Brazil - Early Childhood Education - Pedagogy

Early Childhood Education



Early Childhood Education in Brazil


In Brazil, early childhood education is conceived as attendance in creches (daycare centers for infants and toddlers) and preschool for children of up to 6 years of age, prior to eight years of compulsory elementary education.

Brazilian early childhood education (ECE) initiatives date back to the last quarter of the nineteenth century, but only in the second half of the twentieth century did day-care centers and preschools undergo a significant expansion in the country. In the beginning of the twentieth century the few existing day-care centers were characterized as a charitable initiative, and it wasn’t until the 1940s that child care became the norm, although even then services were very limited and with strong health orientation. In 1942, the Consolidation of the Labor Laws defined the care of lactating children of working mothers as the duty of the companies. Within the school system preprimary education arose as an addition to state establishment of compulsory primary education and also emerged in private institutions.

In the mid-1970s and the 1980s, the federal government instituted initiatives within two sectors, the Brazilian Legion of Assistance (LBA) and the Ministry of Education (MEC), aimed at expanding admission, especially to children of low- income families. The MEC supported the states and municipalities both technically and financially in the expansion of preprimary education provision, on a parttime basis, giving priority to the age-group closest to 7 years (the beginning of compulsory school education). The LBA used a strategy of contracts with community and philanthropic institutions and with local municipalities to cater to children between 0 and 6 years of age, on a full-time or part-time basis, providing a subsidy per child that only partially covered admission costs. The expansion that occurred in this period was due in great part to the utilization of local community and nonqualified human resources, resulting in low quality services, in which the primary goal was to compensate for the effects of poverty. UNESCO and UNICEF played influential policy roles. This two-pronged insertion of ECE institutions into both education and social welfare constituted a remarkable aspect of the history of Brazilian ECE, resulting in clashes between the sectors not as yet overcome.

In the mid-1980s the social movements in defense of rights, including the right to education in day-care centers and preschools, had an important effect, highlighted in this case by the women’s movements. The decade ended with the proclamation of the new Brazilian Constitution (1988). Admission in daycare centers and preschools of children from zero to six is recognized in the constitution as an educational responsibility of the state (Art.208) as is the social right of the urban and rural workers to free attendance of their dependent children of up to 6 years of age in day-care centers and preschools (Art.7, XXV). However, this last article has not been implemented yet, perhaps due to recent reductions in labor rights.

The early 1990s were marked by several Education Ministry initiatives. Experts and educational administrators discussed national policy proposals that would meet the constitutional purposes, especially regarding the recognition of day-care centers as part of education. MEC documents laid out the conception of ECE as the first phase of basic education, extending from birth to six years, in which the functions of educating and caring for the children must be carried out in an integrated manner. The terms day-care center and preschool were redefined, in order to differentiate two age brackets (day care, for children up to 3 years of age, and preschool for those between four and six), with both having to present adequate quality standards. During this period, the Legislature discussed the proposed Law of Guidelines and Bases of National Education (LDB), which was finally approved in 1996. However, the implementation of these legal advances has encountered obstacles resulting from the absence of adequate financing mechanisms.

Despite great difficulties, ECE expanded in the decade of the 90s. According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE, 2003), 11.7 percent of children from 0 to 3 years of age and 68.4 percent of those between 4 and 6 attended ECE programs. Almost 70 percent of these places are provided by the local municipalities.


Organization and Coordination of Services

Early childhood education is part of a complex educational structure in which the Union, the twenty-six states, the Federal District, and the 5,560 municipalities each have their own responsibilities at specific levels of education. It is up to the municipalities to provide ECE and, together with the states, the compulsory elementary education. The states are also responsible for providing the high school education. The Union, in addition to maintaining a network of institutions of higher education, is responsible for the coordination of national policy, articulating the different levels and systems and exerting a normative, redistributive, and supplemental function in relation to the other jurisdictions.

The institutions that provide ECE shall have their functional operation authorized and supervised by the educational system of the respective municipality, or by the state jurisdiction when the municipality opts to belong to the state system. Although the law emphasizes that the functions of caring and educating should be inseparable in ECE, stressing a child’s overall development, many institutions still limit themselves to caring for the child and custodial care routines, while others emphasize preparation for elementary school.

Following international trends, in 2006 the National Congress approved a law that included 6-year-old children in elementary education nationwide, thereby extending the period of compulsory schooling from 8 to 9 years. As a result, ECE will cover the 0-5 age range.

Brazilian ECE policy guidelines are grounded in the Law of 1996 and the National Educational Plan of 2001. The Law defines ECE as the first phase of basic education, whose objective is the integral development of the child of up to 6 years of age through provision of day-care centers and preschools. The Law establishes that the evaluation of this educational phase be focused on development and cannot have the goal of assessing and measuring the learning of the child as a means of promotion to elementary school.

The 1996 Law also assigned the responsibility for providing ECE to the Municipalities and specified a period of three years for the day-care centers and the preschools to integrate themselves to the educational systems.

The National Council on Education (CNE) and the State and Municipal Councils on Education issued complementary laws. The regulatory challenge is considerable, especially because prior to the 1996 Law ECE did not have the status of a phase of education, and its history in the educational system did not include day-care centers. Difficulties also arise from the fact that ECE is assigned to the Municipalities, the majority of which suffer from precarious technical, political, and financial conditions.

The National Educational Plan establishes goals and objectives for ECE that include aspects like the national coverage of day-care centers and preschools, the definition of quality standards, and the implementation of actions for the initial and ongoing teacher preparation and training. The goal for 2011 is to have 50 percent of the children from zero to three and 80 percent of the children between four and five enrolled in ECE institutions. Those of 6 years of age should all be in primary school.



One of the main obstacles to the implementation of the expansion and the improvement in quality objectives foreseen in ECE is found in the pattern of financing Brazilian education. The Constitution determines the distribution of public revenue (taxes and social contributions) received in the three levels of the government for the financing of education. Since 1998, however, 60 percent of these state and municipal resources have been placed in a special fund, FUNDEF, in each state to finance compulsory elementary school. Thus ECE is forced to compete with other educational expenses for municipal resources not assigned to this fund. The situation is especially grave in those municipalities where local revenues are very low. Although the Union has responsibility for supplementing the resources of the municipal educational systems, its investments in the provision of higher education and the priority given to compulsory primary education result in an insignificant investment in ECE. The largest investment of federal resources in day-care centers and preschools comes from the Ministry of Social

Development (MDS). But since 2000 the MDS has been orienting state and municipal social assistance to apply these resources in other areas (for example, toy centers, home day care, social-educational family support initiatives), since the educational sector was assigned responsibility for the day-care centers. Thus the present financing situation is unfavorable. A new educational financing proposal, FUNDEB, which will also include early childhood education and high school in the fund that at present only deals with elementary education, is being discussed in the National Congress. For this purpose, the resources shall be increased to 80 percent of the state and municipal resources destined to education. The initial proposal for this new fund, sent to National Congress by the Executive Powers in June 2005, excludes financing for the enrollment of children from zero to three. The reason given for this was the higher cost of serving this age bracket, but it also became clear that many do not yet recognize and accept the day-care center as a legitimate institution within the educational sector. However, due to the actions of the social movements in defense of the right to early childhood education amongst parliament members, the enrollment of children from zero to three was included in the proposal of the fund approved by the Chamber of Deputies in January 2006. The proposal still must be approved in the Federal Senate. The resources of the fund shall be distributed proportionately according to the number of children and pupils registered in the different educational levels and modalities, utilizing factors of differentiation that take into account the cost differences between levels. The law regulating this distribution is still being discussed. The actual situation of the financing of ECE in the country will depend to a great extent on what factor of differentiation will be defined in the law for the registration of children 0-3 years of age (day-care centers) and 4 to 6 (preschool).


Teacher Preparation

For preservice teacher preparation the 1996 Law defined optimal qualification of a university degree, but accepted the minimum educational qualification of secondary level at a teacher training school (licensure). Data for 2004 show that about 6 percent of the preschool teachers and 17 percent of day-care-center workers did not even have the minimum preparation demanded. A national program for the preparation of these professionals—ProInfantil “Program of Initial In-Service Training of Teachers in Early Childhood Education”—started in 2005. Another problem involves the curricula of the teacher preparation courses, which do not always deal adequately with the specificities of ECE. Regarding in-service training, there is no national regulation, this being up to the educational systems and to the school institutions to provide it to its teachers.



The 1996 Law stipulates that all Brazilian day-care centers and preschools, both public and private, design their programs in accordance with the National Curricular Guidelines for Early Childhood Education instituted in 1999 by the National Council of Education. The municipalities generally have a common pedagogical plan for all the schools in their network. In 1998, the Ministry of Education released the National Curricular Reference for Early Childhood Education to provide guidance in the preparation of the curricula. Unlike the National Guidelines, the National Reference is not mandatory. In actual practice local programs reflect the influences of different theoretical approaches, models, and experiences.


The Family

The idea of early care and education as complementary to the roles of both the family and the community performed by the ECE institutions is affirmed in the laws referenced earlier. Because the preschool educational phase is not compulsory, enrollment of the child is a family option. Demand is not always met, because there are insufficient spaces for all those who seek them. There are no data available to estimate the unmet demand.

The importance of the participation of the families in the definition and implementation of pedagogical proposals is stressed in the national and local guidelines and references. However, the way in which this partnership is actually carried out in local programs varies greatly, and in most cases is rather limited.

In cases where abuse and maltreatment of children by members of the family is suspected, the program is to direct the problem to the local Protective Council. According to the 1990 Statute of the Child and Adolescent this is the organization entrusted by the society to care for the welfare and rights of the child and adolescent. It is up to this Council to refer the family to programs of promotion, orientation, or treatment, or to take the case to judicial authorities.


Access and Supply

One of the challenges for ECE policy in Brazil involves the inequalities in gaining access to admission in day-care centers and preschools due to the socioeconomic level of the family. 2003 National IBGE data show that in families with a per capita monthly income of less than 1/2 the minimum salary the rate of admission is only 8 percent of children from 0 to 3 years of age and 61 percent for those from 4-6. In families with a higher income, above two minimum salaries, these percentages are 20 percent and 82 percent respectively. Many low-income families that do not manage to enroll their children in an ECE program resort to dangerous alternatives, such as leaving them at home in the care of older siblings or even at home on their own. In rural Brazil children sometimes accompany their mothers into the plantations and help with the work there.

The National Education Plan proposes that, given the limitations of financial and technical resources, public ECE provision should give priority to the children of lower income families, locating programs in the areas of greatest need. The deficiencies in the sectorial policies, especially in the areas of education, social assistance, and health, need to be overcome in order for the rights of 0- to 6-year-old children, already recognized in the legal documents, to be guaranteed in fact.

Further Readings: Conselho Nacional de Educacao. Camara de Educa^ao Basica (1999). Diretrizes Curriculares Nacionais para a Educagao Infantil (National curricular guidelines for early childhood education). Parecer CEB 01/1999, aprovado em 19 de janeiro de 1999; Lei de Diretrizes e Bases da Educacao Nacional (Law of guidelines and bases of the national education) LDB (1996). Lei n. 9394, de 20 de dezembro de 1996; MEC. COEDI (1994). Politica nacional de educacao infantil (National policy of early childhood education). Brasilia: MEC/SEF/DPEF/COEDI; Ministerio da Educacao (1995). Criterios para um atendimento em creches que respeite os direitos fundamentais das criancas (Criteria for attendance in day-care centers that respect children’s fundamental rights). Brasilia: MEC/SEF/DPEF/COEDI; Ministerio da Educacao (1999). Referencial curricular para a Educacao Infantil (National curricular reference for early childhood education). Brasilia, MEC/SEF/DPEF/COEDI. 3 vols; Ministerio da Educacao. Secretaria de Educacao Infantil e Fundamental (2003a). Politica Nacional de Educacao Infantil: pelos direitos das criancas de0a6 anos a Educacao. Documentopreliminar (National policy of early childhood education: For the rights of children from 0 to 6 years to education). Preliminary paper. Brasilia, MEC; Ministerio da Educacao. Secretaria de Educacao Infantil e Fundamental (2003b). Padroes de Infra-estrutura para as Institutes de Educacao Infantil e Parametros de Qualidadepara a Educacao Infantil (Standards of infrastructure forECE institutions and parameters of quality forECE). Preliminary paper. Brasilia, MEC; Plano Nacional de Educacao (National Education Plan). 2001. Lei n. 10172, de 9 de janeiro de 2001. Available online at

Angela Rabelo Barreto and Sonia Larrubia Valverde


The Ecology of Childhood

The decades of the 1960s and 1970s brought significant changes in values and customs in family relations as well as in the broader social structure. The intensification of urbanization, the expansion of working women followed by the increasing presence of mothers with young children in the labor market, the decrease in number of siblings and of urban spaces for collective games, and the greater concern with childhood rights, all led to a redefinition of the boundary between public and private, indicating a new place of childhood, characterized by a change in the locus of child socialization from single to multiple places.

In Brazil, this change was set off in the context of the political transition that was leading toward the redemocratization of the country, and must be comprehended within the confluence of several factors. These included the legal accomplishments in the fields of children’s, women’s, and family rights, changes in family structure, the contributions in the diverse areas of knowledge that challenged the idea of a fragile and incomplete child, and the impact of this new vision of childhood as a subject with legitimacy for early childhood education (ECE) public policies.


The Broad Range of Achieved Rights

Despite a long regime of dictatorship installed with the military coup of 1964, the 1970s were marked by a true revolution in the field of social and individual rights. The accomplishments are reflected in the Federal Constitution of 1988,

with the recognition of the universal right to education for children from zero to six years of age, and the right of working men and women to day-care centers and preschools for their children. These changes offer a new vision of the child, of childhood, of early childhood education, of women, of the professional, and of gender relations and family responsibility. The right to education from birth presupposes a social responsibility for the child and the creation of alternatives in childhood socialization that complement the role of the family. The child begins to be seen as occupying a place in the present as a protagonist of his own life, a citizen in development. Women become the target of important policies promoting gender equality and the elimination of all the forms of discrimination. The integration of the social and educational dimensions, resulting from the fact of the right to the day-care center and preschool stated in the chapters of the Law on Education and Work, legitimizes the idea of responsibility shared between the family and the state, establishing an intersection between private matters and those of a public order regarding the education/socialization of the young child. The expansion of rights shall also benefit the professionals through the requirement that there be specific training for early childhood teachers and caregivers.


Transformations in the Brazilian Family

The place of childhood in the contemporary context is related to the transformation in the composition of the Brazilian family. The progressive increase in participation by women with young children in the labor market coincides with a reduction in the percentage of extended families, a reduction in the birthrate and an increase in the number of single-parent families. Studies of trends in the work patterns of Brazilian women reveal a 54 percent increase in workforce participation between the 1980s and the 1990s. In 2002 women increased their participation in the labor market more than men (2.5% vs. 1.6%). The birthrate dropped from 6.3 births per woman of child bears in age in 1960 to 2.3 in 2003. Persons per household went from 5.1 percent in 1970 to 3.6 percent in 2003, while the proportion of women household heads grew from 15 percent in 1980 to 29 percent in 2003, revealing a growth of almost 30 percent over the last ten years.

These changes reflect broader international patterns, but they have not been accompanied by mechanisms of support for families with young children. Although the provision of places in day-care centers and preschools has been increasing in the past years, the rates of coverage are still unsatisfactory. In 2003, 37.7 percent of the children from 0 to 6 years of age attended an ECE setting, reflecting a direct association among parents’ level of education, (especially of the mother), family income, and admission to day-care centers or preschools. The probability of children attending a day-care center or preschool increases according to the educational level of the parents, and it is the poorest families that have the least access to these services, even though legislation places a priority on the children in those families.

The transformations in the family are also qualitative: they point to a crisis in the traditional family form consisting of two parents and their related children, which, although still predominant, start to cede space to more heterogeneous forms. Separations and remarriages create new relations and roles; the proportion of married couples decreases while the quantity of singles and separated parents increases, constituting a segment that is predominantly made up of women.


From Private to Public Spaces

The more intense and effective participation of the woman in economic, political, and social life and the significant expansion of the role of mother creates pressure for a revision of the traditional female contributions in the domestic space as well as a redefinition of the masculine role, and calls for the construction of relations of a more equal nature regarding the reproduction and care of the children. The decline in the children’s sources of socialization within the interior of the domestic space has led to the creation of other spaces and relations outside of the family sphere. While in the past children were gathered most frequently within the home and the family, at present we see a broad circulation of children in formal or nonformal public spaces, showing the multiple contexts of extra-family socialization, especially in the urban centers.

