5. Schooling: school leaders and teachers

Previous chapters have documented how Brazil has successfully expanded participation in education, but has made only halting progress in enhancing learning outcomes, ensuring successful school completion, and improving equity. This suggests that the policy emphasis now needs to shift from expanding access to improving the quality of teaching and learning that takes place in schools, with an emphasis on inclusion and equity.

This chapter looks at two of the most important factors in determining the success of an educational system: teachers and school leaders. Research shows that learning outcomes are profoundly dependent on the quality of teachers — their teaching skills, ability to motivate, provide feedback and respond to the needs of individual students (Hattie, 2009[1]; Hanushek, 2011[2]). Outcomes are also dependent on effective instructional leadership — whereby school leaders foster the conditions for strong teaching and learning (Pont, Nusche and Moorman, 2008[3]; OECD, 2016[4]; OECD, 2019[5]).

This chapter draws on internationally comparable evidence from the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) and Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). As a result the focus is largely on secondary education1. Section 5.2 looks at the the teaching workforce. Section 5.3 then looks at entry into the profession, salaries and attractiveness of the profession, teacher training and induction. Section 5.4 explores how teachers spend their time, and the pedagogical approaches they employ. Section 5.5 concerns the career and professional development of teachers. Section 5.6 describes teacher appraisal. Section 5.7 looks at school leadership in Brazil. Section 5.8 draws conclusions on the challenges faced by the teaching profession.

While the teaching profession in Brazil shares much with other countries, it also has distinctive features. Brazil is unusual in that slightly more than half of lower secondary teachers work part-time (57%) – the OECD average is only just over 20% (OECD, 2020[6]). In Brazil, 73% of novice teachers and 55% of experienced teachers work part-time2, compared to 28% and 20% respectively in OECD countries. Moreover, one in five Brazilian teachers (20%) work in two schools or more (OECD average: 4%). A national survey also reveals that around one-third of teachers have an additional job to complement their income (see the discussion of teacher salaries below).This is particularly common among those working shorter hours or with a temporary contract (IBOPE Inteligência, 2018[7]). This can not only hinder attempts to build a cohesive school community and positive stakeholder relationships, but also has important implications for teachers’ professional development and students’ performance as will be discussed later in this chapter (Elacqua and Marotta, 2020[8]).

Just over two-thirds (69%) of lower secondary teachers in Brazil are women, very similar to the proportion in OECD countries, and slightly more than in some Latin American (LATAM) countries – for example in Colombia only 55% of lower secondary teachers are female. In upper secondary education, the female share is lower (58%) (OECD, 2019[5]). National evidence also shows that in 2017, teachers working in Brazil’s basic education were mainly white (42%) or mixed-race (25%); 27% did not declare their ethnicity (Louzano et al., 2010[9]; Nunes, 2015[10]).

Teacher numbers have been increasing as Brazil, especially in pre-school and upper secondary education, reflecting the expansion of the duration of compulsory education to cover those levels. Much of the growth in secondary education (ISCED 2 and 3) has been in the private sector (see Figure 5.1). However there are still teacher shortages in certain regions and subjects (e.g. physics, mathematics and chemistry). There is currently no national policy to address this issue, although some states and municipalities have created incentives for teachers to teach in specific localities (World Bank, 2016[11]). In the medium- to long-term, expected demographic changes (see Chapter 1) will require a rethinking of the size of Brazil’s teacher workforce.

In the decade to 2018, the teacher workforce in Brazil has aged, with a nearly 90% increase in the proportion of lower secondary teachers over the age of 50, while the proportion of teachers under 30 more than halved (see Figure 5.2). However, despite an ageing workforce, in 2018 lower secondary teachers in Brazil were still a little younger, 42-years-old on average, than their OECD peers (44-years-old).

Reflecting Brazil’s lower income levels, teacher statutory salaries are among the lowest of all OECD and partner countries, including other Latin American countries such as Chile,Costa Rica and Mexico (OECD, 2020[15]). This value (around USD PPP 14 000 [US dollars purchasing power parity]) refers to the minimum statutory salary3 established by the Brazilian legislation4. The average salary is higher, though still well below the OECD average. There are significant differences across the country, reflecting variations in income levels and cost of living (INEP, 2017[16]; Marcondes, Leite and Ramos, 2017[17]).

Teachers are paid less than other tertiary-educated workers in Brazil (see Figure 5.3), especially in pre-primary and primary education, where salaries are around 80% of the average for tertiary-qualified peers. This contrasts with trends among other emerging LATAM countries, where teacher salaries are on par or above those of other tertiary-educated peers. In addition, data show that upper secondary teachers in OECD countries tend to be relatively better paid than in Brazil, reflecting increased expectations of content mastery.

In Brazil, teacher remuneration normally depends on the number of years a teacher has been working for, hours worked, qualification level, where in the country they work, and whether they work in a municipal or state school (Gurgel and Junior, 2013[19]). The salary scale is relatively flat other than for raises related to seniority or to newly-obtained qualifications. Once in the profession, Brazilian teachers have few financial incentives to seek promotion, as there are often no posts of responsibility available to teachers (e.g. head teacher of a specific subject) (Todos pela Educação, 2020[20]),other than becoming a school leader, which often implies leaving the classroom entirely. This means that teachers’ salaries are not linked to their career progression or their performance, a point that will be pursued below in the Teacher appraisal section.

