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Revista Brasileira de Educação

Print version ISSN 1413-2478On-line version ISSN 1809-449X

Rev. Bras. Educ. vol.24  Rio de Janeiro  2019  Epub Apr 25, 2019 


The budget execution of the diversity policies in the Lula and Dilma governments: obstacles and challenges the budget*

IUniversidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, SP, Brazil.


This article discusses the analysis of the federal budgetary execution of the policies of diversity in the education developed by the governments Lula (2003-2010) and Dilma (2011-2014). Specifically, the text addresses the actions implemented between 2004 and 2014 by the Secretariat for Continuing Education, Literacy and Diversity, later renamed Secretariat of Continuing Education, Literacy, Diversity and Inclusion, created in 2004 at the Ministry of Education based on demands from social movements. The article discusses the obstacles and challenges for the implementation of policies that deal with the relation between equality and differences in Brazilian education, revealing how the configuration of the Brazilian State is unfavorable to its execution.

KEYWORDS: diversity; budget; diferences; inequalities; social movements

The concept of diversity gained space in Brazilian educational policies in the second half of the 1990s, reflecting growing use of the category, both internationally and particularly in Latin America.

The increased concern for diversity in educational policies in Latin America can be related to that which Argentinian scholar Néstor López (2012) understood to be a consequence of the end of the large broadening of access to schooling on the continent in the 1980s and 1990s.

The slowdown in the rise of schooling levels during the decade of 2000, particularly among adolescents and young people in Latin America, would be revealing of “the impossibility of the educational systems to operate in contexts of growing cultural and identity diversity, indicating the persistence of multiple daily and naturalized mechanisms of discrimination in the practices of school institutions” (López, 2012, p. 871). For López, the majority of schools on the continent are confronted with “real students”, who remain quite far from the ideal they “desire”: urban, white, middle or upper middle class, from “well established” and “morally unquestionable” families.

From the perspectives of the social movements, based on many possible meanings, the concept of diversity emerges as an “umbrella” that combines the historic demands of various political subjects to educational policies. Diversity may indicate a possibility to construct intersectional responses to the phenomenon of multi-discrimination (Crenshaw, 2002), or an opportunity for political alliances among various efforts to defend the rights of these subjects who dispute the notion of quality education. The concept may also be criticized for homogenizing, diluting, leveling, erasing and politically weakening the different demands and conflicts involved in these agendas.

It is in this sense that Renato Ortiz (2007) calls attention to the need to identify and understand the different perspectives of diversity that dispute the public debate. For Ortiz, the broad use of the concept of “diversity” in Brazil can be related to the challenges of (re) configuration of the national identity after the loss of legitimizing force of the ideas of “mestizo nation” and of “racial democracy” in the past thirty years, as bases that supported the ideology of the Brazilian state in the twentieth century.


In the mid 1990s, during the government of president Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1995-2002), the development of the National Curricular Parameters (1997) represented a landmark in the construction of the place of the concept of diversity in educational policies.

It was in the first mandate of the government of president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2006), with the creation in 2004 of the Secretariat for Continuing Education, Literacy and Diversity (Secretaria de Educação Continuada, Alfabetização e Diversidade - SECAD) in the Ministry of Education (Ministério da Educação - MEC), subsequently renamed Secretariat of Continuing Education, Literacy, Diversity and Inclusion (Secretaria de Educação Continuada, Alfabetização, Diversidade e Inclusão - SECADI), that the concept of diversity gained space in educational policy. The new secretariat was established not only to articulate existing actions, but to promote programs and policies referring to indigenous school education, ethnic-racial diversity, gender equality and sexual diversity, education of youth and adults, rural education, environmental education and complementary educational actions.

Fruit of a demand made by social movements to president Lula, the secretariat was born with the mission to develop its own programs, transversalize the issue within the Ministry and maintain proximity with organized civil society. From this perspective, there was an investment in decentralized action, based on coordination, articulation and induction of policies at the three levels of government and in the construction of various technical chambers, commissions and forms for dialog with organized society.

This strategy of “concertation” was presented as an important channel for participation and dialog between the MEC and organized social groups in the construction of an agenda of diversity policies. It often served as a means to attenuate tensions and a constant and growing pressure on the government (Moehlecke, 2009).