Within the academic sphere the production of knowledge on the present development of public ECE policies from the perspective of the ecology of childhood is still scarce and has little impact on the planning of the policies and the attitude of professionals and users in general. Very little research addresses this new place of childhood at the intersections of family responsibility, out-of-home paid work, and child care. There is little research on the nature of the socialization processes in these nonfamily contexts. There are also very few studies that deal with ECE institutions as a new experience of child socialization, an issue that gains space in some research groups, but still finds very little relevance amongst the ECE professionals, or within the curricula of the teacher training courses.


Changes in the Focus of ECE Research

Up until the 1970s, research showed a great concern for the development of the child. The studies on day-care centers in general reflected an interest in the effects of maternal deprivation on the development of children attending these institutions, and research on preschool was directed to the development of strategies to avoid a future school failure, from the point of view of cultural deprivation.

Researches on day-care centers took a qualitative leap in the 1980s, by shifting the focus of the developing child to the institutional contexts, situating the daycare center as the legitimate field for data collection. Strongly inspired by foreign literature, these research projects brought new elements previously not contemplated in the area: maternity, the status of woman, the role of the professional, the pedagogical dimension, the family and institution relationship, and the role of the state.

Upon shifting the attention away from the day-care center as a place primarily of “family absence” and of the adult as the only provider of affection, new perspectives were established in the field of developmental psychology, demonstrating that young children are capable of establishing affective bonds with adults other than the mother, and revealing the importance of the day -care center as a context of socialization where the children establish a wide range of relationships with their peers.

By the 1990s investigation of childhood was also observed in other fields, like the history of childhood, revealing the childhoods constituted in different contexts and present within diverse social practices, educational projects, and public policies. In anthropology the work on childhood in the indigenous societies stands out, presenting the manner in which these peoples experiment and express themselves in their social life, and demonstrating how little interest in indigenous children was shown in most of the research and writing carried out previously. However, this important area of research does not intersect at all with early childhood care and education studies.


The Sociology of Childhood

The recently established sociology of childhood, that arose in Europe and in the United States as a field of investigation within the social sciences in the 1990s, has been a source of inspiration forvarious centers of research in childhood education. The conception of childhood as a social category is guiding the creation of new methodologies that place the child as the protagonist of its own life, seeking to study the children by means of their voices, their practices, and their possibilities of creating and recreating the social reality in which they are placed.

The place of childhood as subject legitimizes the ECE contexts as settings of socialization and spaces where the children can live their childhoods in the present, and not as a promise for the future, occupying different places, experimenting in diverse interactions with their peers and participating in cultural production in their interaction with others. It also legitimizes the ECE institutions as settings where fathers, mothers, and others responsible for children may share in the care and the education of the young child and participate in the construction of the institutional culture. This new sense of place has direct implications for ECE policies and practices. It presupposes an integrated, unified, universal approach, strong public investment, directed at the 0-6 age-group and attuned to the needs and interests of the children and their families.


The Gap between Rhetoric and Reality

However this conception, although implicit in the Brazilian Constitution, is still an ideal that has not been debated or become concrete in the form of social practices. This gap reflects the changes in the national and international political and economic scenario that have served as the theater for our legislation. Between the proclamation of the Constitution (1988) and its regulation (1996) anew world economic order has imposed itself, marked by the restriction of the role of the state in social policies, including the reduction of public investment in education, threatening many accomplishments in the rights arena, especially for women and for childhood. The law that regulates the inclusion of day-care centers and preschools in the educational sector was elaborated within the context of these neoliberal reforms, when the policies for basic education were redefined and the resources channeled primarily to elementary education. At the present time the constitutional Article that guarantees the right to day-care centers and preschools for the children of working men and women has not been carried forward into regulations; the social movements that motivated this conquest are demobilized. The topic finds little resonance in the educational sector, the main source of public policies for ECE, which has no tradition of dealing with a nonscholarly conception of ECE.


The Influences of International Agencies and Organizations

In addition, the international treatises and the action plans of international conferences have played a role in the definition of the educational policies and are incorporated into national plans, demanding adjustments that are not always suited to the guidelines already established in national legislation.

The 1990 Declaration of Jomtien (Education for All), that adopted as its first goal “Expand and improve the early childhood care and education, in an integrated fashion, especially for the most vulnerable and less favored children” recommends a realignment of the early childhood care and education policies in the developing countries. Haddad observes the coexistence of two sets of priorities in response to fulfilling this goal, which differ according to age-group. One refers to the expansion of preschool classes for the age that precedes compulsory schooling, with a view to universalize admission to ages of 4-5, as a form of guaranteeing full access to formal schooling. The second refers to programs for families and communities directed at children under 3 years of age, reflecting the orientations of international organizations led by the World Bank. In this latter case these organizations use different terminologies to refer to the early childhood programs in developing countries (Early Childhood Care and Development (UNESCO), Early Childhood Development (World Bank), and Early Childhood Care for Survival, Growth and Development (UNICEF)), and give different meanings to the terms childhood and early childhood education. In the name of combating poverty and of a holistic view of childhood development, supported by research on the development of the brain, these terms have subtly altered the concept of childhood as a social category and of early childhood education as the legitimate space for the child to live its childhood, undermining the concept of social responsibility and accentuating the gap between developed and developing countries. In contrast to what is proposed for developed countries, the literature of international organizations regarding developing countries advocates that programs should be less costly and run by mothers or community leaders; parents and close caregivers (such as older siblings) should be an equal target population; settings should be community or home-based; and private sector involvement should be encouraged. These premises de-emphasize the accomplishments that have led to recognizing a specific ECE culture, which were hardly achieved and require a correspondingly specific pedagogy. Whether we will be able to resist these regressive outside influences is a question both for the present and the future.

Further Readings: Campos, Maria M. and Lenira Haddad (1992). Educacao infantil: crescendo e aparecendo. (Early Childhood Education: Growing and appearing). Cadernos de Pesquisa Sao Paulo, 80, 11-20, Feb.; Educagao E Sociedade. Revista de Ciencia da Educagao. Sociologia da infancia: pesquisas com criangas (Sociology of childhood: Research with children). Campinas, 26(91), 337-712, May-Aug; de Faria, Ana Lucia G., Demartini, Leila de Brito S., and Prado, Patricia D. (orgs.) (2002). Por uma cultura da infancia (For a culture of childhood). Campinas: Autores Associados; Haddad, Lenira (2002). An integrated approach to early childhood education and care. UNESCO Early Childhood and Family Policy Series Number 3. Paris, France: UNESCO; Kuhlmann, Jr., Moyses (1998). Infancia e Educacao Infantil: uma abordagem historia (Childhood and early childhood education: A historic approach). Porto Alegre: Mediagao; Nascimento, Maria Leticia B. P. (2003). Creche e Familia na constituicao do “eu": um estudo sobre as imagens e as representacoes de criangas no terceiro ano de vida na cidade de Sao Paulo (Creche and family in the constitution of the self: A study on children in their third year of life in the city of Sao Paulo). Doctorate thesis in Education. Sao Paulo: FEUSP.

Lenira Haddad and Maria Leticia Nascimento


Culture, Race, and Ethnicity

Culture, race, and ethnicity themes have only recently entered the political and academic debate in Brazilian Early Childhood Education (ECE) and they are just beginning to be addressed. These themes deal specifically with the ethnic- racial inequalities that blacks (45%) and indigenous (0.4%) populations experience compared to whites (54%). Historic processes of construction and combat of these inequalities are not the same for black and indigenous peoples.



After having practiced slavery for over three centuries (until 1888), Brazil was the last country to abolish the enslavement of African blacks. During slavery, the domination of African blacks extended beyond slaves, it also affected free blacks. The educational legislation of that time prohibited slaves, free blacks, and people suffering from contagious diseases from obtaining an education.

The abolition of slavery was gradual and was regulated by a series of laws: in 1871 freedom was conferred to children born of slave mothers (Law of the Free Womb—Ventre Livre). As a result of this law, the first text on day-care centers (creches, 1879) was published in Brazil. These documents revealed that day-care centers (creches) were conceived as the institutions designed to shelter the newly freed children of mothers who were forced to continue as slaves.

After the complete abolition of slavery, the processes summarized below marked the social, economic, and political relations between whites and blacks:

• Unlike the United States, Brazil did not adopt a legislation of racial segregation; therefore the legal definition of slavery as belonging to a specific ethnicity or race did not occur.

• Brazil did not develop a specific policy to integrate the newly freed blacks into the broader society, which strengthened the bases of racial inequalities.

• In accordance with the state policy of “whitening” the population in accordance with the eugenic racial policies developed in Europe in the nineteenth century, Brazil encouraged European immigration during the late nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century.

• The country adopted a system of racial classification based on appearances resulting from the simultaneous consideration of physical traits (skin color, facial features, hair), social-economic condition, and region of residence. This is one of the reasons that explains the use of the word blacks and not Afro-Brazilians.

• The existence of a large mixed population (38% identify themselves as “brown,” pardos) that is diversely distributed throughout the national territory. The poorest regions—in the Northeast—are those that have the largest percentage of Negros (black/preto and brown/pardo) due to the “whitening” policy discussed earlier.

• The commingling of standards of simultaneous vertical racial relations, producing intense social inequality, and horizontal ones in which no open hostility or racial hatred is observed, permitted interracial marriages and friendly commingling in certain social spaces under specific circumstances.

This last peculiarity of the racial relations in Brazil, associated with the process of racial classification based on appearance, created a belief in the myth of Brazilian racial democracy. This myth presupposes not only friendly and cordial relations, but also equality of opportunities for whites and blacks. Since the 1950s the myth of racial democracy has been challenged by white and black researchers and by activists of the Black movement. In the late 1970s, researchers highlighted the racial inequality regarding access to material and symbolic goods, urging people to interpret this inequality as expressions of racism, and to propose policies that permit supplanting it. In 1996, the Brazilian government recognized for the first time that the country is structurally racist, having assumed its historic debt with black and the indigenous people.


Three Schools of Thought in Brazil

Three perspectives characterize Brazilian social thought regarding racial relations. The first one postulates the existence of racial democracy. The second one recognizes a deep inequality between the white and black segments of the population, but interprets the racial relations in the postabolitionist period as remnants of the ancient regime, incompatible with the new social order that is shaping itself into a competitive society of classes. Despite the fact that this perspective recognizes the existence of racial inequalities, it is optimistic, hoping that the racial inequality will eventually disappear with the development of industrialization. This perspective greatly influenced the Brazilian educational thought. While recognizing the massive concentration of black students in the poorer layers of the population, Brazilian educational thought tends to identify the educational difficulties experienced by blacks exclusively with the inequalities caused by poverty, and fails to consider the specific impacts of racial membership.

Without denying that the destiny of the black population is associated with the political and economic history of the Brazilian society, the third perspective views these inequalities as also due to the unequal opportunities for social mobility after the abolishment of slavery, and the contemporary racism (structural and symbolic) faced by the black and indigenous populations.


Race Inequalities in Early Childhood Education

The concern with race inequalities in ECE is very recent in Brazil. Neither researchers nor activists of the black and indigenous movements have dedicated any attention to the theme. Their concern has been oriented more to the educational situation starting with primary school education. In this context, the written work is limited and there is no consensual political agenda to orient the action.

This inattention is worrying, since blacks and residents in the Northeast between 0 and 6 years of age comprise the greatest percentage of the poor and very poor people of Brazil, with the highest rates of mortality and infant malnutrition and the least access to basic sanitation. Quality indicators indicate that the ECE of the Northeastern region is also of the poorest quality in the nation.


Supply and access. In 2003, 11.7 percent of Brazilian children 0-3 years of age and 68.4 percent 4-6 years of age attended some kind of ECE. Despite an incredible growth rate between 1970 and 1990, studies from the 1990s showed that ECE grew the least in that decade, and presented totally unsatisfactory quality indicators. From a budgetary perspective, ECE is the educational level in which the per-pupil investment is the lowest in the country. The ethnic-racial inequalities in ECE appear on several different levels: in the access and in the quality of the service offered, in the retention of children 7 years of age and older, in the institutional segregation and in the discriminatory processes observed in the institutional practices.

In Brazil, children of higher income levels and white children have the greatest access to ECE. However, due to the expansion of ECE during the 1980s as a strategy to combat poverty, day-care centers, preschools, and improvised literacy classes of low quality were opened for the poor, in poor population regions (slums, urban outskirts). As a result, it is possible to find in some strata of income and age a greater percentage of black children attending day-care centers and preschool. The same expansion policy of ECE for regions considered “politically dangerous” (the “pockets of poverty” of the Northeast) during the last decade of the military dictatorship (l978-1985) caused a specific pattern for the rates of coverage: the Northeastern region presents the best rates of ECE coverage both for white as well as for nonwhite children 4-6 years of age. However, better rates of coverage may be associated with the worst ECE quality indicators. Therefore, the Northeastern region simultaneously presents the greatest coverage and the greatest rate of teachers without qualification, who receive the worst salaries and who work in child-care settings presenting the worst material conditions, including poor basic sanitation.


ECE expansion and racial segregation. This same model of ECE expansion adopted in states with a high percentage of blacks has resulted in the most homogenous clientele at all the levels of public education. Public day-care centers and preschools receive almost exclusively poor children. While this may seem positive, it can also be negative, since social and racial segregation occurs and there is little ethnic-racial or economic diversity.


Financing. Due to this process of antidemocratic expansion and the low financial investment of the state, the ECE has been failing children. This distortion of the system (that has been diminishing recently) especially affects poor, black children of the Northeast. Until 1987 no data were collected on how disadvantaged children functioned in ECE. It was commonly believed that black children started primary school education at a later age than white children, when in fact, substantial quantities (in 1995 an estimated one million children) were retained in preschool. This finding is in accord with research results and the claims of black leadership, which describe the Brazilian school system as having “hostile ambience” for black children or at the very least being indifferent to the racism that occurs both in the school institution and in the broader society. To quote Pinto (1993) “This hostile ambience has been detected in the curriculum, in the didactic material of the most diverse disciplines, in the relations amongst the pupils and in the relations between teachers and pupils.” At least since the 1970s studies of school texts, children’s literature, and other pedagogical materials (toys) have demonstrated the racial discrimination found within ECE. This discrimination manifests itself in the less representation of black and indigenous characters that can serve as positive role models, omitting and even denying the contributions of black and indigenous people to the cultural formation of Brazil.

Research conducted in the schools has uncovered the discriminatory practices that reflect the ways in which black children are seen in a negative light in terms of their intellectual possibilities. Among white children, the exclusion of black peers and the use of pejorative nicknames for them is not unusual, and most of the time this behavior is ignored by the teachers. In addition, there is little help from the government or from private institutions for improving teacher preparation regarding human rights. Some initiatives have been taken; for example the inclusion of the theme of “multiculturalism” in the national curriculum. However, a recent law that requires the inclusion of the history of Africa and of the contributions of the Afro-Brazilian culture to the Brazilian society does not include ECE, being aimed only at primary and secondary school levels.


Indigenous Peoples

In Brazil, it is estimated that between 350,000 and 500,000 Indigenous people reside on indigenous lands. There are 219 different indigenous nations speaking 180 different languages. At the last census (2000), 739,000 people declared themselves Indigenous. The process of Portuguese colonization adopted in Brazil, as well as the later indigenous policies, exterminated indigenous peoples and their descendants, and banished innumerable languages from human culture. In the process of Portuguese and later Brazilian colonization, the schools played a fundamental role as the institution “domesticating” the “savages.” The situation only changed after the dictatorship (in the 1980s), when the Constitution of 1988 was approved and recognized Brazil, for the first time, as a multiethnic and multilinguistic nation.


Supply and access for indigenous peoples. Among other rights, the Constitution of 1988 assured the indigenous peoples’ access to a specific intercultural and bilingual school education. The National Council of Education recognized and established norms for the creation and operation of “indigenous schools.” In accord with the legal requirement, in 1999 the Ministry of Education carried out for the first time the “Indigenous School Census,” which collected the basic information available on education in indigenous territories.

ECE makes up 20.6 percent of the total school registrations in the Indigenous School Census (1999). Ninety-eight percent of these children are in public settings, 56 percent are between 4 and 6 years old, and 72 percent come from Indigenous cultures. Over one-third of school registrations in ECE consist of children of 7 years and above.


ECE and indigenous nations. Not all the indigenous nations favor the creation of ECE settings for their children. These nations fear the diffusion of values that are incompatible with their culture, the loss of their mother tongues, and practices that remind them of the “domesticating” education their ancestors suffered. Despite the fact that the theme of indigenous education is increasingly a subject of academic study, ECE has not been highlighted in these efforts. This is an important and unjustifiable gap in the efforts of researchers. In April of 2005, a national debate was held on ECE and indigenous peoples for the first time. One of the issues under discussion was how compatible the ECE model known and disseminated by the western world is for peoples whose primary socialization does not occur in the context of the normative model of the nuclear family found in the West.