Relatively low salaries might help explain why less than 20% of Brazilian teachers reported themselves as satisfied with their salary (see Figure 5.4). Moreover, the levels of satisfaction are lower among Brazilian teachers than on average across OECD countries. In addition, it may be that unappealing working conditions (see Chapter 6) are deterring the most academically able or graduates from wealthier backgrounds from entering the profession (World Bank, 2016[11]). This may explain why there is a high share of teachers from disadvantaged backgrounds in Brazil (Nunes, 2015[10]; Louzano et al., 2010[9]), for whom the professional prospects of a teaching career might be perceived more positively.

As in other countries, Brazilian teachers report that they entered the profession primarily to contribute to society, benefit the socially disadvantaged, and influence the development of the young (see Figure 5.5). However, teaching is also seen by those entering the profession in Brazil as a secure, steady career path offering a reliable income – which indeed it is for those with a permanent contract – and these factors weigh more heavily among entrants to the profession in Brazil than in many other countries.

Only just over 10% of Brazilian lower secondary teachers agreed that the teaching profession is socially valued, compared with about twice that proportion in OECD countries (26%) and 40% in Colombia for example (see Figure II 2.1, (OECD, 2020[6]). This may also deter potential entrants to the teaching profession (Bauer, Cassettari and Oliveira, 2017[22]).

Although initial teacher education (ITE) programmes are among the most popular higher education degrees in the country (Todos pela Educação, 2019[23]), according to PISA 2018, only 2% of Brazilian 15-year-olds expected to become teachers (OECD, 2019[24]). National data reinforce this picture: not only are ITE programmes among the easiest to access (World Bank, 2016[11]), but teacher candidates tend to have low entry scores in the Brazil’s National Upper Secondary Exam (Exame Nacional do Ensino Médio, ENEM) (Abrucio, 2016[25]). While Brazil’s Law on National Education Guidelines and Framework (Lei de Diretrizes e Bases da educação nacional, LDB) proposes threshold requirements (e.g. a minimum ENEM score) for entry into initial teacher education programmes, this has never been implemented

In contrast, many high-performing countries, such as Finland, Singapore as well as parts of China, have established rigorous selection processes. In Finland, for example, each year there are typically more than nine applicants for every place in teacher education and applicants are assessed on the basis of their high school record and their score on the matriculation exam. Once applicants make it beyond this initial screening, they are observed in teaching-like activity and interviewed. Only candidates with a clear aptitude for teaching in addition to strong academic performance are admitted. These entrance hurdles help make teacher education one of the most prestigious academic programmes (Schleicher, 2018[26]).

The LDB and Target 15 of the National Education Plan (Plano Nacional de Educação, PNE) established that all teachers5 should have a higher education licentiate’s degree (ISCED 6) in their area of specialisation. There are however alternative routes to join the teaching profession in Brazil (see Table 5.1):

  • Magistério: teacher education programmes at the upper secondary level (ISCED 4) allow teachers to teach in early childhood education and care (ECEC) institutions or in primary education.

  • Licenciatura: a teacher’s license degree, equivalent to a four-year bachelor’s degree (ISCED 6). A teacher’s license degree in pedagogy prepares ECEC and primary teachers. A subject-specific teacher’s license degree prepares teachers to teach in lower- and upper-secondary education. For example, a teacher with a teacher’s license degree in mathematics can teach mathematics in secondary schools. Licensed teachers can also obtain a second license degree – as part of a one-year higher education programme – in a different subject, allowing them to teach, for instance, mathematics and physics.

  • Complementação pedagógica: those who already have a bachelor’s or technical higher education degree can follow a “pedagogical complementation” course to become teachers in secondary education. These higher education programmes usually take between one and two years. This alternative route was put in place as an emergency measure to address teacher shortages, and ensure that all teachers had pedagogical training.

Brazil took major steps in the 1990s and 2000s to improve teacher qualification levels. First, some measures sought to upgrade the skills of existing teachers, for example through the National Programme for Teacher Training in Basic Education (Programa Nacional de Formação de Professores da Educação Básica, Parfor), created in 2009. Second, the “University for All” Programme (Programa Universidade para Todos, ProUni) and the Student Financing Fund (Fundo de Financiamento Estudantil, FIES) supported the expansion of teacher candidates with tertiary qualifications (see Chapters 2 and 4). As a result, the share of teachers with a tertiary qualification has increased significantly; for example in ECEC growing from 54% to 77% between 2011 and 2019 (INEP, n.d.[27]). Currently, the majority of new teachers obtain their degrees from private institutions, often following evening and/or online distance programmes (Abrucio, 2016[25]; Todos pela Educação, 2019[23]). However, as shown in Table 5.1, the country is still far from reaching its target of ensuring that all teachers in Brazil’s basic education have a tertiary qualification in the subject they teach. Evidence from a World Bank study has also found limited effects of raising teacher qualification levels on students’ achievement, signalling concerns around the quality of programmes (Barbosa and Costa, 2019[28]).

While 90% of Brazilian lower secondary teachers are educated at bachelor’s level (ISCED 6), only 6% have higher-level qualifications (at masters level and above, equivalent to ISCED 7 and 8) (OECD, 2019[21]), much fewer than in OECD countries where almost half (44%) had such qualifications (see Figure 5.6). In many OECD countries, a master’s degree is required of teachers, especially at the secondary level. Target 16 of the PNE stipulates at least 50% of teachers in Brazil’s basic education should have a postgraduate degree (ISCED 7 and 8) by 2024 (Ministério da Educação, 2014[29]).