Tatiane Cosentino Rodrigues and Anete Abramowicz (2013) analyzed the actions and budgets of SECAD between 2003 and 2006. They found that diversity was understood in the first Lula government “as a strategy to erase inequalities and weaken the field of difference, with the function of blurring identities and breaking hegemonies” (Rodrigues and Abramowicz, 2013, p. 18).

This affirmation is based on their analysis of the allocated budget for and actual spending by SECAD between 2003 and 2006. In 2003, diversity programs received 0.27% of the Ministry’s budget, rising to 0.75% in 2006. Despite the increase, which according to Rodrigues and Abramowicz reveals Lula government’s commitment to various social movements, this still represented less than 1% of the Ministry’s budget, and was thus quite “timid” and did not establish the conditions needed to revert the given logics. In relation to spending by SECAD’s 57 programs, according to these authors, 17 of them accounted for less than 10% of spending in the period analyzed.

With the goal of problematizing the polemical and complex implementation of the so-called diversity policies in education, this article presents part of a broader analysis of federal spending1 on diversity policies in education from 2004 to 2014. The analysis was based on information obtained from the Integrated System for Financial Administration of the Federal Government (Sistema Integrado de Administração Financeira do Governo Federal - SIAFI), from the Annual Administrative Reports of SECAD/SECADI,2 from information requests made under the Law of Access to Information (LAI) (law n. 12.527/2011) to the MEC and to the National Fund for the Development of Education (Fundo Nacional de Desenvolvimento da Educação -FNDE) and from information provided by the Technical, Administrative and Management Support and Advice of SECADI. Interviews were also conducted with administrators at the Ministry and the FNDE, as well as with activists from civil society.


To begin this analysis, it is important to register the debate made by the SECAD staff in 2004 concerning the formulation of the budget matrix for the new secretariat. In this dispute, SECAD had support from technicians from the Institute of Applied Economic Research (Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada - IPEA), but had adversaries in other branches of the MEC and in the Ministry of Planning, Budget and Administration (Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada - MPOG).

In the first Pluriannual budget for 2004-2007, developed in 2003 during the administration of Minister of Education Cristovam Buarque, the actions of literacy for young people and adults were contained in the budget program called Literate Brazil and the actions for continuing schooling for young people and adults in the program then known as the Going to School Program (Programa Fazendo Escola), were inserted in the budget program called the Brazil in School Program (Brasil Escolarizado), the latter under coordination of the Secretariat of Basic Education (Secretaria de Educação Básica - SEB).

To reinforce the importance of the articulation between these policies from the perspective of a process of continuing education for young people and adults, in 2004 the SECAD staff was able to have the two actions become part of the budget program Literate Brazil and Youth and Adult Education (Brasil Alfabetizado e Educação de Jovens e Adultos) (program 1060 - the numbers are used to identify federal budget programs and actions), which was under its responsibility. At the time, the place of Youth and Adult Education policies in the MEC represented one of the main foci of conflict between the SEB and the new SECAD, both of which were still under formation.

Another intense conflict provoked by SECAD at the time was with the MPOG over the creation of the budget program known as Education for Diversity and Citizenship (Educação para a Diversidade e Cidadania) (program 1377), which brought together budget lines dispersed in various secretariats of the Ministry, while including new actions within its budget. At the time, the Ministry of Planning questioned the pertinence of combining the actions proposed under a single budget program, instead of subdividing them in areas (human rights, affirmative actions, women’s rights, pro-indigenous actions, actions for quilombolas,3 for confronting racism etc.).

The creation of program 1377 represented, above all, confidence in the synergy between these agendas and in the opportunity to increase political strength in the dispute over educational policies. This dispute contributed to overcoming the fragmented “residual” and low visibility approach given until then to various programs, to address inequalities and to strengthen the pressure and social control by social movements that work with them. An essential part of this strategy was to express these agendas in an articulated manner in the MEC budget.


Graph 1 shows the changes in the percentage of the MEC budget spent by SECAD/SECADI, indicating that the total amount spent by it varied from 0.55% to 4.74% of total Ministry’s spending. The graph reveals two peak moments: in 2005, when SECAD spending represented 3.69% of the resources executed by MEC; and in 2012, when now renamed the SECADI reached 4.74% of the Ministry spending.