Further Readings: Cavalleiro, Eliane. (2000). Do silencio do lar ao silencio escolar (From home silence to school silence). Sao Paulo, Contexto; Pinto, Regina P. (1993). Multiculturalidade e educacao de negros (Multiculturality and negros education). Cadernos Cedes, (32), pp. 35-48; Rosemberg, Fulvia (2003). Multilateral organizations and early child care policies for developing countries. Gender & Society, 7(2), 250-266; Rosemberg, Fulvia (2005). Childhood and social inequality in Brazil. In H. Penn, ed., Childhoods: Young children’s lives in poor countries. London: Routledge, pp. 142-170.

Fulvia Rosemberg



Brazil is not a poor country, but rather a country with many poor people. This is the thesis on Brazilian poverty that is most accepted at present, based on the fact that Brazil ranks amongst the world’s highest rates of social inequality, a situation that has not undergone great alterations despite the progress achieved in the country’s economic development and modernization throughout the twentieth century.

According to official statistics, the proportion of the poor in the country decreased from 39 percent to 33 percent between 1977 and 1998, but the absolute number grew from 40 million to 50 million people. This total has only started to diminish only recently.

Data reproduced from a table elaborated by Almeida (2000) provide an idea of what the differences in mean income in Brazil are compared to other countries. Of a total of sixteen countries, six were selected for this illustration. The difference between the average income of the countries and the income of the poorest 20 percent supplies a measure of its internal inequality. One country may be richer than another (for example, Brazil compared to India), but present a substantially larger indicator of inequality.


Comparison between the average annual per capita income of the total population with the poorest 20% in six countries (1993, in US$)




A (Average per capita income of the total population)

B (Average per capita income of the poorest 20%)

Relation A/B

United States
























Source: PNUD—1996 (apud Almeida, 2000, p. 36).


The classification of the countries according to the Human Development Index, reported periodically by the United Nations Program for Development, situates Brazil in the group of countries of Average Human Development. In 2005, the country was classified in the 63rd position, having shown a tendency toward improvement on this indicator over the past few years.

Brazil has no legal definition of a poverty line. The most commonly used classification of the population brackets considered poor and extremely poor is based on a monthly per capita family income calculated in minimum salaries (MS). In 2005 the monthly MS was 300 Reais or US$125. The poor are considered those people with a per capita income of less than 1/2 MS (approximately $2 per day) and extremely poor those with less than 1/4 MS. This poverty line corresponds to the income necessary to provide their needs with feeding, dwelling, clothes, and transportation, amongst others; the line of extreme poverty refers exclusively to feeding needs. According to this definition, in 1998 there were 50 million poor people (32.7%) in Brazil, 21 million of whom (13 9% of the total population) were extremely poor.

Monteiro (2003) calculates the proportion of the Brazilian population considered poor by regions, using the criteria of the Projeto Fome Zero (Zero Hunger Project), a program launched in 2002 by the Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers Party). These criteria combine the family income and cost of living of the different regions, considering the domestic production of the agricultural families and not taking into account the expenditures with rental and acquisition of their own homes.


Percentage of poor population in Brazil by regions (1999)
































a Includes only the state of Tocantins, excluding the rest of the rural Amazon. Source: Monteiro, 2003, p. 10.


Table shows that the greatest contrast is observed between the rural and urban zones and amongst the large geographical regions of the country. The Northeast is a region that presents the greatest proportions of poor people, far above the others, both in the urban as well as in the rural zone.

The condition of poverty in Brazil aligns itself with the color/ethnic origin of the population. According to IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics), of almost half of the 180 million Brazilians who classify themselves as Negroes, 41 percent are brown and 6 percent black. Although the rates of illiteracy among these two groups have been dropping, in 2003 they still represented more than double that registered for whites. The Negro population is proportionately larger in the Northeastern and Central-Western regions, where the average income of the blacks and browns is only slightly more than half that of the whites. There is no comparative data for the Indigenous population, which totaled almost half a million people according to the last Census.


Childhood Poverty

Several studies have already shown that poverty in Brazil affects the young child population most intensely, especially children between 0 and 6 years of age, the age bracket that corresponds to early childhood education. Various factors contribute to this: (1) the family life cycle, since the families with young children bear heavier expenses and count on a smaller quantity of people in the workforce than the others; (2) the fact that the poorest families, with less school education and who live in the less developed regions, have a higher average number of children than the others; (3) and less access to the basic public services both in the less developed regions as well as in the poorest neighborhoods of the large cities.

Kappel (2005) developed a careful characterization of the young child population in the 0-6 age-group, based on IBGE data. In 2001, there were, approximately 22 million children between 0 and 6 years of age in the country. A decrease in the birthrates from 2.7 to 2.4 in the country between 1992 and 2001 was combined with an increase of newborn life expectancy to keep the total young child population relatively stable over the past ten years. The regional differences in the birth rates also decreased during that period. These differences continued to be strongly associated with the level of the mothers’ schooling: those women with less than four years of education have an average rate of fertility of 3.2 children, while those with more than eight years of study have an average of 1.6 children.

In 2001, of the total of 50 million Brazilian families, 16 million (32%) had children from 0 to 6 years of age. Of these, 38 percent presented per capita monthly family incomes below 1/2 an MS, that is, they were considered poor. The proportion of families in the lowest income bracket is significantly higher in the Northeastern region, as shown in the table.


Families with children from 0 to 6 years of age, per classes of per capita monthly family income in minimum salaries, according to the regions-Brazil, 2001




Families with at least 1 child from 0 to 6 years of age




Classes of per capita monthly family income in MS (%)

Brazil and


Up to









than 1/2

than 1

than 2

than 3





up to 1

to 2

to 3

to 5

5 MS

















































Source: Kappel, 2005, Table 2, p. 187, based on data from PNAD 2001, IBGE.

a Including those without income and without declaration of income.

b Excluding the rural population of the Northern region.


An important aspect to consider is the number of families headed by women: in 2001, 27.3 percent of the total families were in this situation. The infant mortality rates decreased significantly between 1992 and 2001, but they still reveal a significant regional inequality.

Monteiro (2003) shows how the rates of infant undernourishment in children between 0 and 5 years follows the same tendency of increasing poverty in the rural zone of the Northeastern region (25.2% compared to 16.6% in the urban). In addition, there is a significant difference in the rates of the urban zones in the Northern (16.6%) and Northeastern regions (13%) compared to the Central-Southern region (4.6%).

This author identifies the lack of access to public health services, education, and sanitation, among others, as an important factor associated to the incidence of childhood undernourishment, in addition to the family income. In this sense, the rural population is more affected than the urban. A longitudinal study during the period 1989-1996 showed that the decline observed in the rates of childhood undernourishment in Brazil are more due to the increase in the coverage of basic services of health, schooling of mothers, and the supply of water than to the small increase in family income recorded over these years. These data demonstrate that progress in the living conditions of the population is not obtained simply through higher economic growth rates, but requires the mediation of greater investments in basic public services.

However, the younger children are precisely those that benefit least from public expenditures in the social area. Based on estimates of the proportion of expenditures on social programs that reach the different age and income brackets of the population, Camargo (2004) demonstrated that social policies in Brazil present a pro-elderly, antichildren, and antipoor people pattern. Of a total of 200 billion Reais that the country spends annually on social programs (health, education, social welfare, social assistance, and work), more than 60 percent are targeted to retirement funds and pensions. In addition to these expenditures there are those spent on social assistance, half of which (5 billion Reais), go to the elderly.

Comparing social expenditures on the aged with those invested in the 0-14 age-group, this author calculates 12 percent of the GNP for elders (6% of the population) compared with 3.6 percent of the GNP for children (29.6% of the population—a total of 50 million in 2000). This bias is even more evident when children between 0 and 6 years of age are highlighted. Although Brazil practically universalized access to obligatory elementary education for children between 7 and 14 years of age during the decade of the 1990s, in 2003 only 11.7 percent of the children from 0 to 3 years old and 68.4 percent of those from 4 to 6 years old actually attended ECE institutions (see Country Profile).

School attendance rates are higher for the higher income segments and the white population. In 2001, the chance of a higher family income child (more than three minimum salaries family income per capita') being enrolled in ECE, compared to those of a lower income child, were 3 5 times greater for the 0-3 age bracket and 1.6 times greater for the 4-6 age bracket.

Attendance rates were higher for children classified as white. In the 0-3 age bracket 11.4 percent of the white children were enrolled in ECE, compared to 9.6 percent of the black and brown children. In the 4-6 age bracket the difference was 67.9 percent for white versus 63 3 percent for the black and brown children.

These data show quite clearly that the social policies of the country are not able to significantly alter existing patterns of social and racial inequality, and that the young children are at a relative disadvantage in relation to other segments of the population, not only regarding access to income but also in terms of access to the social programs.

Social Policies and Poverty

Without ever having implemented a universal social welfare system, as occurred in several European countries in the post World War II period, Brazil is currently accumulating the contradictions of a society that was industrialized and urbanized with the impasses of a nonhegemonic country in a globalized world. The neoliberal policies of weakening the capacity of the state to intervene are combining with the postindustrial society, high unemployment, and social exclusion to become firmly established as structural characteristics.

Over the past years, several programs to supplement family income were adopted and directed to the poorer families. The Bolsa Escola (School Scholarship) program was one of the first, and required in return from the families that their children between 7 and 14 years of age attend schools. The shape of these programs evolved over the past five years together with significant expansion. With the commencement of the Fome Zero (Zero Hunger) program, the main social proposal of the 2002 government, the diverse types of income supplementation programs were unified into what is now called Bolsa Famttia (Family Scholarship), coordinated by the Ministry of Social Development and Combat to Hunger.

One of the consequences of this unification under the auspice of social assistance is a weakening of the emphasis on the children’s school attendance as an obligation of the families receiving assistance. In addition, at the intersection with the creche programs, the previous stimulus to education has been switched to a stimulus for mothers to stay at home and take care of their young children, contradicting the purpose of the Bolsa Escola program.

Bolsa Famttia is an income transfer program aimed at families in poverty situations that expects a contribution by the families, in the form of participation in health activities, enrolling their children in schools, and participating in nutrition education programs. In 2005, a total of 6,562,155 families were being catered to, receiving an average of 66 Reais ($28) a month. The goal defined for 2007 is to reach 11.4 million families.

Neither research nor evaluations are yet available on how these programs are affecting the living conditions of the children from 0 to 6 years of age. But it should be considered that the education policies aimed at young children in Brazil must overcome inequalities in access to day-care centers and preschools, Otherwise these efforts to combat poverty will not have a long-term effect on the future of the poorest children.

In any case, it seems that income supplementation programs, whether or not associated to education and other social policies, have come to stay. They have political support, have gained support among international organizations and, more importantly, correspond to pressing and dramatic social necessities. However, in a society that commingles these programs with patronage-oriented political practices and confuses social policy with benevolence and rights with favors, it is difficult to disseminate a conception of social policy and income supplementation based purely on rights of citizenship, which also creates obligations for those benefited and which does not cause discrimination in social life. Social inequalities cannot be understood exclusively in terms of the right to receive certain goods and services. It is also necessary to consider the rights of integration that would permit individuals to be active citizens, with full rights to live in society.

Further Readings: Almeida, Evaristo (2000). Programas de garantia de renda minima: insercao social ou utopia? (Minimal income guarantee programs: Social insertion or utopia?). Sao Paulo: EDUC/Fapesp; Barros, Ricardo Paes de, Ricardo Henriques, and Rosane Mendonga (2000). Desigualdade e pobreza no Brasil: retrato de uma estabilidade inaceitavel (Inequality and poverty in Brazil: The portrait of an unacceptable stability). Revista Brasileira de Ciencias Sociais 15(42), Feb., 123-142; Camargo, Jose Marcio (2004). Politica social no Brasil: prioridades erradas, incentivos perversos (Social policy in Brazil: Wrong priorities, perverse incentives). Sao Paulo em Perspectiva 18(2), 68-77; Campos, Maria Malta (2003). Educagao e politicas de combate a po- breza (Education and policies to combat poverty). Revista Brasileira de Educagao (24), Sept./Oct./Nov./Dec., 183-191; Fitoussi, Jean-Paul, Pierre Rosanvallon (1997). La nueva era de las desigualdades (The new era of inequalities). Buenos Aires: Manantial; Kappel, Dolores Bombardelli (2005). As criancas de 0 a 6 anos no contexto socio-demografico nacional (Children from 0 to 6 in the national socio-demographic context). In Sonia Kramer, (org.), Profissionais de educacao infantil: gestao e formacao (Early childhood education professionals: Management and training). Sao Paulo: Atica, pp. 178-201; Monteiro, Carlos Augusto (2003). A dimensao da pobreza, da desnutrigao e da fome no Brasil (The dimension of poverty, undernourishment and hunger in Brazil). Estudos Avancados 17(48), May/Aug., 7-20.

Web Site:

Maria Malta Campos



In Brazil, as in many other Western capitalist societies, the largely urban phenomenon of violence assumed endemic proportions beginning in the 1980s, and challenged the efficacy of socially controlled institutions.

Although violence (and its consequences) attacks all social segments, its diverse forms of manifestation produce a hierarchic complexity that affects social groups differentially, depending on their particular vulnerabilities. Exposure to violent events occurs differently for blacks and whites, young and old, men and women, poor and rich, residents of central or peripheral regions of large urban centers. To these characteristics are added those related to age, given that the risk of victimization occurs especially in the economically nonproductive groups. The main victims of homicides in Brazil, for example, comprise a predominantly young, male population residing in regions where the processes of social exclusion are accentuated.


Structural Violence

Violence in its structural manifestation is defined in terms of life conditions produced as a result of economic decisions. In its cruelest form this type of violence takes as its victims those families that live in poverty or misery, and especially affects the children. In Brazil its result can be seen through the historical and social conditions that produced the institutionalization of poor children in shelters, child-juvenile labor as a form of supplementation of the household budget and the phenomenon of the boys and girls that live in the streets. In the case of early childhood education (ECE), this violence was reproduced in the sphere of the national public policies aimed at expansion of child-care places which, supported in the name of low-cost investment, generated only small coverage with public financing and established a range of different types of admission (public, private, philanthropic, home-based). This process makes access difficult on behalf of children coming from poor families, who receive less attention (see Country Profile), and creates institutions that provide the children with services of varying quality.

Other forms of violence, labeled social, intra-family, and institutional, also have the greatest impacts on children and adolescents, violating their rights and shaping both the conditions for and their opportunities for development.


Intra-family Violence

In relation to intra-family or domestic violence, its physical form is the most visible, being both the most common type in the country and also including cases so severe that they require the attention of the Health System. It is manifest as physical and sexual abuse, where intentional use of force may even lead to a risk of death. From 1997 to 2003, the National Secretariat of Human Rights received 8,600 reports of sexual and commercial exploitation of children. A National Program has been developed as a form of combating mainly the sexual exploitation linked to tourism. Girls are especially the victims of sexual violence. In relation to physical violence, according to IBGE data 20 percent of Brazilian children are victims and in 80 percent of the cases parents are the aggressors. Studies by the Center for the Study of Victims of Violence show that child abuse is a grave public health problem, having become the main cause of death of children under age 5.

As part of a national culture centered on the adult and permissive with punitive forms of childhood discipline, physical violence is combined with negligence and psychological violence, in which a process of humiliation and submission of the child occurs provoked by adults or by other children. This culture results in a lack of knowledge of the real situation of victimized children, because it produces a “plot of silence” which leads to the helplessness of the children and a continuation of the fear and negligence.


Psychological Violence: Bullying in Schools

Within the sphere of the school, psychological violence has been discussed mainly through studies on bullying, characterized as a combination of aggressive, intentional, and repetitive behavior perpetrated by one or more pupils against others, causing pain, anguish, and suffering. Generally prejudice and nontolerance to differences are at the base of this behavior.

These are also the factors that appear associated to school violence in a broader context expressed in terms both of how the institution understands the problem and of its educational practices as (re)producers of social violence. Studies in the area, which have intensified in the last decade and become more centered on the educational settings serving children from 7 to 14 years of age, raise issues regarding institutional violence specific to the school and also to its articulation with extramural violence.