The value of a master’s level qualification is not automatic. Some studies report a slight positive correlation between master’s qualifications and student outcomes (Darling-Hammond, 2000[30]), whereas other research from England (United Kingdom) and the United States draws an unclear picture (Brooks et al., 2012[31]; Ronfeldt and Reininger, 2012[32]; Lorraine, 2016[33]). This may be because the quality of teacher preparation is a more important factor. However, the low share of teachers with postgraduate degrees can have a broader and detrimental effect on the status and attractiveness of the profession (OECD, 2005[34]). Efforts to raise the qualification of teachers can help “raise the bar” for entry to the teaching profession, signalling higher expectations and prestige.

Teachers in Brazil’s public basic education are civil servants. The Federal Constitution stipulates that public teachers should be hired through public competitions (concurso) carried out by states and municipalities and undertake a 3-year probation period. However the form of public competitions varies (Bauer, Cassettari and Oliveira, 2017[22]) and the process may not always identify the best potential teachers (Abrucio, 2016[25]; Todos pela Educação, 2020[20]), given that candidates are not always required to pass a practical examination. Moreover, there is evidence that the probation period is not effective at supporting or assessing novice teachers’ development and readiness (Todos pela Educação, 2020[20]). In most federal entities, the probation appraisal is often no more than a formality, for which teachers receive “automatic” approval.

Public competitions are costly (Todos pela Educação, 2020[20]), which may explain why around 30% of teachers in the public sector were not selected through these pathways (Gomes, 2019[35]). This creates two problems. First, those who enter the workforce without a public competition and receive temporary contracts, receive lower salaries and may have lower engagement (Gurgel and Junior, 2013[19]). Second, the lack of robust entry requirements for this group further hinders the quality of teaching and the social status of the profession.

In Brazil, it can take several years for aspiring teachers to pass the public competition, and during this period, most take up temporary teaching contracts and other roles. This may explain why many teachers in Brazil have previous work experience outside teaching: they report six years on average of such experience, twice the OECD level. Nevertheless, two-thirds (65%) of Brazilian teachers report that teaching was their first choice of career — very similar to the figure for OECD (67%) (OECD, 2019[21]).

Most OECD countries set a rigorous certification process at the end of teacher education. In addition to the successful completion of teacher education programmes – which provides at least a bachelor’s level qualification, and increasingly a qualification at master’s level – many OECD countries require that prospective teachers pass an external qualification or licensing examination, which can help ensure fairness in selection and guarantee basic standards(see Figure 5.7) (OECD, 2014[36]). This is particularly important in countries where, as in Brazil, teaching is a “career-based” public service, lifetime employment is guaranteed, and where quality assurance in the tertiary sector is weak. Since an examination cannot recognise all the attributes that are important for teaching, countries with examinations often complement them with other forms of assessment such as interviews, which can capture motivation and socio-emotional skills. Finally, in most countries full certification is dependent on successfully passing a probation appraisal, where teachers are able to better demonstrate the attitudinal dimensions of good teaching.

Brazilian teachers generally reported that they had received training in key teacher competencies: 89% reported that they had received training in the pedagogy of the subject taught, 94% in classroom practice in the subjects taught, 73% in mixed ability teaching, 75% in managing classrooms and student behaviour, and 81% in monitoring student learning. These figures are higher in nearly every case than the comparable OECD averages: respectively 89%, 88%, 62%, 72% and 70% (see Figure 5.8) (OECD, 2019[21]).

Most likely as a result, most Brazilian teachers reported themselves to be well prepared for most teaching challenges, with 95% reporting themselves well or very well prepared to teach the content of the subjects, and 89% reporting similarly in respect of pedagogy (OECD averages: 80% and 71% respectively) (OECD, 2019[21]). Overall, Brazilian teachers saw themselves as somewhat better prepared than some of their international counterparts. These perceptions also seem to be reflected among school leaders: in 2018 only around 11% of school leaders in Brazil report that inadequate or poorly qualified teaching staff hinder learning to some extent or a lot. This is slightly lower than in OECD countries where the comparable figure is 15% on average (OECD, 2019[21]).

However, the confidence of Brazilian teachers in their own preparedness, although supported by school leaders, is not matched by international and national research evidence, which suggests that the quality of initial teacher training in Brazil – in particular online teacher training programmes in the private sector (Marcondes, Leite and Ramos, 2017[17]) – is poor (Abrucio, 2016[25]; World Bank, 2016[11]). There are different reasons for this. First, Brazil’s higher education regulatory framework remains inadequate. As highlighted in the 2018 OECD report Rethinking Quality Assurance for Higher Education in Brazil, rules and procedures governing distance education providers and programmes are ineffective in guaranteeing quality education provision (OECD, 2018[37]). Increasingly, OECD countries have introduced specific accreditation standards for teacher education programmes, as they have for other high-skilled professions such as medicine and engineering.