Source: System for Financial Administration of the Federal Government; Annual Administrative Reports of SECAD/SECADI and information provided by the Technical, Administrative and Management Support and Advice of SECADI. Author’s elaboration.

Graph 1 - Budgetary spending - Relation of SECAD/SECADI to MEC (2004-2014). 

The fist peak was due to the significant increase in investment by the federal government in the Literate Brazil Program, carrie out in 2005, and its reduction in later years resulted from criticisms of the effectiveness of the program and charges of corruption. These charges led to the termination of contracts with non-governmental organizations and the reorganization of the program through partnerships with municipal and state governments and universities.

The second peak, in 2012, was due mainly to the merger in 2011 of SECADI with the Secretariat of Special Education (Secretaria de Educação Especial - SEE);4 and the arrival of the Pro Urban Youth Program (ProJovem Urbano) to SECADI, which had previously been executed by the National Secretariat of Youth; and the new increase of resources invested in the Literate Brazil and the Youth and Adult Education programs, specifically in the concession of grants for literacy. These changes led SECADI’s share of Ministry spending to reach 4.74%.

Graph 1 indicates the changes in the Ministry budget for SECAD/SECADI along the different Pluriannual Plans. In the first Pluriannual Plan (2004-2007), there was a significant increase in the allocation of resources that was not sustained through the end of this plan, and by 2007 the percentage reached its lowest level in the decade, 0.55%. This was even lower than the percentage SECAD spent soon after it was created, when it operated with resources from the programs and actions of the Pluriannual Plan for 2000-2003, formulated by the previous government. It is thus seen that the first year of Lula’s second mandate was impacted by the launching of the Educational Development Plan (Plano de Desenvolvimento da Educação - PDE), by the new resolutions and changes in the system for budget allocations, and by the withholding of funds by the federal government due to its effort to generate a primary budget surplus.

In the following Pluriannual Plan, for the years 2008 to 2010, the percentage of spending at SECAD varied from 1.05% to 1.41% of the amount executed by the Ministry. The reduced percentage contrasted with the intensity of this period at SECAD, which was marked by a verticalization approach to the agendas,5 by the expansion of actions and by the increased influence on the Ministry’s universal programs, with greater difficulties in being able to spend allocated resources.

In 2011, SECADI’s share of Ministry spending grew again due to the reasons previously mentioned: the merger with the SEE, the arrival of new programs and an increased investment in Youth and Adult Education. Nevertheless, the percentage fell in 2013 and 2014, even after the merger and the arrival of new programs; in 2014, it reached a level below the years of 2005 and 2006, at the time of the organization of SECAD.


Graphs 2, 3 and 4 present SECAD/SECADI spending per program and actions in the three Pluriannual Plans, revealing that the two main programs which received the highest portion of the secretariat’s resources in the two first plans were the 1377 and the Literate Brazil and Youth and Adult Education (1060). In these Pluriannual Plans, other actions of SECAD were linked to programs led by other secretariats at MEC, or to inter-ministerial programs, in which SECAD/SECADI was responsible for certain educational actions.

From the Pluriannual Plan for 2004-2007 until the Pluriannual Plan for 2008-2011, the budget structure of SECAD passed from eight to seven programs. The actions for indigenous education migrated to Educational Program 1377, in a budget action that came to also contemplate rural education and traditional communities. In the Pluriannual Plan for 2008-2011, a process began to merge specific budget actions by agenda.

Source: System for Financial Administration of the Federal Government; Annual Administrative Reports of SECAD and information provided by the Technical, Administrative and Management Support and Advice of SECADI. Author’s elaboration.

Graph 2 - Programs of SECAD (PPA 2004-2007). 

Environmental education was no longer a budget action of the Brazil in School Program, led by the SEB of MEC, and came to be part of action 8751 along with other agendas at SECAD. Despite this merger, a specific action was maintained for environmental education (action 6294) within program 1377. In addition to environmental education, budget action 8751 of the program supported the insertion of the themes of citizenship and human rights in the educational process (including gender, race and sexual diversity), by means of continuing education programs and the production, acquisition and distribution of didactic and pedagogical materials.