If the issue of school violence in the elementary and high school has received more attention recently in research and in Brazilian educational policies, this has in general not been the case in early childhood education. There are some research projects that study the day-care centers and preschools as protected spaces for the child regarding domestic violence. The concept is that daily attendance provides the child with other adults who can accept some responsibility for their physical integrity, acting more rapidly when threatening situations occur in the realm of the family. At the same time there are a few recent research projects that seek to understand how violence is manifest within the day-care centers and preschools themselves, mainly concerned with the fact that these children occupy an even more fragile position than older children in relation to the education settings they attend. This violence is manifested in two ways: (1) through processes of discrimination by race and gender resulting from differentiated treatment by the teachers, especially affecting girls and Negroes, and (2) through some care/educational routines that treat children as objects of intervention rather than as subjects with rights.


The History of Violence Against Young Children in Brazil

These processes of child victimization can be traced to a long history of Brazilian society’s relationship with childhood. Violence against young children has existed since the colonization of Brazil, via the physical and mental indoctrination of indigenous children by the Jesuits. Cases of pederasty and racial prejudices appear in the historical records of a society—Brazil—that founded itself on a patriarchal model. From a judicial point of view, it was only when childhood was consolidated as a social category that the first laws emerged aimed specifically at children. As in European countries and the United States, this process occurred early in the twentieth century. In 1923, the first Brazilian Tribunal for Minors (Tribunal de Menores) was established and in 1927 the first Minor Legal Code was promulgated. This landmark consolidation of the doctrine called irregular situation was based on a discourse and a practice that preached the necessity of “moral protection” of those children in conditions judged as potential for marginality, particularly children of the poor. Thus the origin of this legislation for childhood reflects and legitimates a repressive relationship with the child, characterized by the concern for social control. In this way it consolidates a culture of penalization of childhood, of marginality and blaming the poor, and of violation of basic rights. The judicial ordinance of the doctrine of irregular situation persisted until 1990, when the Statute of the Child and of the Adolescent (ECA) was promulgated.


Violence and Children’s Rights

The ECA resulted from the social mobilization that occurred in the process of democratization of the 1980s, and is guided by principles contained in international documents and regulating article 227 of the Federal Constitution. This legal framework proposes a new view of the child, inserting childhood into the arena of human rights. Developed with the support of UNICEF and considered one of the most advanced models for other countries of the world, this legislation introduces the doctrine of integral protection, which postulates rights to all children and adolescents, recognizing their particular stages of development. It furthermore establishes a systematic guarantee of basic rights (education, health, protection from work, culture and leisure) and of special protection (to victimized children and adolescents victimized and from the perpetrators of crimes). Two types of public councils are proposed to monitor children’s rights: one responsible for the elaboration of the public policies for childhood (Council of Rights) and consisting of members of the government and civil society; another responsible for admitting or of directing children to the appropriate agencies in cases of violation of basic rights or of victimization (Ward Council), composed of five members elected or appointed by the community. In each municipality there shall be a Rights Council and at least one Ward Council.

Every citizen is co-responsible for the child and has the obligation of reporting rights violations to the Ward Councils. The professionals that deal directly with the children, like those in early childhood education, are particularly relevant to the legislation since, in addition to being promoters of the rights within the ECE settings and in direct relation to the children, they are also obliged to report evidence of abuse and exploitation occurring in the family. However, the fragility of the institutions responsible for following up the cases reported to the Ward Councils generates a situation of helplessness in the responsible professionals, who express fear of reprisals on the part of the abusers since there is no protection after the report and its delivery to the Ward Council.

Although, in the 1990s the development of ECA passed through an intense process, including the participation of the media and of children’s rights defense organizations, priority was given to certain themes, such as child labor and adolescents perpetrating infractions. In the ECE field, a document published by MEC entitled “Criteria for a provision that respects children’s fundamental rights” (Criterios para um atendimento que respeite os direitos fundamentals das criangas) deserves special mention. This document presents principles based on the conception of children’s rights both for actions within early childhood settings as well as for the elaboration of policies of early childhood education. The development of this document, which was interrupted in the decade of the 1990s by changes in national policy, is now beginning anew.

Despite the legal advances, there still is a great deal of resistance in relation to the construction of a culture that respects the rights of the child. The existence of a system of guaranteeing rights does not lead directly to a transformation of the life conditions of the Brazilian children. On the contrary, it exposes the historical and cultural complexities and demands the reorganization of activities and practices in the different social spaces, including the educational institutions that are confronting old and new conceptions of the child.


Efforts within Early Care and Education

In the case of early childhood education, there is a lot yet to be done. National policy has not addressed the issue of children’s rights and of violence against early childhood with the necessary force and urgency. In the ECE professional preparation courses and in the curricular proposals these themes are not considered.

Localized efforts and advances are documented in different regions of the country. Concrete experiences that have already proved to be more successful are those that seek to organize the institutions by means of Childhood Protection Networks, articulating the day-care centers and preschools with other areas and public and private services. This model expands the possibilities of acting preventively in the process of victimization of the children and at the same time of qualifying, via dialog with partners, the professionals that work in the day-care centers and preschools. In this qualification, however, one of the main challenges created by ECA needs to be overcome: the need to substitute the conception of the child as an object of attention with one that considers the view of the child as a subject of rights and a participant in its own development, on a daily basis and in the execution of pedagogical projects and activities.


Nonviolence and a Peace Culture

Other initiatives that deserve to be highlighted are those that, in contrast to the concept of violence, seek to distinguish constructive reflections based on the concept of nonviolence. It is in the bosom of civil society that the majority of the proposals in favor of a peace culture are born. NGOs, foundations, and movements directed to guarantee the basic rights of children stimulate research and publications that seek to influence public policies, exploring methodologies among the children that allow all to comprehend and expand the knowledge of the child’s integral development. The construction of this peace culture, if it is to be effective, requires a multidisciplinary approach and the participation of children and adolescents, family members, educators, and other members of the community. The early childhood education settings, due to the central importance of their activities and their proximity to the family, occupy important and privileged spaces for these activities. Educating for solidarity, building ways of dealing with conflicts not mediated by violence, and breaking down prejudices and intolerance are currently our great challenges for the education of our children in more humanized relations.

Further Readings: Azevedo, M. A., and V. N. A. Guerra (2001). Hitting mania: Domestic corporal punishment of children and adolescents in Brazil. Sao Paulo: Iglu, p. 303; Campos, M. M., and F. Rosemberg (1995). Criterio para um atendimento que respeite os direitos fundamentais das criancas. Brasilia: MEC/SEF/COEDI; COPIPAZ. Comite Primeira Infancia na Cultura de Paz (2004). A Primeira Infancia na Construgao de uma cultura de paz (Early Childhood Committee in the construction of a culture of peace),; Estatuto da Crianca e do Adolescente (1990). Lei Federal 8.069/90; Fante, C. (2005). Fenomeno Bullying: como prevenir a violencia nas escolas e educar para a paz. 2nd ed. Campinas: Verus.; Ferrari, Dalka C.A. (org.) (2004). O Fim da Omissao: A implantagdo de Polos de Prevengao a Violencia Domestica. Sao Paulo: Fundacao Abrinq; Mendez, E.G., and A. C. G. Costa (1994). Das necessidades aos direitos. Saao Paulo: Malheiros.

Ana Paula Soares da Silva and Adriana Friedmann


Child Care and Early Childhood Education for 0- to 3-Year-Olds


The social movements for the democratization of Brazil, which increased during the military regime (1964-1985), greatly influenced the Brazilian Constitution of 1988. This also brought about great advances in the field of individual and collective rights. As a result, the Constitution recognizes the child and the adolescent as subjects with rights, thus revolutionizing the protective doctrine of previous legislations. It guarantees the universal right to health and education, as well as assistance to those in need. It also affirms that all workers’ children have the right to admission in day-care centers and preschools, extends the period of maternity leave from 90 to 120 days, and creates a paternity leave. It also institutes, as a responsibility of the state, the provision of day-care centers and preschools for children from 0 to 6 years of age. Specific laws regulate these constitutional precepts, including the Statute of the Child and of the Adolescent (1990), the law that establishes the Single Health System (1990), the Organic Law of Social Assistance (1993), and the Law of Guidelines and Bases of National Education (1996). It also promoted the decentralization of services of the Union to states and municipalities and the establishment of councils in the various areas: education, health, social assistance, and rights of the child and of the adolescent. Representatives of the government and civil society participate on these councils in establishing the guidelines for public policies and in the follow-up of the services provided.


Health Care Initiatives

In the field of health, a single system has been established that includes the union, the states and the municipalities, as well as private institutions financed by the public sector. Over the last several decades, different actions were introduced to reduce infant mortality and to prevent childhood diseases. Mass vaccinations in childhood were introduced, along with attention to prenatal care. This message about the importance of prenatal care was accompanied by campaigns targeting breastfeeding. Seeking to reach the entire population, the strategy of family visits by community health agents was expanded, providing information regarding basic care, health and hygiene, and child development follow-up. Volunteers of a nongovernmental organization, the “Pastoral da Crianga,” linked to the Catholic Church, carry out similar work.

These initiatives have resulted in a significant reduction in the infant mortality rate over the last twenty years. In 2003, the rate was estimated at 27.5 per thousand, representing a drop of 60.2 percent from 1980. Even so, Brazil’s infant mortality rate is still the third highest in South America (UNICEF, 2005). Infant mortality becomes more serious as the income level and the mother’s educational level decrease. Children who are born into low-income families have twice as great a chance of not surviving the first year of their lives than those with higher incomes. Additionally, children with mothers who have only completed three years of schooling have almost double the risk of dying before their first birthday than children of mothers with eight or more years of schooling. The incidence of abdominal Caesarian delivery and pregnancy in adolescence is also higher in these groups.


ECD Programs

Assistance to the most needy families and children is the responsibility of the Ministry of Social Development (MDS) and of the Secretariats and Municipal Organs of Social Assistance. MDS designs the assistance policies, and it supports home-shelters (temporary dwellings), services for those with disabilities, and financial help programs for the most needy, especially the “bolsa-famtlia” family aid program. “Bolsa-familia” is the main aid program for poor families; “bolsa” means a kind of scholarship for the families. See Poverty entry. The program that supports the maintenance of day-care centers and preschools (public and private nonprofit) that cater to children of low-income families is especially noteworthy. This program consists of a per capita monthly sum provided by the federal government per child attended. Since this per capita value is insufficient, these resources have to be supplemented by other segments of the government and other sources. In 2003, 1,650,608 children aged 0-6 benefited from this program. There are no precise figures regarding how many of these children are in the 0-3 age-group, but we know that the percentage is far lower than for children in the 4- to 6-year-old group (UNESCO, 2003). Because day-care centers were recognized as educational institutions in the Constitution of 1988, negotiations are under way for these resources to be managed by the Education Ministry.

In Brazil, actions in the areas of education, health and assistance for children 0-3 years of age and their families still suffer from past traditions. Instead of a cohesive system of services, emergency measures dominate, which are both overlapping and disjointed. The Councils invoke the importance of articulation of concrete activities in the different areas. However, this articulation is lacking within the various spheres of the government. The Committee of Early Childhood, which functioned between 2000 and 2003 in the precinct of the federal government, took some initiatives in this direction, but this was not a high priority for the organizations involved.


Day-Care Centers and Preschools

The inclusion in the Constitution of 1988 of day-care centers and preschools as a “right to education” reflects a fundamental milestone in Brazil, especially as relates to the day-care centers. This clause in the Constitution provides recognition, on behalf of society, of the right of the child to education in the earliest years of life. Among the factors that contributed to the accomplishment of this recognition were the scientific advancements related to the development of the child, the social movements in support of the child and children’s rights, the women’s movements, movements by administrators and researchers in different areas, and the general social consciousness about the meaning of childhood.

In consonance with this new vision, the Educational Law of 1996 redefines the terms day-care centers and preschool. Whereas earlier day-care centers were meant mainly for children aged 0-6 from low social-economic families, now they are defined as institutions for children aged 0-3, and the preschools are for those aged 4-6. The municipalities are responsible for providing this public provision.


Teacher Preparation

Other important milestones are the requirement that (1) teachers be licensed at a higher level or have completed a course on a secondary level, in the “Normal” modality for work in day-care centers as a professional, and (2) that all daycare centers have their operations authorized and supervised by the educational system, as defined by the LDB. Just as in preschools, day-care centers now must develop their pedagogical plans in accordance with the National Curricular

Guidelines for Early Childhood Education of 1999 (DCNEI). Specifically for younger children aged 0-3, the document emphasizes articulation with social policies, integration between development and the individual child, social and cultural life, forms of expression (especially oral and corporal) games and play, and the intense and constructive commingling between families and teaching teams. The RCNEI, published by the Ministry of Education in 1998, also supplies specific guidelines for the construction of practices in the day-care centers (see Curriculum entry, below).

The official documents explicitly define conceptions that are consistent with contemporary views of human and child development. The documents explain that children have rights, and that they are complete beings, total and indivisible. However, these official requirements are not generally complied with across the country. Many educational systems are still in the process of restructuring themselves to take on the supervision of the day-care centers, and many of these (as creches) are not regulated. In general they are characterized by practices limited to health care and feeding.


Financing Early Childhood Education

The current pattern of financing the educational sector does not guarantee resources for early childhood education (ECE). As with many social policy initiatives, money is limited and ECE funding competes with other educational programs. The federal resources are limited, and the majority of them are committed to the previously mentioned program of day-care-center maintenance, administered by the MDS (see Country Profile). This financing system contributes to the fact that the day-care centers are identified more with care than with education. As a result, the effective integration of the day-care centers in the educational area is still in process. A new educational financing proposal (FUNDEB) that will also include early childhood education is being discussed in the National Congress (see the Early Childhood Education in Brazil entry, above). Apart from the technical and financial difficulties in the educational sector, low standards of quality exist in many of the institutions, which make it difficult for them to meet the requirements of the educational system.



Recent findings regarding children’s day-care-center status (IBGE, 2003) show that 62 percent of registered day-care centers are public (60.5% municipal) and 38 percent private, including nonprofit ones. Regarding coverage, of the 13.8 million children from 0 to 3 years of age in the country, only 11.7 percent attend daycare centers, far from the 30 percent goal stipulated in the National Education Plan to be accomplished by 2006. This percentage decreases as the family’s income level falls. The rate of access of the children from 0-3 coming from families with an income under 1/2 MS is about four times less than that found for families with an income bracket between three and five minimum salaries per capita.

If we consider this low level of enrollment in day-care centers in the context of a labor market participation rate, which is 51.9 percent for women with children under 2 (only slightly less than the rate of 54 percent in the total population (IBGE, 2002)) we easily conclude there is a lack of correspondence between childcare provision and the parent’s working policies. To remain in the workplace, mothers with young children have sought other child-care solutions, such as family arrangements, home day care, or unregulated day-care centers.

Data from 2004 show that 17 percent of day-care-center professionals lack the minimum preparation. Since the data refers only to the registered institutions, the overall percentage must be higher. The physical condition of the centers and the variety and quantity of materials available in them are also inadequate, according to the ECE Census held in 2000.

There is a great diversity of practices observed in the Brazilian day-care centers: those that emphasize care and those that promote early schooling, those that value the participation of the families and those that do not consider relations with the family as part of their work. At the same time, there are institutions that serve as fine examples of conceptual and practical advancement, including some linked to the public universities, unions, associations, or private entities, in addition to several successful experiences in the public sector.

Although there is not yet a national instrument to evaluate the environments provided specifically in the day-care centers, some municipal networks have developed their own instruments and conduct an annual system of evaluation of the quality of the day-care centers.

In scientific research the field of psychology continues to carry out the greatest number of projects on children younger than 3 years of age in day-care centers. Through the 1970s the role of the affective link between children and significant adults, especially between mothers and their children, and their effects on child development dominated inquiry. Since the 1990s there has been growth in the number of studies and topics, including themes related to adaptation, communication, the meaning of gestures, and the nature of language in interactive situations or in the production of meaning. These studies are showing that children are capable of multiple relations from a very tender age. Studies have also investigated the interaction of the infant and toddler with its immediate surroundings and the relations between the environment and the frequency of babies’ interaction.

There is still little research on the development of babies in the collective space of the day-care centers. Recent contributions in psychology, the social sciences, and pedagogy have expanded the understanding of basic childhood processes, including other perspectives, of the children’s production of meaning, of their insertion process in the collective spaces, and of the different social roles that they play, as determined by their life contexts (Rocha, 1990; Strenzel, 2001; Rossetti-Ferreira, Amorim, Silva and Carvalho, 2004).