Second, findings also show that programmes are too theoretical, with limited emphasis on pedagogical knowledge and skills and classroom management, a challenge especially for online programmes. While teacher candidates are required to have practical classroom experience during their initial training, they receive inadequate support for this experience (Bauer, Cassettari and Oliveira, 2017[22]), because of weak relationships between the higher education institutes responsible for teacher education and school networks (Abrucio, 2016[25]). In contrast, high-performing systems recognise the importance of preparing teachers in classroom settings by developing well-integrated teaching practicum, where teachers can link theory to practice, and strengthen their pedagogical skills (Schleicher, 2018[26]).

In recent years, the government has announced several measures that are aligned with international best practice (OECD, 2019[38]). These include a new National Teacher Training Policy, which created new National Common Guidelines for Initial Teacher Training in Basic Education (Diretrizes Curriculares Nacionais para a Formação Inicial de Professores para a Educação Básica) intended to make learning more grounded in practice. The Policy also modernised the Institutional Teaching Initiation Scholarship Programme (Programa Institucional de Bolsas de Iniciação à Docência, PIBID), which offers scholarships for undergraduate students to intern and carry out pedagogical activities in public schools where they are supervised by experienced teachers (Silva Neto et al., 2016[39]). Strong partnerships between schools and teacher education institutions can support the alignment of teacher education content and the school context.

Novice teachers need to build and establish their teaching skills in their first years in the job, and there is good evidence that effective indication programmes are a key element in this process (Schleicher, 2016[40]). Induction programmes can be either formally organised in a school or local region, or involve more informal professional support given to novice teachers by experienced teachers. In Brazil, there is no nationally mandated induction programme, which may partly explain why less than one-quarter of lower secondary teachers reported that they had taken part in induction activities (equally divided between formal and informal induction). In OECD countries, 38% of teachers report some induction, and so do nearly half (48%) of teachers in Colombia, for example (see Figure 5.9). Schools in Brazil seem to offer some alternative support measures: 33% of lower secondary teachers reported that they have an assigned mentor, much more than the OECD average (22%).

In most countries and economies participating in TALIS, teachers who were paired with experienced teachers as part of their induction activities at their current school also tend to report higher self-efficacy. The association found among Brazilian teachers is also positive, as shown in Figure 5.10.

TALIS findings show that teachers have less confidence in their own abilities at the outset of their careers, but such confidence grows over time. Although in principle one might expect that more experienced teachers would be assigned to work in more challenging school environments6, in fact the opposite is often the case, with novice teachers assigned to challenging schools. When inexperienced teachers lacking self-confidence are placed in challenging school environments the outcome may not only be poor teacher performance and therefore poor student learning, but also failure to develop teaching skills and teachers leaving the profession (OECD, 2015[41]).

Relative to their peers in Latin American countries, novice teachers in Brazil are less likely to be placed in a challenging school. TALIS findings also reveal that between 2013 and 2015, this share declined from 17% to 11%, which is a positive development, but still leaves one in ten new teachers facing a difficult start to their classroom career. While of value for all novice teachers, teacher induction programmes have a particular value especially for those in challenging environments, who often require additional support and motivation.

The context for classroom pedagogy is the working hours of teachers, and how they divide them between classroom activities and activities outside the classroom. Overall working hours reported by teachers in Brazil are relatively low by international standards, at around 30 hours per week, compared with nearly 40 in OECD countries. But the number of hours spent teaching is actually quite similar to OECD and LATAM countries (see Figure 5.11) even though teaching hours in Brazil declined between 2013 and 2018 by fully three hours per week (OECD, 2019[5]). Consequently, teachers in Brazil appear to spend less time than in most countries on working tasks outside the classroom, and between 2013 and 2018 this time fell by around one hour per week (OECD, 2019[5]). Supposedly, a third of teachers’ working hours should be devoted to activities outside of the classroom, however this is rarely followed by schools or teachers (Presidência da República, 2008[43]). In high-performing systems teachers are given time to devote to other tasks besides teaching, such as preparing classes, working with other teachers and pursuing their own professional development. These activities play an important role in supporting the quality of teaching, and teachers’ motivation levels (Schleicher, 2016[40]).

While Brazilian teachers spend slightly more working time in the classroom than their peers in OECD countries, nearly a third of this time is spent on administrative tasks (e.g. recording attendance, handing out school information or forms) (11%) or keeping order in the classroom (19%). In comparison, on average across the OECD, 8% of classroom time is spent on administrative tasks and 13% on keeping order (see Figure 5.12). Moreover, in the past ten years, classroom time spent on actual teaching and learning has decreased in Brazil. Chapter 6 will discuss some of the challenges teachers face in their classrooms in more depth.

Within classroom teaching, different types of instructional approach can be identified, and have been measured through the perceptions of students and teachers in different editions of the PISA and TALIS surveys. In PISA 2018, these approaches were measured using five indices. Figure 5.13 compares Brazil on these indices with the OECD and LATAM averages on the basis of students’ reports of teacher behaviour. Compared to the OECD average, Brazil’s teachers demonstrated a great deal of enthusiasm and support for students, but seem to give much less attention to instruction adapted to the needs of individuals and giving feedback.

Research suggests that different approaches are all relevant and necessary at different times and in different contexts. Using all these techniques effectively, and balancing them in the classroom, requires a very high level of skill and understanding of students’ needs. There is reason to think that both effective feedback and adaptive teaching might require more attention in Brazil.