With a focus on the integration of schools with their communities, action 8742 aimed at the execution of the Open School and More Education programs. The affirmative actions in higher education were contemplated in program 1377, through budgetary action 8741, which sought to support programs such as UNIAFRO, Prolind, Pronacampo and Connecting Knowledge (aimed at providing access to universities for black, indigenous, rural and poor communities) in a close relationship with action 2C68 (support for social and ethnic-racial inclusion in higher education), which was the responsibility of the Secretariat of Higher Education (Secretaria de Educação Superior - SESU).

Source: System for Financial Administration of the Federal Government; Annual Administrative Reports of SECAD/SECADI and information provided by the Technical, Administrative and Management Support and Advice of SECADI. Author’s elaboration.

Graph 3 - Programs of SECAD (PPA 2008-2011). 

Thus, budget program 1377 was becoming consolidated as the great catalyst of various agendas of SECAD, based on the concept of an “open door” program for new emerging agendas, and had an important role in their recognition and institutionalization within educational policies, of which the budget is a key element.

It can be affirmed that program 1377 also operated to make some actions linked to polemical agendas viable, while maintaining a low public visibility by not explicitly specifying them in the budget. This is the case, above all, with the agenda for gender and sexuality, which was increasingly questioned by fundamentalist religious groups.

This demonstrates a dynamic use of the concepts of diversity and human rights even within the budget: either by combining political efforts and constructing intersectional responses among different and complex agendas; or by providing a space for administrating and sheltering of newly recognized differences, which require policies; or restricted to “eulogizing” difference, with the weakening of political support for these “different differences” and their conflicts and provocations to educational policy; or as “strategic political invisibility” for navigating adverse contexts.

In Pluriannual Plan 2004-2007, the actions of the budget program Afro-Brazilian Culture (Cultura Afro-Brasileira), under SECAD’s responsibility, aimed at quilombola education, becoming part of the recently created Quilombola Brazil Program (Brasil Quilombola) in 2005. Coordinated by the Secretariat of Policies for Promoting Racial Equality (Secretaria de Políticas de Promoção de Igualdade Racial - SEPPIR), the Quilombola Brazil Program was dedicated to promoting intersectoral policies that would guarantee the rights of the remnant quilombola communities in Brazil.

In Pluriannual Plan 2008-2011, the National Youth Inclusion Program (ProYouth) (ProJovem), created in 2005 and reformulated in 2007, came to be SECAD’s third largest budget program in terms of amount of resources. An initiative of the General Secretariat of the Presidency of the Republic (Secretaria Geral da Presidência da República), which was interministerially executed, the ProYouth program was the country’s main public policy for youth.

Source: System for Financial Administration of the Federal Government; Annual Administrative Reports of SECADI and information provided by the Technical, Administrative and Management Support and Advice of SECADI. Author’s elaboration.

Graph 4 - Actions of SECADI (PPA 2012-2014). 

The Pluriannual Plan for 2012-2015, in the first mandate of president Dilma Rousseff, concentrated budget actions even more, renamed some and agglutinated them to broad initiatives. With these initiatives, there was also an end to identifying the interministerial programs in the budgets of the ministries, one of the main characteristics of the previous pluriannual plans.

The initiatives were composed of budget actions that would combine spending from various secretariats in the MEC, allowing greater flexibility in spending for the managers, but making public transparency of the federal government budget much more difficult. This change in the logic of the pluriannual plan was strongly criticized by social movements and civil organizations (Garcia, 2012; Paulo, 2013). In the case of SECADI, which combined agendas marked by conflicts and resistance from state and municipal educational systems, the change weakened possibilities for social control even more.


The difficulties SECAD/SECADI faced in executing, or actually spending its budget, was one point highlighted in the statements of various administrators interviewed, who alleged that at various times, these difficulties weakened the secretariat’s bargaining power in the Ministry, including in the dispute for more resources for its actions.

This section will analyze the actual spending by SECAD/SECADI compared to the approved budget. The parameters of the Federal Budget Court (Tribunal de Contas da União - TCU) for evaluating the level of federal government spending were considered. These parameters rate spendings of 0% to 25% of total allocation as very weak, 26% to 50% as weak, 51% to 85% as reasonable, and above 85% as high.