To summarize, the number of child-care places for children under the age of 3 in Brazil is low, the policies and their financing are still fragile, the conceptions of custodial assistance and the resistance to accepting day-care centers as a right continue in many sectors. The educational sector has no consolidated history of provision to this age-group, and the neoliberal policies and the programs proposed by international organizations do not proceed in the same direction as that achieved through previous successes. There is conflict among the needs of the population, the political and scientific advances, and the decisions of the governmental jurisdictions. Despite these fragilities, the system of care and education for children aged 0-3 is progressing. This can be seen in the policy of the right to services and is present in policy debates and in research. Since this system can easily fall prey to ideologies, maintenance of it requires constant vigilance, care, and commitment.

Further Readings: Rocha, Eloisa A. C. (1999). A Pesquisa em Educacao Infantil no Brasil: Trajetoria recente e perspectivas de consolidagao de uma pedagogia da educagao infantil. (Research in ECE in Brazil: Recent trajectory and perspectives of an ECE pedagogy). Florianopolis: UFSC—Centro de ciencias da Educagao Infantil, Nucleo de Publicagoes; Rossetti-Ferreira, M. C., K. S. Amorim, A.P.S. Silva, and A.M.A. Carvalho (orgs.) (2004). Rede de significagoes e o estudo do desenvolvimento humano (Network of meanings and the study of human development). Porto Alegre: ArtMed; Strenzel, Giandrea R. (2000). A Educacao Infantil na Produgao dos Programas de Pos-Graduacao em Educacao no Brasil: Indicacoes Pedagogicas para a Educacao da Crianca de 0 a 3 anos (ECE in the production of post graduation programs in education in Brazil: Pedagogical indications for the education of the child from 0 to 3). Florianopolis: Dissertacao (Mestrado em Educagao) UFSC; UNESCO (2003). Early childhood services in Brazil: Some considerations on services for creches and pre-school and co-ordination of public policies for early childhood. Brasilia: UNESCO Brazil; UNICEF (2005). Situagoo Mundial da Infancia (Worldwide childhood situation). Brazil.

Telma Vitoria and Angela Rabelo Barreto


Teacher Preparation in Brazil

Brazilian early childhood education has progressed over the course of the past century, ultimately gaining its own legal status. Historically, the development of this field has been affected by a lack of relevant governmental policies, as well as polarization due to the custodial care/instruction/compensatory education divisions within the field of early childhood education. Since the first services for children 0-6 years of age were established in the nineteenth century, two types of institutions have been configured to care for young children: day-care centers, which focus on physical health and care; and nursery schools, kindergartens, and preprimary education classes, which were linked with formal education and incorporated into the official system of education. The training paths for early childhood professionals reflect this dualism.

In the day-care centers, professionals have several designations: including caregivers, monitors, and child development assistants. The people hired to work with young children are, in large part, unspecialized lay workers or have a low educational level, not exceeding the eighth grade of elementary education. Although Brazilian day-care centers have been in existence for nearly a century, prior to the 1990s the few basic training initiatives provided to day-care educators were connected with hygienist and “puericultura” programs (child welfare term used in medicine), and were frequently private programs. In addition to receiving poor preparation for their work, these professionals lacked any kind of career or salary plan.

For the teachers in preschools and kindergartens, the training process has historically been merged with that of teacher preparation for the early grades of elementary education (previously primary education). Originally, nursery school and kindergarten teachers were not grouped with teachers trained in “escola normal’’ (basic teacher certification on a secondary level), the training course for teaching in primary education. The selection criteria for these preschool teachers were based on abstract concepts like having the “vocation” for working with children, and defined by the absence of jobs in primary education, resulting in a transitory nature and turnover in the profession. To perform professionally was seen as requiring specific training in certain techniques and pedagogical materials (Froebelian, Montessorian, and Decrolyan) and, in the case of nursery schools, introduction to basic concepts of hygiene.


The National Education Law of 1971: Two Paths of Teacher Training

The Law of Guidelines and Bases of National Education (LDB) of 1971 specified two paths of teacher training for preschool: one through high school graduation (secondary education) and the other at the university level.

Secondary Level Preparation. At the secondary level, teacher training specific to preschool takes place in the last year of a four-year teacher preparation course. The curriculum for preschool teacher preparation at this level, as specified by the Educational National Council Report of 1972, contains the following four focus subject areas:

• Foundations of Preschool Education, addressing historical, legal, philosophical, and sociological aspects;

• Development of preschoolers, including biological and psychological aspects;

• Didactics of Preschool Education;

• Practice of Preschool Education, including a supervised practicum training period.

A set of additional activities proposed in the law complement the curriculum of this single year of preparation: physical education, with an emphasis on recreation and games; artistic education; and health programs, especially regarding preschool nutrition and hygiene and moral and civic preparation. For those teachers already graduated from a teacher training course for the early grades of primary school it is possible to study for one year in a specific preschool preparation course lasting 720 hours. Although the legislation defines early childhood as extending from 0 to 6 years of age, the contents of the teacher preparation curriculum emphasize work with 5- to 6-year-olds.

Preparation in Higher Education. At the higher education level, the course of pedagogical studies gives peripheral attention to preparing teachers for early childhood education, addressing this education in one or two required subjects or in optional subjects but not allowing sufficient space to consider issues of educational practice. Historically, pedagogy has characterized itself as a course for early childhood education and the first grades of elementary education and administration. The list of topics addressed emphasizes general knowledge of fundamentals, reserving limited space in the curriculum for more specific focus on teaching practice, which in turn is directed at elementary school teaching.


The National Education Law of 1996: Advances and Gaps

The National Law of 1996 affirmed the concept of special preparation for and professionalization of early childhood education (ECE) teachers, in accordance with the acknowledgment of the rights of children 0 to 6 years old to education issued by the Federal Constitution 1988 and reaffirmed by the Statute of the Child and the Adolescent of 1990. The 1996 Law was preceded by publications of the Ministry of Education (MEC), resulting from a series of studies carried out by specialists and professionals in several educational sectors, that proposed a national ECE policy. The major contribution to the thinking regarding teachers’ preparation was a publication dedicated especially to the topic: For a Policy of the Preparation of the Early Childhood Education Professional (Por uma Polttica de Formagao do Profissional de Educacao Infantil).

In accordance with this Law, the preparation of teachers/initial training for basic education should occur on a higher education level, in a full licensure course, offered in universities and institutes of higher education. The Law accepts as minimum preparation for ECE teachers the course on a medium level, in the “Normal” modality (teacher certification on a secondary level). It also specifies programs of continuing education and in-service training, with both in-the-classroom and distance learning approaches.

Secondary Level Preparation. A Federal Resolution of 1999 institutes National Curricular Guidelines for Teacher Preparation in Early Childhood Education and of the first years of Elementary Education, which define the secondary level preparation as the Normal modality. This modality of training is aimed at students who have completed their eight years of elementary education. It is to be offered in institutions with their own pedagogical-administrative organization. The duration of the normal course shall be at least 3,200 hours, distributed over four school years. The curricular contents of this preparation are quite vague.

Preparation in Higher Education. At this level two possible pathways are foreseen in the National Law of 1996: a Normal Superior course of study and the Pedagogy course of study offered in universities, university centers, and institutes of higher education. A proposal for structuring the Normal Superior Course is presented in a document issued by the National Council of Education in 2000. There the curricular components for the preparation of both ECE teachers and those teaching in the early years of elementary education are described together. The following areas of didactic content are highlighted: Portuguese Language, Mathematics, Natural Sciences, History, Geography, Art, and Physical Education. The focus on the traditional school subjects leaves little room for topics specific to early childhood education, especially relative to the 0-3 age-group.

The Pedagogy course of study is addressed by the National Council of Education in the 2005 Resolution Project that institutes the National Curricular Guidelines for Graduation Courses in Pedagogy. Specific training is proposed for licensure in Pedagogy for teaching in Early Childhood Education, involving a course of 2,800 hours of academic work, of which at least 300 hours are to be on-site practicum training. This document, still under discussion, reignites an old controversy in the area of education, between those in favor of a course of study in Pedagogy that is a general preparation for teachers and educational experts in education, as is now the case, and one with more specific contents directed to each of the educational modalities, including early childhood education.

Uncertainties continue in the field of education regarding the intended profile of the early childhood education professional and the nature of the teacher preparation courses for this area, but advances at the level of legislation are indisputable. However, the legal accomplishments are neither being translated into governmental policies nor into real programs on the ground despite the profusion of documents, often containing progressive ideas. Financing programs provide a good example: they have not been favorable to the institution of a national ECE policy, and this has prevented progress in the preparation of professionals for the area.

Initiatives seeking the specific preparation of teachers for early childhood education are timid. In 2004 the Ministry of Education reported that Brazil currently contains 300,000 teachers in early childhood education. Of these, 12.4 percent do not even possess the minimum secondary school preparation demanded by law. Entry into the profession occurs without the least preparation, especially for working in day-care centers. To meet this demand, in 2004 the federal government signaled the possibility of promoting initial in-service and continuing training for teachers, through the following projects: ProInfantil “Program of Initial In-Service Training of Teachers in Early Childhood Education” and “National Network of Continuing Education of Teachers in Basic Education,” which are in their initial implementation phase.

In several Brazilian states, in-service teacher training initiatives, combining face- to-face and distance learning strategies and technologies, have been developed by means of partnerships between nongovernmental foundations, public and private universities, and the state and municipal governments. These are both secondary and higher level courses, targeting teachers working in day-care centers and preschools, respectively. There are also initiatives by several training centers at the higher education level promoting specific ECE training, in most cases via extension courses.

Related to the search for equity in the ECE teacher preparation processes is the need to institute career and salary plans, ratifying the rhetoric in the National Law of 1996 and other later documents. Very little data is available regarding career patterns and salaries. A document published by the Education Ministry in 2002 indicates the presence of inequities within the municipal network between the salaries of elementary and ECE teachers. There are municipalities in which the salary differences between elementary and ECE teachers involve additional amounts linked to hours of planning and other extracurricular activities. At the level of designation for the director/coordinator, no attention is paid to the legal criterion that establishes a minimum of two years teaching experience as a prerequisite for that position.

Inequities are evident especially in the real world of the day-care centers. Throughout the national territory a fairly irregular professionalization process continues to exist, from the issue of entering the profession to the inadequacies of working conditions, a lack of space and time for studies and for the preparation of long-term educational action plans. Differences in professional profile, denomination, salaries, career plans, and workdays are common.

The great challenge at the moment is to move beyond mere words in the documents, from their intentions to propositions, starting with the fundamental issue of teacher preparation specific to the early childhood education and care, contemplating the specificity of the age bracket of 0-6 years old as a formal part of a national training policy. From this basic need are derived several other issues as yet hardly explored, like work with the family, care and education of the youngest children (0-3 years of age), multiculturalism, and inclusion. Only by addressing these issues will it be possible to achieve the professionalization so needed in early childhood education.

Further Readings: Barbosa, Raquel L.L. (org.) (2004). Trajetorias e Perspectivas da Formagao de Educadores (Trajectories andperspecitves of the educators training). Sao Paulo: Editora UNESP; Kishimoto, Tizuko M. (1999). Politica de Formagao Profissional para a Educagao Infantil: Pedagogia e Normal Superior (Policy of professional training for ECE: Pedagogy and Superior Certification). Educagao e Sociedade XX(68), 61-78, Dec.; Ministerio da Educagao. (1994). Por uma Politica de Formacao do Profissional de Educacao Infantil. (For a policy of preparation of the ECE professional). Brasilia/DF: MEC/DPE/COEDI; Movimento de Interforuns de Educagao Infantil do Brasil (org.) (Movement of interforums of ECE of Brazil). (2002). Educacao Infantil: construindo o presente (ECE: Building the present). Campo Grande/MS: Editora UFMS.

Marieta Lucia Nicolau Machado and Monica Appezzato Pinazza


Curriculum for Early Childhood Education in Brazil

One of the several challenges set for the different agents entrusted with formulating early childhood education (ECE) policies in Brazil today, is the issue of the curriculum. It is one of the structural components of national policy that interacts with a number of policy-relevant issues, including the specific preparation of the ECE professionals, the regulations that specify the qualifications and authorizations for operation of ECE programs, the financial resources invested in ECE resources, and the integration of the work carried out by the day-care centers and preschools within a comprehensive policy for childhood, shouldered jointly by the public agencies and by society in general.

In Brazil early childhood education curriculum has been an area of debate and confrontation involving different views of child, family, and the function of the day-care center and preschool. The idea of a curriculum for early childhood education has not always been accepted as it has been most closely associated with compulsory education for children over 6 years of age. Expressions like “pedagogical project” or “pedagogical proposal” are more often used, especially when dealing with the education of children less than 3 years old.

Until recently, the systematizations of pedagogical experiences with children in day-care centers and preschools in terms of guidelines or general orientations were rare and diffuse. Only in the last decade have official orientations and national references been established to guide the specification of educational programs for these institutions. This has resulted from the inclusion of Early Childhood Education in the sphere of Basic Education defined by the National Educational Law of 1996. This Law defines the goal of ECE as “the integral development of the child up to six years of age, in his/her physical, psychological, intellectual and social aspects, complementing the actions of the family and of the community.” The importance of structuring and organizing quality educational activities to promote the integral development of the children is articulated with the recognition of the great importance of the professional who works with children 0 to 6 years old in the educational institution. The Law now requires that such professionals attain a medium or upper level of qualification that prepares them for the appropriate social and educational responsibilities (see Teacher Preparation, above). Finally, the Law foresees as one of the requirements of the Federation, in collaboration with the states, D.C., and municipalities, the establishment of competencies, guidelines, and minimum contents, in order to guarantee a common basic curricular formation.


The National Curricular Guidelines for Early Childhood Education (DCNEI)

The common norms for ECE practices are defined in the National Curricular Guidelines for Early Childhood Education (DCNEI) instituted in 1999 by the National Council of Education (CNE). These norms specify the principles, foundations, and procedures of ECE. They orient the ECE institutions of the Brazilian educational system in the organization, articulation, development, and evaluation of their pedagogical plan. The Guidelines specify the following eight elements for the pedagogical plans:

1. respect for the following guiding fundamentals: ethical principles of autonomy, responsibility, solidarity, and respect for the common good; political principles of the rights and duties of citizenship, of the exercise of critical thinking, and of respect for democratic order; and aesthetic principles of the sensitivity, creativity, playfulness, and diversity of artistic and cultural manifestations;

2. explicit recognition of the importance of the children’s personal identity, their families, teachers, and other professionals, and the identity of each educational unit in the context of their organizations;

3. promotion of educational and caring practices which integrate the physical, emotional, affective, cognitive/linguistics, and social aspects of the child’s development in educational and care practices, the child being conceived as a total being, complete and indivisible;

4. guarantee of the interaction between the diverse areas of knowledge and aspects of citizen life, like basic contents for the constitution of knowledge and values, via activities that are at times more structured and at other times less restrictive;

5. organization of evaluation strategies through the follow-up and documentation of the phases reached in the care and education of children from 0 to 6 years of age, without the objective of promotion, even for access to elementary education;

6. be conceived, developed, supervised, and evaluated by teachers with at least the Teacher Certification Course.

7. be democratically coordinated in their execution,

8. guarantee conditions for the implementation of the educational strategies, with specific reference to physical space, timetable, and calendar, jointly with the internal regulations of each ECE institution.


National Curricular References for ECE (RCNEI)

A document titled National Curricular References for ECE (RCNEI) was developed by the Ministry of Education in 1998. Although it differs from the DCNEI in that it is not compulsory, this document guides the development of ECE institutions’ curricula and lays out a number of goals to guarantee the integral development of child recognizing his/her rights to childhood as part of his/her rights as a citizen. In addition to some theoretical foundations, the document orients the ECE professionals in important aspects of their practice, including organization of time, use of space and materials, selection and design of subject-matter into blocks, in addition to being concerned with “curricular components” like objectives, contents, didactic guidelines, and general orientation for the teacher. The curriculum contents are organized around two axes: Personal and social formation, addressing the processes of children’s construction of identity and autonomy and Knowledge of the world, the latter divided into six subgroupings: music, movement, visual arts, oral and written language, nature, society, and mathematics.


Related Research

In 1995, the Office of General Coordination of Early Childhood Education in the Ministry of Education carried out a study to identify the pedagogical-curricular guidelines in use in the various units of the Federation. This study pointed out the fragility and the inconsistencies in the majority of the existing guidelines. It also highlighted the multiplicity and heterogeneousness of the proposals and practices in ECE, a characteristic peculiar to Brazilian society. Any national guidelines should take into account multicultural differences at the setting level as they are intersected by severe historical, social, and economic stratification. These guidelines should also guarantee that differences by gender, age-group, ethnicity, culture, and the children with special educational needs are respected. Also such a guideline should guarantee the rights inherent to all the Brazilian children from 0 to 6 years of age, in such a way as to assist with overcoming inequalities. In this sense, the great challenges set at that time were: how to contribute to the educational settings in the reformulation and/or development of its pedagogical plans without supplying ready-made models, how to guarantee respect for diversity and, at the same time, a qualitative unity to the pedagogical plans of the ECE institutions, and how to provide theoretical substance to teachers and to their institutions (Brazil, 1996).