In recent years, education experts have increasingly emphasised the need for teachers to address variations in students in their classroom through adaptive instruction, meaning teaching adapted to the needs of individual students, rather than through tracking and streaming (Corno, 2008[45]; Peterson et al., 2018[46]). Adaptive instruction, as an umbrella term, links notions such as “personalised learning”, “individualised instruction” and “formative assessment” (Peterson et al., 2018[46]). Evidence suggests that adaptive instruction has great potential, but its implementation is challenging as it requires going beyond the traditional approach of teaching to some classroom norm, and instead identifies challenges faced by an individual student, and how best to address them in terms of teaching and learning. It therefore requires considerable skill from teachers, and often additional effort and time (Peterson et al., 2018[46]).

There are reasons to think that adaptive instruction has particular relevance now in Brazil. In earlier chapters, it was argued that Brazil needs to do more to reduce the level of grade repetition. This would mean accepting a greater level of performance variation in each class and classroom, as individual students would be retained with their year group even if their performance is weak. Other developments, including increasing participation so that more disadvantaged students are retained in the system, and measures to include students with special needs in regular schools will also increase the diversity of classrooms. As part of reforms designed to reduce grade repetition, teachers will need to enhance their adaptive instruction skills so as to be able to address more diverse performance and learning needs. School principals in Brazil seem to recognise this point, with almost half of public school principals stating that student learning is hindered by teachers not meeting individual students’ needs (see Figure 5.14).

A key element of adaptive instruction is the capacity of teachers to assess individual performance and offer constructive feedback that promotes learning – formative assessment. The principle of formative assessment is that teachers make frequent, interactive assessments of student understanding, adjusting their teaching to meet individual student needs and to help students themselves understand where they are in their learning and develop their metacognitive awareness and sense of agency. There is evidence that the use of this approach has major benefits for learning outcomes (OECD, 2005[47]). As indicated in Figure 5.13, Brazil’s teachers currently give relatively little attention to feedback to students, although they do assess student performance in various ways, as illustrated in Figure 5.15.

OECD research has underlined the benefits of using the cognitive activation approach in mathematics for student learning. In this approach, the teacher asks questions that make students reflect on the problem, sets challenges that require students to think for an extended time, asks students to decide on their own procedures for solving complex problems, presents problems for which there is no immediately obvious solution and that can be solved in different ways, presents problems in different contexts, helps students learn from mistakes they have made, and asks students to explain how they have solved a problem.

Teachers’ and students’ self-reports in TALIS 2018 and PISA 2012 suggest slightly higher use of techniques associated with cognitive activation in Brazil than across the OECD. PISA evidence across countries, including for Brazil, shows that the use of this approach can improve mathematics performance (Echazarra et al., 2016[48]).

However, implementing cognitive activation teaching strategies effectively can be challenging and time-consuming, which is likely why teachers are less likely to adopt them when they report low levels of self-efficacy or work in disadvantaged schools or disruptive classrooms (OECD, 2016[49]). Considering the potential of such practices on student achievement, Brazil might therefore do well to give more attention to cognitive activation approaches. This includes providing teachers, and particularly those in disadvantaged schools, with more effective training support to develop their skills in this aspect of teaching.

Over the course of a teacher’s career, pedagogical methods, curricula and the school environment are likely to change considerably. At the same time, existing skills will need to be refreshed and sustained (Schleicher, 2016[40]). Continuous professional development (CPD) and collaboration opportunities7 can address these needs. They also offer a framework within which teachers can reflect, with peers, on their working experience, and integrate that experience with the acquisition of additional knowledge and skills. According to TALIS data, three-quarters of teachers who participated in professional development reported that it had a moderate or large impact on their teaching (Darling-Hammond, 2014[50]).

When asked about priorities for education spending, 95% of teachers in Brazil (unlike many other countries) identified professional development as a priority (OECD average: 55%) (OECD, 2019[5]). When asked about specific professional development needs, Brazilian teachers respond similarly to those in other LATAM and OECD countries, but there are a few differences. Brazilian teachers give more weight to: teaching students with special needs8; teaching in multicultural settings; communicating with people from different cultures; information and communications technology (ICT) skills; teacher-parent co-operation; and school management and administration (see Figure 5.16). These preferences are linked to some of the current challenges discussed in this report, including:

  • Special needs. Following 2011 legislation designed to integrate more students with special needs into regular schools, the proportion of schools with more than 10% of students identified as having special needs increased markedly between 2013 and 2018 (OECD, 2019[5]). According to PISA 2018, 10% of lower secondary teachers in Brazil teach in schools where more than 10% of students have special needs, similar to Colombia (9%) and Mexico (7%), but much lower than in Chile (54%) and the OECD average (31%) (OECD, 2019[5]). Teachers in schools including a higher proportion of students with special needs made more use of professional development opportunities (OECD, 2019[5]).

  • ICT skills. This interest may reflect a recognition of the potential value of ICT in teaching and learning in a context where this is currently under-developed given the relative lack of ICT infrastructure in Brazilian schools (as discussed in Chapter 4) or in administrative tasks which take up a lot of teachers’ time.

  • School management and administration. This may reflect an aspiration to school leadership, one of the few pathways for career progression. This may also reflect the challenges faced by some disadvantaged schools in Brazil, where the lack of human resources and technical capacity means that teachers often have to take on multiple roles, including in school management.