Graph 5 presents actual spending by SECAD/SECADI in relation to the amount allocated in the authorized budget for the secretariat. Note that in 2005 spending exceeded 100% of the initial allocation due to an additional allotment of resources - beyond those originally authorized - for the budget program 1060.

Source: System for Financial Administration of the Federal Government; Annual Administrative Reports of SECAD/SECADI and information provided by the Technical, Administrative and Management Support and Advice of SECADI. Author’s elaboration.

Graph 5 - Budget execution of SECAD/SECADI. 

The information indicate that SECAD/SECADI’s actual spending of the financial resources allocated to it varied from a high to reasonable level. The actual spending at a reasonable level was concentrated in the period from 2007 to 2011. This period was characterized by a decrease in SECAD’s participation in the ministry’s total budget, by investment in the organization of policies for each one of its agendas and by expansion of SECAD/SECADI’s influence in universal programs at the ministry.

Examining spending by budget program, it is noted that 2007 and 2010 were the worst years in terms of actual spending for youth and adult education, at 78.1% and 76.4% respectively (Graph 6). These two years were marked by a review of the design of the policy, and of the systems and procedures for allocating resources.

Source: System for Financial Administration of the Federal Government; Annual Administrative Reports of SECAD/SECADI and information provided by the Technical, Administrative and Management Support and Advice of SECADI. Author’s elaboration.

Graph 6 - Amount allocated and amount spending - SECAD/SECADI. 

According to Graph 7, actual spending for program 1377 varied from: very weak (24.9%) in 2011, to reasonable in 2008, 2009 and 2010, and high only in 2006, when 99% of approved funds were actually spent. The data reveal that the greatest difficulties in budget execution of the program were concentrated in Pluriannual Plan 2008-2011, which was characterized by growing public conflicts and polemics about the agendas embraced by the program, by the influence on universal programs and by the decrease in the SECAD’s staff size.

Source: System for Financial Administration of the Federal Government and Annual Administrative Reports of SECAD. Author’s elaboration.

Graph 7 - Program 1377: Education for Diversity and Citizenship. 

Since 2005, the budget execution for the Brazil Quilombola Program revealed the complexity involved in the implementation of a policy characterized by land ownership conflicts (Grapf 8). While in 2005, the year the Brazil Quilombola Program was created, the percentage of funds allocated actually spent reached 246%, due to strong federal government investment through new allocations during the year beyond those initially approved, in the years after 2009, actual spending varied from reasonable to very weak. In 2010, spending rose again, with the opportunity for construction and restoration of schools in certified territories,6 but according to the SECAD/SECADI administrative report, there was no real spending at all in 2011.

*In 2004, the actions for quilombola school education were linked to the Afro-Brazilian Culturel program budget (0172). Source: System for Financial Administration of the Federal Government and Annual Administrative Reports of SECAD. Author’s elaboration.

Graph 8 - Brazil Quilombola/0172: Afro-Brazilian Culture 

Beyond the question of land, spending problems for quilombola education consisted of delays in the issuing of public bids by the SECAD/SECADI staff and the fact that only public institutions of higher education could compete in the bids for training education professionals and in the production of didactic and pedagogical material for the program. Most of these institutions had little or no experience with quilombola communities. Until then, this experience was found in community organizations dedicated to popular education that could not compete in the public bid, a reality also present in other SECAD/SECADI programs.

As mentioned, the information obtained do not allow for a more precise analysis of the budget spending for indigenous and rural education. Table 1 reveals irregular behavior in spending. During Pluriannual Plan 2004-2007, indigenous education was characterized as an action with high actual spending, while rural education varied from regular to high, dropping to very weak, with no actual spending in 2007. In the Pluriannual Plan 2008-2011, the two modalities were combined in budget action 8750, and varied from low actual spending in 2008 to high spending in 2009 and 2010 and very weak spending in 2011.

Table 1 - Actual spending on indigenous education and rural education (%). 

2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Indigenous 100 133,5 97 99,6 - - - - - - -
Rural - 71,4 100 N/I - - - - - - -
Indigenous + Rural - - - - 46,2 90,8 102 13,4 - - -

Source: Administrative Reports of SECAD/SECADI (2004-2013), Administrative Reports of MEC (2014) and information request under Law of Access to Information (LAI) on the data for the year 2007, not available in the administrative report for the year. Author’s elaboration.

