability of children to attend quality schools due to its historical relationship with access to resources. In Chile, quality education is associated with the level of income and not on the cultural background of an individual as people are discriminated based on the income because the poor cannot afford to educate their children in private schools where there is quality education. Gender is a significant determinant of elementary education access among girls in Chile. Political power is also another important factor that affects the education of an individual in Chile and Brazil. People who have strong political authority can easily access good social resources of the government. Furthermore, those that have a strong economic background that makes them have the ability to meet education needs of their children. Overall, both countries experience various challenges regarding their ability to provide universal quality to elementary education to their young citizens.
Akkari, A. (2013). Blurring the boundaries of public and private education in Brazil. Journal of International Education and Leadership, 3(1), 1-13. doi:2161-7252.
Bravo Ortega. (2009). The emergence of new successful export activities in Latin America: The case of Chile, Inter-American Development Bank working paper 552, IADB, Washington DC.
Bruschini, Maria C. A. (2007). Work and gender in Brazil in the last ten years. Caderno...
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