Despite the fact that few Brazilian teachers reported being able to effectively control disruptive behaviour, or to vary instructional strategies in the classroom (OECD, 2019[5]), CPD in student behaviour and classroom management, in pedagogical competencies or in adaptive instruction were not among teachers’ main priorities for professional training according to TALIS. This contrasts with national evidence and school leader reports that suggest that these are significant skills gaps for many teachers.

While recognising their own need for professional development, TALIS data show that Brazilian teachers also identified multiple obstacles to participation, including lack of employer support, the costs involved, lack of incentives to take part in professional development, and incompatibility with their work schedules (see Figure 5.17). These findings are echoed by national survey evidence which reports obstacles to participation, including lack of incentives, unawareness of the CPD offer, limited time availability, and lack of articulation with career plans in the context of high staff turnover (BCG e IAS, 2014[51]). As noted above, half of lower secondary teachers in Brazil work part-time, much more than in most other countries. Part-time teachers may have little time to devote to acquiring new skills, and might see limited benefits in doing so. There is a legal requirement that one-third of teachers’ working hours be devoted to extra-classroom activities. This time includes class preparation and marking and administrative tasks, which may not leave much time for CPD. National reports also suggest that few schools and teachers respect this legal requirement (Presidência da República, 2008[43]).

According to a recent survey, CPD practices in Brazil are inadequately linked to initial teacher training or teachers’ perceived needs or evaluations (World Bank, 2016[11]). It rarely allows for teaching practice to be observed and feedback offered, and is too often seen as a compensatory response to weaknesses, rather than as a broader vehicle for improvement (BCG e IAS, 2014[51]). The new National Common Guidelines for Teacher Countinuous Professional Development promote school-based and collaborative training opportunities, and emphasise the linkage of CPD to initial teacher education (ITE) requirements and the new BNCC (MEC, CNE, 2020[52]). While this is promising, it remains unclear how schools, higher education institutions and other entities will be kept accountable for following these guidelines.

In most working contexts, practitioners develop and hone their skills by observing colleagues at work and giving and receiving feedback in response. One distinct feature of the teaching profession in most countries is the isolation of the classroom, so that most teaching is only routinely observed by students and not by colleagues. This obstacle can be overcome through active arrangements for teachers to observe each other at work and offer feedback, arrangements that help the professional development of both the observer and the observed (Vangrieken, 2015[53]). Unfortunately, such arrangements are relatively uncommon. In OECD countries, 41% of the teachers report they never observe the classes of others to offer feedback. In Brazil, three-quarters both of lower (73%) and upper secondary (74%) teachers have never done so (OECD, 2020[6]). Similarly, a national survey found that observation of other teachers was very rarely part of the CPD offer (BCG e IAS, 2014[51]). Conversely, in Viet Nam, which reports high levels of teacher self-efficacy and high levels of student achievement, nearly 78% of teachers report that they observe the classes of others at least once a month (tables II.4.1 and II.4.3 (OECD, 2020[6])). In Brazil, there is much potential for more use of classroom observation, building on evidence and from interventions like the Ceará initiative (see Box 5.3) that systematic observation and feedback can be harnessed to improve outcomes.

Beyond classroom observation, there is broader evidence that teachers can improve their own performance through collaborative learning with other teachers, as this practice is associated across TALIS countries with teacher self-efficacy, and often with job satisfaction (Darling-Hammond, 2014[50]). As in other parts of Latin America, formal networks of teachers designed to support professional development are unusual (see Figure 5.18). Only 20% of Brazilian teachers reported having taught jointly as a team with a teacher colleague, while the comparable OECD figure is closer to 30%. Only 29% of Brazilian teachers reported that they had exchanged teaching materials with a colleague, much less than the OECD average of 46% (see Figure 5.19).

Conversely, on some other measures, such as participating in collaborative professional learning, Brazil’s teachers appeared more active than in other countries. Almost half (49%) of lower secondary teachers in Brazil report that they have scheduled time to collaborate to develop instructional materials, slightly more than in OECD countries where the equivalent figure is 46%.

In recent decades, many countries have given increased attention to teacher appraisal systems, as tools to reward and motivate good teaching through recognition, and to identify and address specific professional development needs (see (OECD, 2013[54]). Formative appraisals, typically within a school, are primarily designed to improve teaching practice, by allowing individual teachers to recognise their strengths and weaknesses and identify relevant professional development opportunities. Summative appraisals have a more explicit accountability function and carry consequences for the teacher in terms of career progression, pay and contractual arrangements (OECD, 2013[54]). As a result, this type of appraisal will often involve evaluators who are external to the school. Both formative and summative appraisal of teachers may also serve as a link to career development, for example by identifying and fostering leadership potential, or by identifying individuals as suitable for specific posts of responsibility.

As observed in Figure 5.20, in Brazil, as in many other countries in Latin America, regular appraisal is very common – despite not being a mandatory practice nationally – with over 80% of teachers being appraised at least once a year by their principals or school management teams, according to principals’ reports (OECD average: 70%).

While teacher appraisal seems to be a more common procedure in Brazil than in OECD countries on average, many of the key elements of a structured teacher appraisal system are lacking. There are no national guidelines on teacher appraisal other than on covering probation for those entering the profession, and no common standards to appraise teachers against (World Bank, 2016[11]). This contrasts with international best practices. Teacher standards, which describe what “good” teaching is and how it is demonstrated, are an essential common reference for both teachers and evaluators that establish clear expectations, encourage consistent judgement and focus appraisal on the key aspects of teaching that matter for learning (OECD, 2013[55]).