In a way, the DCNEI tried to absorb the recommendations of this study, resulting in specification of general goals without laying down the means by which goals shall be attained. However, it has had very little impact on the teachers and ECE programs, because it was not properly publicized, debated, or followed up with an investment in training and/or supervision that supported its practical implementation and the changing processes that result from them.

The RCNEI was written in another context, intended to be a didactic guide to the ECE professionals. It was well distributed to the ECE institutions throughout the country. Nevertheless, it has been the object of controversies among academics and experts of the field since its elaboration. Criticisms vary in their concerns. These include the priorities assigned to various contents, the incorporation of teaching models oriented to specific disciplines, and specially the fact that it did not dare to advance beyond the mere issues of the teachinglearning process to include a broad perspective that encompasses a wider and more contextualized perspective of childhood and early childhood education.



The Law delegates to the ECE institutions the task of developing their own pedagogical plans, within the general parameters and norms of the educational system. This means that effectively all the Brazilian day-care centers and preschools, public and private, should follow the DCNEI guidelines, which are general in nature. Although the ECE settings may complement them, the basic curriculum and the pedagogical practices are defined by the scope of the ECE institutions, both public and private. At the moment there is no way of evaluating the extent to which the guidelines are being implemented by Brazilian ECE institutions. Although the institutions have total freedom to develop their own pedagogical proposals, in the case of ECE networks, public or private, their technical teams generally define a common pedagogical project, or general lines to be followed.

In practice, the ECE settings and their professionals feel some disorientation. The public settings and those under contract with governmental agencies are especially impacted, due to their lack of knowledge regarding how to develop a pedagogical plan. In that context, the RCNEI has been largely accepted and implemented by professionals in the field, despite the fact that it has been the object of intense controversy in the academic milieu. This general willingness to accept the guidelines by many Municipal Secretariats of Education can be understood as a confluence of many factors: the long tradition of custodial assistance; the absence of early childhood traditions and adequate pedagogical models due to the impact of compensatory educational programs that have accompanied the great expansion of low-cost services that took place in the 1970s; the absence of a policy of specific preparation for ECE professionals; and the dominance of elementary education as the main source of inspiration for preschool education in the country.


Current Tensions

The controversies surrounding the existence or absence of a national curriculum to guide the practices in day-care centers and preschools have made a qualitative improvement when compared to the impasses of the past. These controversies reflect disagreements regarding the functions of ECE in the contemporary world that have yet to be resolved in most other countries. ECE, increasingly considered the first phase in basic education, is viewed by policy-makers on a continuum that ranges from the goal of strengthening children’s capacities to assimilate information useful to their future education and life to the idea of creating a socialization context where the child can fully experience childhood without being submitted to the ritualized practices present in school, home, and health routines. At one end of the continuum the focus of attention is on the teaching-learning relation, keeping in mind the acquisition of basic knowledge and the development of competences and abilities necessary to the child’s social integration and future success. From this perspective, the ECE institutions are responsible for promoting the conditions and opportunities of learning, knowledge being linked to a didactic project oriented in the realm of experience or areas of knowledge from a view of disciplines adjusted to the age-groups in question. At the other end, the emphasis falls on the specific activities of ECE, which shares with the family the task of caring for and educating the child and does not associate itself with the same norms and parameters traditionally assigned to compulsory education. This distinction defines the objectives and functions of ECE in a qualitatively different way from those of the school institutions. While the school has as its subject the pupil and as its fundamental object teaching in the different areas, via classes, day-care centers and preschool have as their object educational relations locked in a collective living space that has as its subject the child from 0 to 6 years of age (Rocha, 2001). Knowledge, from this perspective, is linked not to didactics, but to the general processes that constitute the development of the child as a human being in different social contexts including its culture, and his or her intellectual, creative, aesthetic, expressive, and emotional capacities. The combination of relations that the child establishes with the natural and social environment, between peers and with the different adults, constitutes the object of the pedagogy of ECE, whose focus is the child, with its unique peculiarities.

When the present federal government policy establishes the goal of nine years of elementary education, including the 6-year-old child in the system of compulsory education, new issues in the national debate on the curriculum are introduced. Firstly, it calls attention to the need to strengthen the interface between ECE and elementary education through integrated planning that respects the temporality of the child of 6 years of age and the separate concepts of education at these two educational levels. From the standpoint of promoting a conceptual connection between the two levels of education to make possible an educational approach that respects the specificities of childhood, the initiative is praiseworthy and desired. However, the risks of pushing the pedagogical standards of formal education down into the preschool years are great if we consider that ECE is still a fragile area constructing its own culture. The challenge is to transcend the adult-centered culture, and work, above all, on the sensitivity of the professional to comprehend the situations through the child’s eyes.

Further Readings: ARTMED (2004). Que curnculo para a educagao infantil? (Which curriculum for early childhood education?). Porto Alegre: Patio Educagao Infantil II(5), Aug./Nov.; Bennett, J. (2004). Curriculum issues in national policy making. Paris: OECD/Malta, EECERA; Bujes, M. I. (2003). Infancia e Maquinaria. Rio de Janeiro: DP&A; Cerisara, Ana, B. (2000). O Referencial Curricular Nacional para a Educagao Infantil no contexto das reformas (The national curricular reference for ECE in the context of the reforms). Educagao e Sociedade, Campinas, 23(80), Sept., 326-345; Craidy, Carmem, and Kaercher, Gladis. E. (orgs.) (2001). Educagao Infantil:pra que te quero? (ECE: What for?) Porto Alegre, Artmed; Haddad, Lenira. (1998). O Referencial Curricular Nacional para a Educacao Infantil no contexto das politicas para a infancia: uma apreciagao crftica (The National Curricular Reference for ECE in the childhood policies context: A critical appreciation). Presented at the 21st Annual Meeting of ANPED, Caxambu, September 1998; Kramer, Sonia. (1997). Propostas pedagogicas ou curriculares de educagao infantil: subsidios para uma leitura crftica (Pedagogical or curricular proposals for ECE: subsidies for a critical reading). Educacao e Sociedade, Campinas, 18(60), Dec., 15-35; MEC/COEDI (1996). Propostas Pedagogicas e Curriculo em Educacao Infantil (Pedagogical proposals and curriculum in ECE). Brasilia: MEC/SEF/DPEF/COEDI; Rocha, A.C. (2001). A pedagogia e a educagao infantil (Pedagogy and ECE). Revista Brasileira de Educacao (16), Jan/Feb/Mar/April, 27-34.

Lenira Haddad and Zilma Ramos de Oliveira


Creativity and Imagination

The concepts of “imagination” and “creativity” are discussed here in terms of their relevance to shaping the child as a human, a historical, and a cultural subject. This relevance has strong implications for pedagogy. Imagination and creativity are discussed as they are significant and situated within the official Brazilian principles and goals. The application of these principles and goals is then considered within the daily reality of early childhood education programs.


Defining the Concepts

Imagination and creativity are defined as the abilities to visualize new ways of thinking and acting. These possibilities are conceived of through visual, auditory, plastic, tactile, spatial, and verbal images. Creative individuals integrate emotion, perception, intuition, and cognition as they examine the significance of humans in relation to the world. Because imagination and creativity are human dimensions, they develop within a cultural context and are shaped in the exercise of life itself. Imagination and creativity are present in the work of every individual, but are most evident in the activity of the scientist, the artist, and the child. As conscious beings, humans are compelled to understand life and to create. Creativity is the essence of humanity; an incessant process of developing, restructuring, and deepening life experiences. We see this process in the development of great artists and in the growth of children.


Creativity in Childhood

Creativity manifests itself in the unbound, diffuse, and spontaneous activities of children. Through play, children make associations and create symbols to better understand their world. For the child, creating is living. Children are in a state of continual physical, psychological, emotional, and cognitive transformation. These changes sharpen their attentive and experimental spirit. In childhood, life itself is an adventure, and children see a world to be conquered.

Children establish a sensory and aesthetic relationship with reality through a process of perceiving, imagining, and creating. Their relationship to the real world is profoundly rooted in culture and in the sensitive forms of reality. As children engage in the world, they grow, make meaning, and find affirmation. In this way, children meet the world and the world meets the children’s needs.

Children adjust themselves to the social world of their elders, whose external interests are carried out through the rules of society. Children also come to understand the physical world. According to Jean Piaget, children need to adapt to these social and physical realities and find an emotional and intellectual balance. Children will naturally adapt an activity to their own perception of reality, without reinforcement or sanctions. Through children’s play, what is real is transformed because of the need to make meaning. Assimilation and accommodation of external models help children understand and think about their world.

The young child lives in a world of infinite possibilities and is far more curious and adventurous than an older child. Despite limitations in dealing with complex logical relations, young children possess a symbolically intuitive, imaginative, and creative thinking ability that allows them to establish powerful analogies. If this initial ability to make connections is fomented, it may become part of their cognitive processes and cognitive structures. As children develop, they are more apt to think in inventive, perspicacious, and flexible ways. It is significant to recognize that the origins and the foundations of creative thought are established in these early moments of affirmation.


Imagination in early childhood. In early childhood, imagination is constituted as the first form of thought. According to Lev Vygotsky, imagination is a new psychological process for the child; it represents a specifically human form of conscious activity. It arises first in the guise of play, which is imagination in action.

Imagination arises from the child’s action and encounter with the material and perceptible world. Through fantasy and multiple forms of experimentation, the world becomes more apparent and the child’s imagination is engaged. The child establishes a relationship with the surrounding culture through imaginative thinking. By imagining, she/he is affected by what is perceived of the culture and simultaneously defines the culture based on what is perceived. Thus, the child begins to make meaning of experience by imagining. Through imagination, the child is the protagonist of his/her own story. Creation can then be seen as individual acts, immersed in the collective context of interpersonal and cultural relationships.

Children’s imaginations are an inexhaustible source of ideas and projects. Using the languages of play, painting, drawing, sculpture, music, literature, and others, the child gains new creative skills and expressive possibilities. Children’s imaginations expand and connect to their cultural-historical knowledge. This understanding is necessary as they begin to construct their personal and cultural identities.


Importance in Current Contexts

Imagination and creativity are human dimensions that have always been present in the field of early childhood education (ECE) in Brazil. But how and where they are relevant have not been clearly defined. Creativity and imagination are terms that appear in official documents and in the discourse of educators during different historical moments. They are associated with young children’s curiosity as exhibited in their playful and expressive behavior. By putting faith in humanity’s creative and imaginative power, these terms reflect a democratic and humanistic concept of education.


A look at pedagogy: why now? At the present time, a deeper discussion of these concepts has been developing. This current conversation points to the fact that imagination and creativity are crucial to the process of the constitution of the child as a historical and cultural human subject. Therefore, they are also crucial to the pedagogy of childhood. The pedagogy that emphasizes imagination and creativity, considers children as the author of their childhood. Creation gives the child the possibility to express his/her voice in multiple languages. This pedagogy considers the child’s expression, action, and imagination as axes of educational practice.


A new vision in Brazilian pedagogy. We currently seek to solidify childhood education as a right of all Brazilian children and their families, and to improve the quality of the pedagogical projects provided for them, as stated in the different legal documents referring to ECE (Constitution of 1988, LDB of 1996, DCNEI1999). As we work toward this goal, one aim is to recover what is known about imagination and creativity. We are faced with a pedagogical tradition that is either driven by concerns of social assistance or focuses narrowly on the child’s schooling at a very early age. The challenge is to counteract these traditions with a pedagogy that places a high regard on play and aesthetics. This pedagogy values the expressive languages appropriate to the needs of the child, and the child’s appropriation of cultural knowledge in a way that is meaningful and emancipating, as he/she develops. Imagination and creativity play a leading role both for children and for educators.

Imagination and creativity are terms that now inspire the construction of a pedagogy that respects the rights of both children and educators. A new kind of work in education, in which childhood may be fully experienced, should develop at day-care centers and preschools. This requires the development of high quality programs for teacher preparation, which will help educators to better understand and work more in-depth with all the human dimensions of young children.


National Positions on Imagination and Creativity in Early Childhood Education

The work with imagination and creativity in ECE acquires an even broader social dimension when we take into account the deep economic and social inequalities that have left their mark in Brazil. According to Paulo Freire and Maxine Greene, when imagination and creativity are put to use in the service of democratic social projects, they can lead to great transformations.


Rights to creativity and imagination. Over the last few decades, official documents have incorporated imagination and creativity as essential aspects in early childhood education. In Criterios para um Atendimento em Creches que Respeite os Direitos Fundamentals das Criangas (MEC 1995) (Criteria for Daycare Centers Child Caring that Respects Children’s Fundamental Rights), children are assured of their “right to develop their curiosity, imagination, and capacity of expression in the service of the construction of their cultural, racial and religious identity.” This right is linked to “the right to a welcoming, safe and stimulating environment which includes contact with nature; individual attention, with the guarantee of essential attention to cleanliness, health and healthy food, to protection, affection and friendship, with special attention given to the child during the period of adaptation; the right to play as the foremost form of expression, developed in different languages and cultural manifestations.”

In these statements creativity and imagination are understood as broad and integrating concepts. By establishing creativity and imagination as rights, the mechanisms necessary for implementing this pedagogy in educational practice is being valued.


National Curricular Guidelines

The 1999 National Curricular Guidelines for Early Childhood Education (DCNEI) include the following among their guiding principles:

• aesthetic principles of sensitivity, creativity, playfulness, and the diversity of cultural and artistic manifestations

• ethical principles of autonomy, solidarity, and respect for the common good

• political principles regarding the rights and duties of citizenship, the exercise of critical reasoning, and respect for the democratic order

The DCNEI understands and demonstrates that these principles are interdependent.

Imagination and creativity have been the subject of different publications, translations, seminars, and training courses for childhood educators over the last decade in Brazil, demonstrating their importance for childhood education and for teachers’ education. These publications highlight for teachers how work with play and expressive languages links to the genesis of knowledge construction, the appropriation of culture, and the constitution of the child as a human subject. They indicate that educators need and deserve aesthetic experiences in the arts and sciences. In teaching and learning, aesthetic experiences expand the teacher’s creative ability with the children, if they are included in the daily reality of the school or day-care center.


Current Challenges in Creative Curriculum

An analysis of the current practices in Brazil’s ECE programs reveals an enormous distance between official statements and declarations and actual reality. The national documents value imagination and creativity, but Brazilian programs frequently standardize activities, which are centered on the teacher.


Problems leading to standardized teaching. Teacher training has not prepared teachers to understand the dynamics involved in the processes of knowledge construction, appropriation of culture, and child development. Teachers face difficult working realities, due to overpopulated classes and unsatisfactory physical and material conditions. As a consequence, teachers’ work is devoted mainly to containing and controlling the children. These circumstances greatly hinder the possibilities for creative, imaginative thought and action.

Building a more independent pedagogy in the face of insufficient materials, precarious working conditions, and inadequate training is a difficult challenge for teachers. But in order to use imagination and creativity in the interests of cultural empowerment and creation, this pedagogy is necessary. We see the lack of specific training for teachers in the artistic languages, so essential to early childhood, as another major problem for educators.


A cultural paradox. Brazil is a country whose ethnic diversity is unparalleled, a country rich with artistic and cultural manifestations. In a country where Carnival, one of its most important national cultural manifestations, is also one of the most well-known cultural celebrations in the world, why isn’t creativity and individuality more valued in school? We can see that a major paradox exists in Brazil, where the national cultural reality is separated from the artificial culture of its schools.


Moving Forward

We can see a strong and increasing movement, present in both public and private educational institutions, toward the implementation of programs that value imagination and creativity. These programs are making it possible to integrate imagination and creativity into their curriculum. Programs are organizing educational spaces, materials, and proposals so that children are invited to act, interact, think, and express themselves in creative, imaginative ways. Projects are introduced that consider diverse artistic expressions. With a view toward appropriating knowledge and producing children’s cultural manifestations, many different cultural institutions such as art and science museums, libraries, and theaters, are being integrated into educational projects.

