In Brazil, the percentage of 2nd grade elementary school children who still can’t read and write even single words (like “table” and “grandpa”) more than doubled from 2019 to 2021show data from the Basic Education Assessment System (Saeb), released this Friday (16) by the National Institute of Educational Studies and Research Anísio Teixeira (Inep).
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Calculated from the performance of a sample of students from public and private schools in a national test, the index rose from 15% to 34% in these two years, just when in-person classes were suspended because of the Covid-19. Previous editions of the exam still did not cover this age group.
These data indicate a pedagogical delay, since, since 2019, the National Literacy Policy stipulates that the process of learning to read and write takes place in the 1st year of elementary school, when students are, on average, 6 years old.
“This does not deviate from the expected. In this age group, face-to-face mediation [do professor] is especially important”, says Clara Machado da Silva Alarcão, deputy general coordinator of Saeb.
The National Union of Municipal Education Directors (Undime) states that, in view of the results, “it is important that municipal networks (…) bring together their education professionals to analyze the impact of the pandemic on student learning”.
“Saeb 2021 also attests to the more pronounced effects of the pandemic on education networks with less infrastructure, which were unable to offer connectivity to their students and teachers, which was aggravated by the socioeconomic condition of the most vulnerable families”, says the agency.
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In math, 2 out of 10 students don’t know how to add and subtract
Saeb also assesses students’ knowledge of mathematics.
In the 2nd year of elementary school, 22% of children were unable to perform basic operations, such as addition and subtraction, in 2021. In 2019, before the pandemic, it was 16%.
Learning problems can be even more alarming
According to experts, the situation can be even more worrying, since, when the assessment was applied (in November and December of last year), many schools had not yet returned to the 100% face-to-face format. Probably, in their case, adherence to the exam was lower than that recorded in schools that were already functioning normally.
“It is difficult to compare a network in which 95% of the students took the test with another in which 50% took the exam. Those students who did not attend tend to be the ones who were most vulnerable, away from school. Even if unintentionally, this selects the participating students and interferes with the grade”, explains Gabriel Corrêa, leader of Educational Policies at the NGO Todos Pela Educação.
Inep has already announced that, on the national average, 71.3% of target students took the test in 2021 – in 2019, the rate was 80.99%. There are inequalities between the states: in Roraima, for example, only 27% of the municipalities entered the national calculations for the initial years of elementary school, since adherence to the assessment was insufficient.
“The comparison between the results must be avoided”, says Maria Helena Guimarães de Castro, president of the National Council of Education (CNE).