Some states and municipalities use students’ performance in standardised assessments as a measure of teaching quality, which can result in unfair judgements, as student achievement reflects many factors. In most OECD countries, teacher appraisal processes draw on multiple sources, including classroom observations, to provide a fuller picture of teaching practice and enable specific feedback to support teachers’ continued professional growth (OECD, 2013[55]).

In Brazil, teacher appraisal mainly serves formative functions, and is less likely to be used to inform hiring or promotion decisions (Figure 5.21), partly because of the limited career development opportunities (Todos pela Educação, 2020[20]). In OECD countries, appraisal is increasingly being used to inform teacher career advancement, reward effective teaching, raise motivation, and promote capable teachers into roles where they can generate system-wide improvement.

School leaders have been shown to be key in driving school improvement, not only as managers and administrators of schools, but also as instructional leaders, facilitating the skills and professional development of the school staff (OECD, 2008[56]). They play a vital role as intermediaries, translating large-scale reform efforts into improved quality of teaching and learning within individual schools. In Brazil, however, school leadership remains a predominantly administrative and bureaucratic role, and school leaders have only limited decision-making authority. In comparison to most OECD and high-performing countries, their selection, preparation, and evaluation remain rudimentary at best (World Bank, 2016[11]).

The demographic profile of school principals in Brazil reflects that of the teaching workforce, tending to be somewhat younger and more often female than in OECD and many other countries. At lower secondary level, three-quarters (77%) of Brazil’s school leaders are female, compared with an OECD average of around half (OECD, 2019[5]). At upper secondary level just over two-thirds (68%) of school leaders in Brazil are women (OECD, 2019[5]). Similarly, the average age of school principals at both lower and upper secondary level is under 50 in Brazil (47 and 49 respectively) but 52 in OECD countries (at lower secondary level) (OECD, 2019[5]). However, as with teachers, the profile of school principals in Brazil has been ageing: for the lower secondary level, in the decade to 2018, the percentage of school principals under the age of 40 fell from 36% to 23%, while the percentage of over the age of 60 increased from 4% to 10% (OECD, 2019[5]). More than half (54%) of lower secondary principals were in post for less than five years in 2018 (OECD average: 39%), and despite the overall ageing of principals, this figure has not changed very much (OECD, 2019[5]). Among the countries participating in TALIS, the average principal has 20 years of teaching experience9, compared with 16 in Brazil (OECD, 2019[5])

Data from TALIS provide a perspective on the preparedness of principals. It shows that the majority report participating in formal training in important elements of the principal role before or after taking up their positions as principal – 56% report training in school administration and 54% in instructional leadership (OECD average: 46% and 44%, respectively). However, this share is below that of systems like Singapore and the United States, where the principal function is well established (see Box 5.4). However, more information would be required to understand the quality and rigour of these programmes.

One notable finding from TALIS is that overall, few school leaders in Brazil have advanced qualifications (ISCED 7 and 8) in comparison with other countries. In OECD countries, two-thirds (66%) of school principals have such qualifications at lower secondary level. In Colombia the comparable figure is 88%, and in Mexico 49%. But in Brazil, only 4% of lower secondary school principals have this type of advanced qualification, and even in upper secondary schools the comparable figure is only 11%. Again, this reflects a wider lack of advanced qualifications in the teacher workforce. As mentioned earlier, Target 16 of the PNE stipulates that half of the teachers in Brazil’s basic education should have a qualification at ISCED 7 or above by 2024. If this comes about, it may provide a pool of teachers with more advanced qualifications from which future school leaders can be recruited – but this will necessarily be a long-term process.

Until very recently, selection procedures for school leaders varied across states and municipalities. In 2018, nearly 70% of municipal school principals were selected locally without any kind of selection process, usually through political appointments (IBGE, 2019[57]). While Target 19 of the PNE states as a national goal that all public school principals should be selected through a systematic procedure, following specific requirements and combined with an open consultation, in practice little had been done to reform and strengthen the selection process for school leaders.

Given the important place that principals occupy, OECD countries are taking steps to professionalise the role. Several countries have developed professional principal standards that set out what a school leader is expected to know and be able to do, and guide the recruitment of principals, as well as their training and appraisal.

Given that selection procedures remain for the most part informal in Brazil, the professional development of school principals is particularly important. Even though the majority of Brazilian lower secondary school principals reported that they had received school administration or principal’s training, they still report high levels of need for professional development across multiple domains, significantly greater than those reported in OECD countries (see Figure 5.22) (OECD, 2019[5]). This may indicate inadequacies in the current training on offer.

They also report a different, and often lesser pattern of participation in professional development than their OECD counterparts, with most emphasis falling on formal qualifications and administrative skills rather than on collaborative professional development for themselves and for their teachers (see Figure 5.23) (OECD, 2019[5]). Some barriers may be preventing needs from being translated into professional development: 45% of principals felt that professional development was too expensive (compared with 35% in OECD countries); 39% pointed to a lack of employer support (compared with only 21% in OECD countries) (OECD, 2019[5]). Conversely, conflicts with the work schedule were cited by only 36% of Brazilian principals, compared with 48% of OECD principals (OECD, 2019[5]).