Experiences such as these are structured by means of relationships. These relationships have constructed a balance of power. They are founded on rules of mutual respect that favor the shared involvement of adults and children in the development of a curriculum in action, where imagination and creativity play a leading role. Play and expression are valued in all their dimensions. Through activities such as make-believe playing, building, painting, and clay modeling, and experiences with music, dance, puppets, storytelling, computer activities, and nature, children form relationships with their world. All these activities are incentives to experiment, invent, and imagine. These experiences expand the child’s repertory of existential, human, artistic, and cultural experiences. It is then possible for the child to build an identity that is investigative, strong, sensitive, participative, and solidly established in relation to the world.

The expansion of a program that values imagination and creativity can be seen as one of the current challenges that Brazil must face in early childhood education.

Further Readings: Almy, M., and C. Geneshi (1979). Ways of Studying Children. New York: Teachers College Press; Dias, M.C.M. and M. Nicolau (2003). Oficinas de Sonho e Realidade na Formacao do Educador da Infancia (Workshops of dreams and reality in childhood teacher education). Sao Paulo: Papirus; Friere, P. (1992). Pedagogia da esperanca: um reencontro com a pedagogia do oprimido (Pedagogy of hope: A reencounter with the pedagogy of the oppressed). Rio de Janeiro: Paz e Terra; Green, M. (1995). Releasing the imagination, the arts and social change. S. Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers; Moreira, A.A.A. (1985). O Espaco do Desenho e a Educagao do Educador (The space of art and the educator’s education). Sao Paulo: Loyola; Ostrower, F. (1984). Criatividade e Processos de Criacao (Creativity and creation processes). Petropolis: Vozes.

Marina Celia Moraes Dias



Play as a Societal Value

In the general context of society there is a strong play culture in Brazil. Children play in their homes, their backyards, in condominiums, parks, and on the tranquil streets of towns in the interior. There are cultural events in museums that exhibit memories, paintings, and sculptures that value playing. There has also been a considerable advance in the inclusion of play on a theoretical plane, in research, in public policies and a strong indication of innovations in pedagogical practices. Play projects aimed at the child population conducted through public policies have utilized circuses, itinerant buses that transport toys and stimulate games in streets and common areas, workshops producing toys, courses and activities integrating music, dance, theater, and the visual arts with play, all as forms of manifestations of childhood culture throughout the country. In hospitals, with the admission of the children comes respect for their right to play, with the recent approval of a legal measure making this compulsory for children living under hospital care. Nongovernmental organizations, working with private companies and with toy manufacturers interested in providing social programs for children (especially low-income children), have stimulated the creation of toyplaying centers around the country and have promoted social events in which playing is the object of attention. The creation of specialized publications, early childhood education (ECE) magazines, and the publicizing of the right to play have stimulated research and practices on play. The expansion of higher level courses to train early childhood education teachers and the multiplication of brinquedotecas/toy-playing centers since the 1980s, in addition to the creation of toy museums in the 1990s, are other factors that stimulate the importance of play. Specific to Brazilian educational culture at present is the recovery of regional traditional childhood cultures of play, and the introduction of toy-playing centers in universities, children’s schools, hospitals, and population centers.


Play in the Context of Early Childhood Education Settings

Despite the focus on play by the society as a whole, in the majority of the ECE institutions the idea of play as a free activity, with imaginary elements, initiated and maintained by the child, perhaps with rules, varying in time and space, related to a process and to learning, is often is obscured by other conceptions of play; play as a reward, as rest from structured activities, as a way of filling time, as a recreational activity, under adult supervision and not of great importance.

The inclusion of ECE as the first phase of basic education in the public educational system (see earlier entries) led to a spate of documents aimed at improving the quality of childhood education, where respect for the child’s rights, especially of playing, are defended. The concern with the quality of childhood education, resulting in efforts to improve teacher training for day-care centers and preschools, has generated a conception of education that integrates playing as the mediator in the child’s development.

In Brazil, the introduction of Froebelian kindergartens at the end of the nineteenth century brought the first concerns about games as pedagogical instruments predominating over skill and job-related activities. Teachers that worked in kindergartens during the first decades of the twentieth century, like Alice Meirelles Reis and Helena Antipoff, demonstrated pedagogical practices with free and directed play, drawing upon other references such as John Dewey, Maria Montessori, Agazzi, and Decroly. However, fragmented activities like copying letters and numbers, drawings and graphic exercises prevail in the majority of the pedagogical practices in the twentieth century.


Academic Interest in Play

The increase in scientific research on play in the 1970s resulted from factors like the creation of the national system of postgraduate education and research, the expansion and insertion of early childhood education into the public system of education, the increase in teacher training courses at this level of education, the expansion of discussions on play in the pedagogical approaches to childhood, the circulation of studies and research on play in congresses, websites, specialized journals, teacher training courses, and the emphasis on the right to play by public policies. In the 1970s, when postgraduate training was structured into the nation’s higher education system, the first postgraduate discipline on play was introduced within the Institute of Psychology at the University of Sao Paulo (USP). In the following decades, research associations began to release the findings of studies carried out on play. For instance, in a survey of researches on play carried out by Bomtempo, in the area of psychology, conducted in the period between 1970 and 1995, play-related topics were found with the following frequencies: roleplaying (44.5%), preferred play (16.7%), turbulent play (13 9%), free and gender play (11.3%).

Reflecting the pattern in the foreign literature, Brazil has also observed the increase of studies on “role play” in the areas of education and psychology, highlighting its influence on cognition, creativity, and language, with a greater emphasis on the action of playing itself and less on objects that give support to play. In a study that reviewed research on early childhood education by Brazilian social and human services researchers presented at annual congresses between 1990 and 1996, Rocha identified thirty-eight works on games, and classified them as follows: pretending (29%); psychological, historical, or anthropological representation (26%); space (24%); teacher training (18%); and language (13%), along with others with smaller percentages (interaction, children with special needs, preference for toys, gender, social class, objectives of childhood education, and theoretical approaches).

From the point of view of learning and the development of the child, the theories that stand out in these studies are those formulated by Lev Vygotsky, A. R. Luria, Leontiev, Wallon, and also Jean Piaget, Jerome Bruner, and Friedrich Froebel. The recognition of the mediator role of the child’s play in its relation to the world stimulates studies that show play as a pivot of pedagogical practice in ECE. Increasingly studies utilize the conceptions of Brougere in a sociological perspective and feminist theories to understand toys and play in an analytic perspective that considers ethnic, religious, and gender differences, and which denounces the prejudices existing in the child’s daily routine.

As a result of this research, public and private universities and different organizations have created projects involving the construction of toys, stimulating social activities that seek to recover the local culture of play and have released their experiences on websites. The practice instituted in 1984, by the Laboratory of Toys and Pedagogical Materials of Faculty of Education of USP, of including toy-playing centers as an area for research, training, and community services, has been highlighted as meritorious in the national evaluation of teacher training courses on a superior level.


Play and Children with Special Needs

In the area of children with special educational needs, play-related initiatives are under way in organizations like the Association of Parents and Friends of Exceptional Children (APAE) and in other centers addressing multiple disabilities throughout the country. The public and private universities in several states are conducting studies on play and the acquisition of language, anchored in interaction processes, related to physical space and materials. Worth highlighting, among others, are programs in Sao Paulo with virtual Braille containing digital games that provide free instruction in the Braille language to sighted people. Educational toys for all the modalities of needs are introduced in specialized courses, as occur in Marilia, in the state of Sao Paulo. Institutions like the Fundagao Laramara, the Instituto Padre Chico, the Fundagao Dorina Nowill, and the Centro de Reabilitagao de Cegueira Dr. Newton Kara Jose (Blind Rehabilitation Center), have stimulated the use of games for the blind. Groups installed in Rio de Janeiro and public and private institutions of Sao Paulo transmit digital games, and educational toys for the deaf have been developed in Rio Grande do Sul.


Play and Pedagogy

The relationship between play and the pedagogical proposals for ECE has stimulated criticism of approaches that are primarily cognitive in nature. Studies in several fields, including Education, Psychology, Arts and Linguistics, have stimulated the integration of play with speech, graphics, gestures, and mathematical languages in the activities experienced by children. In this process the educators, influenced by the constructivist or social-constructivist perspective, are supported by Bachelard, who sees daydreaming as the act of playing with thought; by Bruner, for whom it is playing with words that provides narrative thinking; and by Bakthin and Benjamin, who point out the pleasure of meaning whether in the sketch of a child’s drawing or in the words created as expressions of the childhood culture.

The discussion of curricular approaches like Reggio Emilia, High/Scope, Freinet, the Pedagogy of Projects, among others, has expanded the presence of the toy and play in the discussions and the processes of professional training, but with little evidence of permanent impacts on the quality of play in pedagogical practice.

The gap between investigation and innovation and pedagogical practice can be attributed to the resistance of the schooling and institutional culture, which does not focus on the specific child, and to the educational policies that do not maintain successful programs and that preserve the structural problems related to adult-child ratio, financial resources, time, space, materials, and training of the teachers.

The physical space of the ECE institutions, although recognized within the theoretical plan as the environment of learning that leads to the playful exploration of material in the physical world and that must guarantee the right to play as part of the pedagogical plan, does not always retain these meanings in practice. Materials like sand, water, soil, leaves, flowers, paints, plasticines, foodstuffs, scrap materials, cardboard boxes, and toys are beginning to be understood by teachers, timidly, as important resources to relate play to learning. But there is difficulty with their organization, and in many cases the tendency is to use play with the goal of transmitting knowledge. In the institutions that place priority on the practice of taking care of the child, where there are no organized activities with and for the children, there are few materials in a world of few interactions. In others, time for fragmented activities dominates, with little time for playing. In the majority of institutions there is not coherence between conceptions and practices.


Structural Problems

The lack of resources invested in early childhood education, which results in inadequate adult-child relationships, the absence of objects and toys, and the organizing of space more for collective control than for promoting exploration in dyads, triads, etc., impedes the permanent inclusion of play practices in day-care centers and preschools. Another difficulty is the frequent acquisition of miniature toys, which are inadequate both for collective use, due to their fragility for use by small children, and because they restrict the play to individual practices.

In the experience of many municipalities, the effort to expanding the play space in ECE institutions results in the practice of using toys in one room named a toy-playing center, but within a conception that shows little comprehension of the more general role of playing in an educational setting. These rooms usually are maintained as toy demonstration windows or are used only for directed activities. Even if they are used for childhood play the toy-playing centers are often utilized on a shift schedule, due to the great quantity of children, and so are available only on a weekly or biweekly basis for each age-group.

The inclusion of play in the pedagogical practices requires the adoption of constructivist or social-constructivist conceptions that are not present in the majority of Brazilian academic and institutional cultures and that depend on the professional training and the solution of structural problems of organization and functioning in the ECE institutions. From the perspective of teacher training, the systematic observation of and listening to the children in play situations has increasingly been pointed out as essential for understanding how play is associated to childhood learning, development, and culture, and thus how play can be included appropriately within educational practices.

Further Readings: Atas do Semimrio Internacional da OMEP (2000). Infancia— Educacao Infantil. Reflexoespara o inicio do seculo. Rio de Janeiro: Ravil Editora; Kishimoto, T.M. (1993). Jogos Infantis. O jogo, a crianga e a educagao. Petropolis: Vozes; Kishimoto, T.M. (2003). Toys and the public policy for child education in Brazil. In Anders Nelson, Lars-Erik Berg, and Krister Svensson, eds., Toys as communication. Toy research in the late twentieth century. Part 2. Stockolm: SITREC, pp. 149-159; Rocha, Eloisa Acires Candal (1999). A pesquisa em educacao infantil no Brasil. Trajetoria recente eperspectiva de consolidagao de uma Pedagogia da Educacao Infantil. UFSC Santa Catarina-Centro de Ciencias da Educagao. Nucleo de Publicagoes—NUP; Salgado, Pereira e Jobim e Souza (2002). Children’s games and cartoons: A dialogue with young superheroes. London: ITRA Congress. Available online at

Tizuko Morchida Kishimoto


Inclusive Education in Brazil


At the end of the World War II, concern about human rights triggered a renewed focus on human values, which resulted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Created in 1948, this Declaration affirmed, among other things, the right of all people to education. However, the Declaration did not give visibility to the disabled, who were segregated and denied access to an education that considered their specific needs. In 1975, the UN General Assembly approved the Declaration of Rights of Disabled People, for the first time fully expressing the needs of disabled people and formally recognizing their citizen rights and duties. In that decade, the National Movement in Defense of Disabled People’s Rights gained force in Brazil. One of the Movement’s main objectives was to replace the existing segregated educational system with an integrated one in which disabled people could commingle in regular schools. This concept of integration was ruled by the idea of normalcy, and its goal was to “modify the person with special educational needs, that this person could be as similar as possible to the other citizens, so this person could be included and integrated into a commingling within society.” To this end, special classes were created in schools (partial integration), with the purpose of preparing the child for total integration in regular classes, which would only occur once he or she was capable of following the curriculum.

In 1990, upon agreeing with the Worldwide Declaration of Education for All, signed at the UNESCO World Conference, Brazil formally announced its decision to create an inclusive educational system. In 1994, upon signing the Declaration of Salamanca, Brazil reaffirmed this commitment, giving visibility to Special Education. Since then, the Brazilian educational system has been in a process of deep transformation, resulting in changes in the legislation and in the development of national guidelines for education. All these changes have been oriented around the idea of inclusive education.

The idea of inclusion is an advance beyond the unilateral “the child must change” perspective, toward a bidirectional process, involving actions both on the part of those people with special educational needs and on the part of society: “instead of presupposing that the pupil must adjust to the standards of ‘normalcy’ to learn, it appoints the school the challenge of adjusting itself to respond to the diversity of its pupils.” Instead of only focusing on the limitations, difficulties, and/or disabilities of children, inclusion considers the human dimension. The concept of inclusion goes beyond merely bringing the child to school. On the contrary, it implies a posture of involving, comprehending, learning, and building new possibilities.

The concept of special education has also undergone deep changes. Instead of focusing only on the development of competences and abilities of the person with special educational needs the concept has shifted to a concern with how special education can contribute to the construction of an inclusive society for everyone.


National Guidelines for Special Education in Basic Education

The National Guidelines for Special Education in Basic Education issued in 2001 by the National Council of Education define special education as follows:

An educational process defined in a pedagogical proposal, ensuring a set of special educational resources and services, organized institutionally to support, complement, supplement and, in some cases, substitute the regular educational services, in order to guarantee school education and promote the development of the potential of the pupils that present special educational needs, at all levels, phases and modalities of education.

The conception of special refers to the criterion of meaningful difference in relation to what is normally provided to the pupils in a regular school, where the special educational needs are defined as those that “require from the school a series of resources and support of a more specialized character, that provide the pupil means of access to the curriculum.” These needs may result from high abilities or difficulties to learn, and are not associated with the condition of the disability.

Understanding special education in this context provides an opportunity for any child to have his or her specific needs recognized, whether they are transitory or not, and it creates the demand for solutions that are also specific to and adequate for each situation. This conception demands flexibility and the capacity for reflection on practice, which is only possible when there is involvement and good working conditions for the teachers.

These guidelines determine that the schools should enroll all the special need pupils and organize themselves to provide them quality provision in regular classes. They indicate the importance of considering the unique bio-psychosocial situations and characteristics of those being educated, in order to ensure their requisites with respect and human dignity, and the development of their identity and citizenship. The guidelines recommend that educational intervention for pupils requiring special support be provided as soon as possible, which shall make it more effective in the long run. In this sense, admission to early childhood education (ECE) is understood as preventive and desirable for children with special needs. They also recommend reflection, the exchange of experiences amongst the protagonists of the educational action and a search of partnerships with institutes of higher education and research, seeking to develop a theoretical elaboration on inclusive education.


Education and Care for Seriously Handicapped Children

For children that are seriously handicapped and who could not benefit from the common curriculum, a functional curriculum shall be considered. This curriculum emphasizes the development of social competences. The education of children with special needs may require few curricular adaptations (small adjustments in the planning or organization of the classroom) or significant ones. The document further anticipates the need for pedagogical support services in the day-care centers and preschools, which would help identify a child with special needs. Additionally, such identification may promote more curricular flexibility and adaptation with alternative pedagogical practices. This service may be provided in an itinerant fashion, developed by a teacher specialized in special education and ECE, or through resource classrooms, where the specialized teacher would carry out complementary and/or supplementary curricular activities with small groups, as an alternative to the school routine.

Also foreseen to consolidate the process of inclusion is the creation of early intervention services from birth to three years of age, in specialized institutions, whose admission shall be complementary to (and not a substitute for) the daycare center or preschool. It is understood that these admissions are essential to promote the development of potentialities present in this early childhood period, and that they shall be integrated with the health and social action areas.