Irregularity also marked actual spending for ProYouth actions by the MEC from 2008-2014, under Pluriannual Plans 2008-2011 and 2012-2015 (Graph 9). The spending varied from reasonable in 2008 and 2009 to low in 2010, and very low in 2011. In 2012, spending reached a high level, followed by a drop to reasonable, and rising once again to high spending in 2014.

*In 2004, the actions for quilombola school education were linked to the Afro-Brazilian Culturel program budget (0172). Source: System for Financial Administration of the Federal Government and Annual Administrative Reports of SECAD/SECADI. Author’s elaboration.

Graph 9 - ProYouth (Program 8034 + Actions 2A95 and 0926). 

The information obtained suggest that the problems referring to the systems for issuing grants in the ProYouth program appear to have been overcome, which allowed action 0A26 to reach 100% of spending of allocated funds in the first three years of Pluriannual Plan PPA 2012-2015. Meanwhile, action 2A95, aimed at training, production of materials and other support actions for municipalities and states, had problems with spending in the first years, varying from reasonable to low actual spending.


As Rodrigues and Abramowicz (2013) comment in their studies of the first Lula government (2003-2006), the limited participation of diversity policies in the MEC budget in that period indicated the marginal space given to the issues of equality and differences in educational policies. Despite growth in this participation in the MEC budget during the years of the Labor Party governments (reaching 4.74% in 2014), it was still far from being able to respond to the countless and complex structural demands encompassed by the agenda of diversities. We understand that budget participation cannot be considered in isolation as an indicator of investments in these policies: it is essential to consider the obstacles and conditions needed for effective spending of the resources allocated.

In this sense, what contributed to the irregular performance by SECAD/SECADI in spending allocated funds? Firstly, it is important to observe that the performance was not the same for all budgetary actions of the Secretariat - there were actions in which spending was more regular than others - and that actual spending by the Secretariat as a whole varied from reasonable to high, according to the TCU standards. We will examine six factors that should be considered in this analysis.

Time of existence

The first concerns time of existence, i.e., the fact that SECAD/SECADI is a recent institutional innovation and consequently many of its policies and actions - aimed at subjects who are found at the frontiers of guarantees of the human right to education - are still under formation, not only in terms of design, focus and scale, but also in terms of the bureaucratic and administrative systems and procedures that make them viable. The higher rates of spending of some actions of SECADI in the last Pluriannual Plan studied (2012-2015) may indicate that some of these procedures and mechanisms became more consolidated.

Administrative law

The dispute over laws, resolutions, edicts and other norms, of which the FNDE was one of the main interlocutors, can be considered one of SECAD/SECADI’s main fronts of action. This dispute was based on the search for solutions to the impasses and legal and political interdictions (institutional, budgetary, bureaucratic etc.) for their actions and for the provocation by changes and creative interpretations of the norms. This dispute questioned not only the bases of administrative law guiding the Brazilian State, but the need for changes in the governing infra-constitutional laws.

In this sense, for example, the legal debates about the possibility for greater or lesser participation by micro and small companies in the public bids, the so-called special bids governed by the General Law for Micro and Small Companies (complementary law n. 123/2006), are inserted as part of a search for alternatives that are counter to the logic imposed by the General Public Bid Law (law n. 8.666/1993).

Created as a response to the corruption scandals in the government of president Fernando Collor de Mello, (1991-1992), law n. 8.666 caused a hypertrophy of the mechanisms of bureaucratic control of Brazilian public administration without increasing the punishment for those involved in large scandals and without shaking the mistaken perception among much of the public that state corruption was aggravated by democratization (Abrucio, 2007).

The same can be said in relation to the Law for Fiscal Responsibility (LRF), complementary law n. 101/2000, which was also created to prevent corruption and generate primary budget surpluses, at a time of recentralization of macro-economic fiscal administration in the federal government after a decentralization of policies - and particularly responsibilities - to the municipalities, which gained strength in the 1980s (IPEA, 2010).