This chapter has highlighted several respects in which the experience of Brazilian secondary school teachers is at variance with international benchmarks. While such divergence is not a problem in itself, research evidence suggests that in some of these areas, Brazil faces challenges that might be addressed through reforms designed to align the profession more fully with the strongest examples internationally. Thus:

  • The teaching profession is failing to attract able young entrants: teacher salaries in Brazil are lower than for other tertiary-educated careers, the profession is not socially valued, and part-time contracts of limited duration are unattractive. Selection measures for initial teacher education and the teaching career itself are not always effective in selecting highly-qualified and motivated candidates. This poses a serious risk to the future of teaching in Brazil.

  • Initial teacher education is weak and provides limited emphasis on practical skills: Brazil’s higher education regulatory framework remains inadequate, in particular at guaranteeing quality education provision from distance education programmes. Moreover, programmes remain too theoretical, with limited emphasis on developing teacher candidate’s pedagogical knowledge and skills and classroom management. This is particularly concerning given reports that ITE attracts the lowest-performing students. This inadequate preparation in pedagogy risks leaving many teachers unprepared for the classroom, which impacts the learning of student.

  • Novice teachers in Brazil receive inadequate support: Brazilian teachers are less likely than in many countries to benefit from the systematic induction programmes that are valuable in easing the transition into classroom teaching. This is particularly important in Brazil, not just because of the quality concerns with ITE, but also because novice teachers are often recruited to the most challenging schools. Reports also suggest that the probation period is not effective at supporting or assessing novice teachers’ development and readiness.

  • Promising teaching strategies are not receiving sufficient attention, and teachers require additional support to implement them. Adaptive teaching, designed to respond to the diverse needs of individual students, is not widely used in Brazil. This effective strategy could however be very valuable for Brazil, given that classrooms are becoming more diverse, with less grade repetition, greater inclusion and retention of disadvantaged students that might previously have dropped out, and more inclusion of students with special needs in mainstream schools. Other potentially valuable teaching strategies, such as providing feedback, are also not as present in Brazilian classrooms as they are in OECD countries, and high-performing education systems in particular.

  • Continuous professional development and teacher appraisal in Brazil do not effectively support learning and career growth. National and international reports suggest that Brazilian teachers often face obstacles to participation in CPD opportunities, and that the training available is rarely of a practical nature or linked to teachers’ daily reality. Certain types of collaborative learning arrangements, such as classroom observation, remain extremely uncommon, despite promising models in the country. A lack of balance in how teachers’ time is used, with the majority of working hours spent on classroom teaching, might be one obstacle to peer learning and collaboration. Teacher appraisal is not structured or based on common standards of teacher quality, meaning that teachers often lack meaningful feedback with which to improve their practice. Moreover, in most states and municipalities, teacher appraisal is not linked to teachers’ career advancement and development.

  • The quality of school leadership is critical in driving improvement in education and learning outcomes, but in Brazil the school leadership role is insufficiently developed as a high level professional function. Relative to other countries where most school leaders have postgraduate qualifications, Brazil’s school leaders rarely do so. Selection processes for school leaders are at present unsystematic and often simply political. School leaders have limited decision-making power and rarely act as instructional leaders. While school leaders themselves have identified multiple professional development needs, they report many barriers to pursuing them, and rarely participate in professional networking and collaboration as a means of development. Unlike some high-performing countries, Brazil lacks a set of clear standards and expectations for the school leadership role.


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← 1. Brazil took part in the lower and upper secondary components of TALIS 2018. Given that country participation in the latter was limited, this evidence has been used selectively.

← 2. Following TALIS 2018 methodology, the classification of educational personnel as “full-time” or “part-time” is based on hours spent working. The stipulation of full-time employment is usually based on “statutory hours” or “normal or statutory working hours” (as opposed to actual or total working time or actual teaching time). Part-time employment refers to individuals employed to perform fewer than the statutory number of working hours required for a full-time employee. A teacher who is employed for at least 90% of the normal or statutory number of hours of work for a full-time teacher over the period of a complete school year is classified as a full-time teacher. A teacher who is employed for less the 90% of the statutory number of hours of work for a full-time teacher over the period of a complete school year is classified as a part-time teacher (Ainley and Carstens, 2018[59]).

← 3. Teachers’ statutory salaries can vary according to a number of factors, including the level of education taught, their qualification level and their level of experience or the stage of their career. Statutory salaries are just one component of teachers’ total compensation. Other benefits, such as regional allowances for teaching in remote areas, family allowances, reduced rates on public transport and tax allowances on the purchase of instructional materials, may also form part of teachers’ total remuneration (OECD, 2020[15]).

← 4. The minimum statutory salary is based on a 40 hours/week workload, although, as will be discussed in coming sections, overall working hours reported by teachers in Brazil are lower, at around 30 hours/week (Presidência da República, 2008[43]).

← 5. While the LDB recommends that all teachers in Brazil’s basic education have a tertiary degree, the minimum requirements for teachers in ISCED 0 and ISCED 1 is to have completed teaching training in upper secondary education (magistério).

← 6. Challenging schools are defined as those where over 30% of students come from socially disadvantaged homes.

← 7. Internationally, CPD covers diverse activities, including formal training, formal and informal mentoring and coaching, and collaborative learning with other teachers.

← 8. In TALIS, special needs students are defined as “those for whom a special learning need has been formally identified because they are mentally, physically, or emotionally disadvantaged”.

← 9. Results based on responses of lower secondary principals.

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