Admission to ECE may also be made in special schools in those cases in which it is necessary to provide “intense and continuous help and support, and when the need for curricular adaptations is so significant that the common school cannot provide them.” Some studies challenge this idea and point out, specifically in

ECE, that it is possible to create conditions for the admission of all the children in the regular day-care centers and preschools, in a manner that brings benefits to all the children (Sekkel, 2003). Hospital class and family home care are special admission possibilities, on a temporary basis, in situations where health treatment hinders attendance at a regular school.

Nevertheless the Guidelines as well as the National Education Plan have been treating special education as a chapter aside of the national education. The absence of a specific treatment of special education in early childhood education causes it to remain as a topic for specialists only and impedes educators from engaging in the discussion, generating a feeling of helplessness and paralysis of action.


Support for Implementation

In 2003 the Secretariat of Special Education of the Ministry of Education (MEC/SEESP) published the collection Saberes e Praticas da Inclusao—Educacao Infantil (Knowledge and Practices of Inclusion Early Childhood Education), composed of nine volumes that discuss specific themes in the education of children from birth to six years of age with special needs. The topics covered in this collection are the following:

• An introduction covering the concepts of inclusive education for the programs and goals of ECE

• Profound Learning Difficulties or Limitations in the Development Process

• Profound Learning Difficulties—Autism

• Profound Learning Difficulties—Multiple Disabilities

• Difficulties of Communication and Signaling—Physical Disability

• Difficulties of Communication and Signaling—Deaf and Blind/Multiple Sensorial Disabilities

• Difficulties of Communication and Signaling—Deafness

• Difficulties of Communication and Signaling—Visual Disability

• High abilities / Gifted / Superior Abilities

These volumes, available on the site of the Ministry of Education (, have helped nationwide to fill a fundamental gap between implementation of inclusive education, the supply of important technical support for inclusive practices, and initial and continued in-service preparation of ECE teachers.


The data provided by the Secretariat of Special Education shows that the number of special needs pupils enrolled grew from 201,142 in 1996 to 500,575 in 2003. According to the School Census of 2003 inclusive admissions in Brazil grew from 24.7 percent in 2002 to 28.7 percent in 2003 while enrollment in the special classes diminished from 75.3 percent to 71.3 percent. However, the data available is very general, not allowing for deeper analyses or identification of the challenges faced by the families or schools involved.

The National Education Plan itself recognizes the lack of knowledge regarding the real circumstances facing special needs students in the educational process. Complete statistics on the number of people with special needs and the quality of the education provided to them simply isn’t available. Until the 1990s there were no official data at all on Brazil’s disabled population. The Population Census of 1991 included, for the first time, questions regarding the disabled population, but the methodology utilized was faulty and compromised interpretation of the data. The Population Census of 2000, relying on the technical assistance of the National Coordination for the Integration of Disabled People (CORDE) utilized an expanded concept of disability, compatible with the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health, provided by the World Health Organization and recommended as the theoretical benchmark by the United Nations. In this census 14.5 percent of the Brazilian population identified themselves as having some kind of disability, which amounts to 24.5 million people. Of this total 48.1 percent are visually disabled, 22.9 percent motor disabled, 16.7 percent hearing disabled, 8.3 percent are mentally deficient, and 4.1 percent have physical disabilities. In 2004, CORDE published a report, based on data obtained in twenty-one Brazilian cities that highlighted the close relationship between social inequalities and these incapacities, and emphasized the need for social policies that positively identify the population with disabilities.

The amount of ECE research in this arena is not impressive, and in general shows the feelings of abandonment and isolation suffered by teachers and other ECE professionals who work with special needs children. It also allows us to foresee the great advance that inclusion represents for the construction of a humane society. The pioneering experiences developed at the Creche/pre-escola Oeste (Western Daycare center) of the University of Sao Paulo show the impact that the inclusive ECE proposal has had on the lasting transformation of attitudes in the children, parents, teachers, and employees, caused by the collective confrontation of the attitudinal barriers that result from the influence of the stereotypes and prejudices regarding disabled people. The construction of an inclusive ambience, sensitive to the individual and group issues, articulating channels of participation at all levels, proved to be fundamental for the collective construction of an inclusive educational project.

Further Readings: Carvalho, R. E. (1997). A nova LDB e a Educacao Especial. Rio de Janeiro: WVA; Emilio, S. A. (2004). O cotidiano escolarpelo avesso: sobre lagos, amarras e nos noprocesso de inclusao. Thesis (Doctorate in Psychology). Institute of Psychology, University of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo; Ministerio da Educagao e do Desporto (2000). Projeto escola viva: garantindo o acesso e permanencia de todos os alunos na escola - alunos com necessidades educacionais especiais (Project alive school: Guaranteeing access and permanence of all the pupils in the school—pupils with special educational needs). Brasilia: MEC/SEESP. Available online at; Ministerio da Educagao (2001). Diretrizes Nacionais para a Educacao Especial na Educacao BOsica. Brasilia: MEC, SEESP. Available online at; Palhares, M., and S. Marins (2002). Escola inclusiva. Sao Carlos: Ufscar; Saberes e praticas da inclusao (Educacao Infantil) (2003). 2nd ed. rev. Brasilia: MEC, SEESP. Available online at; Sekkel, M.C. (2003). A construcao de um ambiente inclusivo na educagao infantil: relato e reflexao sobre uma experiencia (The construction of an inclusive environment in early childhood education: Report and reflection on an experience). Thesis (Doctorate in Psychology). Institute of Psychology, University of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo.

Marie Claire Sekkel


Gender and Equity: A Brazilian Perspective

The Concept of Gender

In Brazilian dictionaries, the term gender is defined as a way of classification and a means of real or imaginary expression of the characteristics of human beings, with emphasis on the stereotypes attributed to each sex. Beginning in the 1980s the concept of gender began being incorporated by sociology with reference to social organization in the relation between the sexes. The elaboration of this concept also received and still receives considerable attention in areas of knowledge such as linguistics, psychoanalysis, psychology, history, and anthropology, with anthropologists credited with demonstrating the cultural variability of the behaviors considered masculine and feminine. These findings have demonstrated that the masculine and the feminine are understood as shaped fundamentally by the culture as well as by biology. In the 1990s in Brazil, the studies of the American historian Joan Scott had a significant influence on the studies of gender and on critical reflections on education. Her work provided a greater understanding of sexual differences and the multiple meanings that this knowledge acquires in various socialization contexts, including the institutions responsible for education.

However, for a long time the focus of gender issues was limited to the conditions faced by women, which made the political consolidation of the concept of gender difficult, rejecting a dynamic and dialectic vision of the social relations between men and women. Even today both in the political and the academic realms, attention to gender is sometimes limited to a focus on women. At the same time, among those that defend the relational dimension of gender there is the risk of restricting the analysis to a single standard of masculine and feminine, immutable and polar. At present the adoption of a gender perspective, whether in academic studies or in the policy arena, requires the recognition that men and women are not equal, the relations that they establish are asymmetrical, there is no single model of masculinity or femininity, and the relations of power touch on relations between women themselves as well as between women and men. Thus gender must be associated with the dynamics of social transformation, and with meanings that go beyond the bodies and the sexes and that which supports the notions, ideas, and values in the different areas of social organization. These meanings are found in the culturally constructed and visible symbols of masculinity and femininity, heterosexuality and homosexuality, in the development of normative concepts within the scientific, political, and judicial fields, in the formulation of public policies that are implemented in social institutions like day-care centers and preschools, and in subjective and collective identities.


Gender and Early Education

The incorporation of the concept of gender in education starts with recognition of its fundamentally social character, and the way that it has been constructed historically around inequalities based on physical and biological differences. This orientation sometimes challenges the supposedly fixed and polar character of categories such as feminine and masculine. In the case of the early childhood education (ECE), the issue of gender was powerfully present during the 1980s in the construction of policy directed at early childhood care and education, and influenced propositions for the preparation of professionals and the academic undertakings of that period. By the end of the 1990s the gender perspective associated with development of ECE policies had shifted more to the interior of the institutional spaces, with concerns more directed to childhood socialization, development, and learning.


Gender and Early Childhood Education Policies

The insertion of the perspective of gender in ECE is the result of changes that permeated the entire process of redemocratization of Brazilian society over the last four decades, the legal manifestation of which, apart from direct elections for the presidency of the Republic, has been development of the Federal Constitution of 1988. The latter brought to an end a period characterized by the violation of human rights under the protection of a dictatorial government, and guaranteed the recognition of the demands of various social movements, including the women’s movement; marked above all by reflections initiated in 1975 with the first Women’s Worldwide Conference organized by the UN in Mexico. The women’s movement engaged itself in the Constitutional Campaign, with the objective of assuring rights and guarantees for women’s equality within the constitutional text. At that time, the National Council of Women’s Rights (CNDM), created in 1985, and the State Council on the Conditions of Women (CECF), in Sao Paulo, played an important role in the introduction of the theme of sexuality and gender in ECE.

Faced with the intense process of urbanization of the 1970s and 1980s and the necessity of intensifying their involvement in the labor market and facilitating redistribution of domestic and family responsibilities between the sexes, women managed to introduce ECE as a right by using an argument that brought together the issues of paid work, gender equality, child care, and education. In this sense, the recognition by the Constitution of maternity as a social function and of the duty of the state to guarantee extra-familial care and assistance through day-care centers and preschools for 0- to 6-year-old children represented a significant advance in social policy and in the promotion of gender equity in Brazil. Thus Brazilian feminism views the day-care-center proposal through a double lens: both as a woman’s right to day-care center and to preschool for her children and as an achievement of the child’s right, whether poor or rich, to an educational and pedagogical setting and to extra-familial care as an effective means of articulating family with occupational and social responsibilities. The right of every child to early childhood education, through day-care centers and preschools, also meant the expansion of citizenship and became a turning point in the history of the social construction of this subject of rights: the young child.


Neoliberal Reforms

Beginning in the mid-1990s, these legal advances were restrained by the neoliberal reforms that followed, with less state participation and the restriction of the social and work policies. Some advances were maintained, as in the case of equity between the sexes with respect to admission into early care and education programs. In 2001, 531,102 girls and 562,245 boys attended day-care centers and 2,372,038 girls and 2,446,765 boys preschools. However, Article 7 of the Constitution, which called for free admission to day-care centers and preschools for the children or dependents of rural and urban workers as a social right, has not been enforced. The educational policy, which was not based on a tradition of viewing ECE from the perspective of sharing child care with the family, also applied the logic of the liberal reform that allowed for no increase in costs. There was no effort to direct resources to the improvement of teacher salaries or to the broad provision of day-care centers, as foreseen in the Constitution. The proposed creation of a day-care-center salary (salario-cr'che) was defeated in the voting process of the National Law of Guidelines and Bases of National Education (LDB), which was approved in 1996.

This defeat was aggravated by new educational financing rules, and especially the law that created the FUNDEF, a measure of the federal government that modified the Constitution by giving priority to elementary education as the primary investment in national education (to detriment of ECE and the education of youth and adults) (see Country Profile). This political context results today in a situation where less than 40 percent of Brazilian children are enrolled in day-care centers and preschools, still far from the ideal, and in the priority given to part-time admission of children aged 0-6, instead of to full-time admissions. The expansion of ECE as the first phase of basic education, without the social component that articulates family responsibility and duty to the state and a guarantee of the extra familial care and assistance (a part of feminist demand for day-care centers and preschools that shaped the Constitution), is considered one of the greatest obstacles to implementing a policy that truly integrates care and education from the perspective of the rights of the child and of the families.


The Preparation and Practices of the Early Childhood Education Professional

Gender is also reflected in professional preparation, and in the practices and curriculum directed to ECE. The conception that women are, by nature, capable of caring for and educating young children served as an excuse for reinforcing ECE as the locus of voluntary or poorly remunerated female work, reflecting the low public investments and the absence of sound policies of initial and in-service training. With the 1996 Educational Law, the qualification of the ECE professional was also regulated, foreseeing the secondary level as Normal modality (the minimum preparation for this educational level), collaboration for the improvement of the preparation of day-care-center educators, until then mainly lay people without any appropriate preparation. (see the Teacher Preparation entry). But there continues to be a strong need for greater attention to the specific competencies that characterize the professional and to the shortage of men among the ECE professionals. In Brazil, the practices developed in these two institutions are aggravated by disagreement and imprecision regarding the responsibility of the family, in the private sphere, and the responsibility of the day-care centers and preschools, in the public sphere, for the care and education of the young child.


Inside the Early Childhood Education Settings

From the point of view of the gender relations in the interior of the ECE settings, there is criticism regarding the stereotyped socialization of boys and girls in early childhood that is commonly occurring within the institutionalized spaces of early childhood education and care. There is great difficulty, for example, in perceiving gender-related education as part of the work to be developed by day-care centers and preschools. Professionals, in general, do not know how to deal with situations that contradict traditional behaviors for girls and boys (for example, a boy liking to play with dolls or pots and pans). It is observed that children use as objects for gender representation what the adults—responsible for their education— provide and reflect. From this perspective, the emphasis is on the transmission of values of equality and respect amongst people of different sexes, as described in the National Curricular Referential (RCNEI) of ECE (1998), which highlights the construction of the identity of gender and of sexuality itself as more than the mere biological configuration of human beings. This vision understands the education of the children as extending beyond the reproduction of stereotyped patterns. The proposals for a nonsexist education also highlight the role of educators, both men and women, in deconstructing the meanings of gender in childhood relations, an aspect of the most recent policies aimed at the professional preparation of ECE.


Attention in Academic Circles

The intersection between relations of gender and ECE gained greater visibility in the Brazilian educational research with the systematization of efforts to establish, in the sphere of the state and of public policies, measures against the discrimination of women and in support of the education of young children as a right that articulated work, equality of gender, and early childhood education and care. In the last decade, this focus has lost ground to themes that are more focused on the relations established in the interior of the ECE settings: in the development of child sexuality, in the children’s learning processes, in the production of the identities of boys and girls, in the games amongst young children, and in the relations between adults and children. These studies draw attention to the necessity for deepening the question of gender in the ECE period, for considering that the identities of gender are directly related to this phase of childhood development. The 0-6 age bracket is an important period for the construction of identities. ECE, from this perspective, must adopt a view of gender that recognizes the transforming opportunities in the crystallizing conception of masculine and feminine.

Studies on the character of gender of masculine behavior in day-care centers and preschools are rare. Some authors point out that entry into this field of work demands the mobilization of knowledge linked to the production and reproduction of life, and therefore relate in our society to the female condition, even when performed by men. Moreover, one must consider that the masculine presence, as a reference for the construction of the identity of gender in ECE, involves professionals, children, and families, as well as the redefinition of the function of the ECE institutions in order to overcome the rigid models of separation between family and school.

Further Readings: Carvalho, M., and C. Vianna (1994). Educadoras e maes de alunos: um (des)encontro (Educators and pupil’s mothers: A (dis)encounter). In Bruschini, Cristina e SORJ, Bila (orgs.) Novos olhares: mulheres e relagoes de genera no Brasil (New looks: Women and gender relation in Brazil). Sao Paulo: Marco Zero/FCC, pp. 133-158; Cerisara, A. B. (1996). A construgao da identidade das professoras de Educagao Infantil: entre o feminino e o profissional (The construction of the identity of the ECE teachers: Between the feminine and the professional). Doctorate Thesis. Sao Paulo: USP; Cruz, E. F. (1998). “Quem leva o nene e a bolsa?” o masculino na creche (“Who carries the baby and the bag?” the masculine in the daycare center). In Margareth Arilha, Sandra Unbehaum Ridenti, and Benedito Medrado (orgs.) Homens e masculinidades: outras palavras (Men and masculinities: Other words). Sao Paulo: ECOS/Ed. 34, pp. 235-258; Haddad, L. (2004). Creches e pre-escolas no sistema de ensino: desafios para uma politica pro-integragao (Daycare centers and preschools in the teaching system: Challenges for a pro-integration policy). In PEC-Formagao Universitaria Municipios, Educacao Infantil (Early childhood education). Sao Paulo: Secretaria de Estado da Educacao, pp. 169-177; Pro-Posigoes (Sept./Dec. 2003). Dossie: Educagao infantil e genero (ECE and gender). Campinas: Unicamp; Rosemberg, F. (Mar. 2002). Organizagoes multilaterais, Estado e politicas de educagao infantil (Multi-lateral organizations, the state and ECE policies). Cadernos de Pesquisa, Sao Paulo (115), 25-64; Saparoli, E. (1997). Educador Infantil? uma ocupacao de genero feminino (Childhood Educator? A female gender occupation). Dissertacgaao (Mestrado). Saao Paulo: PUC-SP.

Claudia Vianna and Sandra Unbehaum