If from a republican perspective the imposition of certain standards and procedures for administration of budget resources is aimed at preventing corruption and guaranteeing zeal for public operations, the national government wound up creating obstacles to experimentation with new models of administration and social control. This protective attitude wound up preventing the municipalities from developing their own standards of public administration at a local level and becoming protagonists in state action. (IPEA, 2010, p. 26)

These laws had a strong impact on the implementation of social policies and, specifically, the policies of SECADI, placing on the agenda the urgency of creating a new administrative law compatible with a zeal for defending public administration and for strengthening the state capacity to offer effective responses to guarantee the human rights of the entire population in an extremely complex, diverse and unequal country.

In the years of the existence of SECAD/SECADI, public bids were often opened for the construction or restoration of schools under the modalities of rural, indigenous, quilombola or special education, but no company would respond to the bid to conduct the work due to their remote location, difficult conditions of access, small scale or other reasons that delayed execution for an undetermined time. This is only one of the examples that reveals the challenges of implementing public policies according to legal norms for public administration.

Adhesion of municipalities and States: selective induction

The third factor refers to the relation with the states and municipalities, based on their adhesion to programs and actions. Various agendas of SECAD/SECADI faced stiff resistance from municipalities and states. Various strategies were used by SECADI/SECADI, in articulation with the FNDE, to make the municipalities and states aware of the importance of these policies and to democratize information about how to access the available resources.

Nevertheless, the experience of SECAD demonstrated that the provision of financial resources, technical assistance and other information to the municipalities and states is a necessary pre-condition that must be intensified for the best development of these policies, though it is not sufficient to guarantee their concretization.

The experiences related to youth and adult, rural, indigenous and quilombola education - of which stand out PAR Indigenous and PAR Quilombola7 - indicate that there is something more that operates to hinder the implementation of these policies, which is “still” located in the lack of recognition of the subjects on diversity policies as subjects with rights. This lack of recognition is based on the institutional racism, homophobia and sexism, “entangled” in public administration (Carreira, 2015; Gomes, 2011; Junqueira, 2010). Addressing institutional racism in Brazilian public policies, Santos (2013, p. 122) identifies two ways that it operates:

1. Making inviable the structures with which the privileges are maintained for whiteness in a way that does not identify those responsible for the inequality between whites and blacks, which is always attributed, in the Brazilian case, to factors such as unequal education, merely economic questions and historic inheritance. But this does not occur if there is an understanding of how economic mechanisms, education, law, healthcare and institutions construct a history in which blacks are in a disadvantaged position. These aspects are simply considered as if they were spontaneously generated and no actors and agents existed and operated who did so. It is as if it was all natural and not due to the political action of human beings, and since it is natural it cannot be changed;

2. Denying its name, that is, showing itself as everything except what it really is. For this reason, we call it racism without racists or a racism that does not need to be made clear as such to exist, to the degree that the social relations operate to establish the hierarchies through the pact of whiteness.

Various actions and policies in the past decade sought to contribute to the transformation of this reality; but the challenge is complex, marked by contradictions and setbacks that provoke the necessary reflection about the inductive role of the federal government in relation to the implementation of these agendas. It is possible to affirm that the MEC exercised its inducive role in a distinct way for different policies, which we call here “selective induction”.

For certain macro-policies considered to be strategic, the induction was anchored mainly in the strong articulation between financing, technical assistance and outside evaluation, of which the Indicator of the Development of Basic Education (Índice de Desenvolvimento da Educação Básica - IDEB) and the Articulated Action Plan (Plano de Ação Articulada - PAR) are the main instruments for basic education. Adhesion to this evaluation is a condition for accessing resources fundamental to providing education in the municipalities and states, mainly those with low tax revenue.

There is rich academic production - which will not be the object of this article - that critically examines the limits of this model, particularly, the use of large-scale evaluations to induce a certain notion of educational quality in an educational system and the effects of these evaluations on schools and educational networks. These criticisms have revealed that the use of these evaluations has been stimulating a restricted and decontextualized notion of quality; a narrowing of school curriculums; a strengthening of a culture of evaluation conceived as an instrument for classification and selection of students; the holding of educational professionals and or schools to be responsible for results; and stimulating competition between schools and school systems, understood as a factor that improves educational quality (Sousa, 2014).

In the case of the agendas of SECAD/SECADI, the inducement exercised by the MEC took place through the new norms developed by the National Educational Council, the creation of plans and policies designed to accelerate the institutionalization of these agendas, the continuing education of teachers, the stimulus to the creation of forums for participation with the subjects involved in the agendas and financing, above all for Youth and Adult Education, and indigenous, special, rural and quilombola education. In this second type of inducement, the raising of awareness, persuasion and social pressure have very strong influence on whether the policy is made viable and there is adhesion by municipalities and states. In most cases, there are no indicators or precise goals, and the performance in relation to them does not impact the public image and the relationship of municipalities and states with the MEC.

The conviviality of these two types of inducement of educational policy by the MEC weakens the place of the agendas of diversity and socio-environmental sustainability, often reducing them to an ethical question or to holding organized civil society responsible for “applying political pressure” so that the policies and actions would be carried out.

The reduced staff at SECADI

The fourth factor is related to the decreasing and growing fragility of the staff of SECAD/SECADI (as presented in Table 2) and thus its ability to operate the complex and polemical diversity policies. These policies were marked: by highly political disagreements and by various resistances within the MEC, from state and municipal educational systems and in society in general; by intense interlocution with social movements not only in the formulation, but also in the implementation of these policies; by countless intersectoral arrangements and dynamics; by a continuing process of arrival of new forms of differences that require policies; and by territorialized and intersectional approaches that are still little developed.

How is it possible to account for the magnitude of this challenge with an increasingly smaller staff, part of which has precarious and temporary ties to the Secretariat, and composed of career civil servants with low professional valorization?

One of the responses identified in the interviews conducted with various people who work at or are related to SECAD/SECADI is that the fact that a large portion of the team consisted of former militants in social and educational movements had a strong influence on the conquests of SECAD/SECADI in the past decade. Based on this tie, a creative effort was mobilized to overcome the apparent limits of the political context, the institutional history of the MEC and the current educational policy. This effort was more effective when assisted by career civil servants committed to these transformations in the policies.

It is important to observe that the presence of militant professionals, who come from social movements and universities, varied over the years, and was vulnerable to rotations due to changes in political dynamics (with changes in staff, and posts not always occupied by people qualified for their functions) or to the personal limits placed on their dedication, determined by new professional perspectives, changes in their life cycles or even exhaustion, which can be somatized in problems of physical and mental health.

Table 2 - Active personnel at MEC and at SECAD/SECADI. 

2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
MEC 1.613 1.806 2.052 1.962 1.713 1.755 1.944 1.969 1.798 1.705 1.278
SECAD/ SECADI 217 246 246 77 146 135 122 167 103 80 80

Note: The calculation for personnel includes: effective civil servents (at MEC and other federal agencies), employees with temporary federal contracts, and those without tie to public administration and consultants who served at SECAD/SECADI. Source: Administrative Reports of SECAD/SECADI (2004-2013), Administrative Reports of MEC (2014) and information request under Law of Access to Information (LAI) on the data for the year 2007, not available in the administrative report for the year. Author’s elaboration.

Nevertheless, from the perspective of the institutionalization of these public policies, it is essential to have a policy to professionalize, broaden and respect the value of the federal civil servants who administer the policies, something considered a weak point in the governments of both the Brazilian Social Democratic Party (Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira - PSDB) of president Cardoso and the Workers Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores - PT), particularly in the MEC (Abrucio, 2010; IPEA, 2010). Table 3 shows the efforts to maintain the federal government labor force, which is far from the level of 1988.

Table 3 - Change in number of active civil servents in the federal government. 

1988 1990 1992 1994 1996 1998 2000 2002 2004 2006 2008 2009 2012
705.5 628.3 629.8 583 554.7 513.7 486.9 485.7 499.1 528.1 539.2 544.6 576.1

Source: Boletim Estatístico de Pessoal SRH/MPOG, n. 161, set. 2009 (posição 31 de agosto), table 2.24 and Report of the Court of Auditors of the Union on the Public Servants Inspection System (TC 025.175/2014-9), graphic 14. Author’s elaboration.

While it is true that education was the field of highest investment in hiring workers by the federal government during the Worker’s Party government, due to the policy of expansion at federal universities and the federal network for professional and technical education, as indicated in a publication of IPEA (Cunha, Medeiros and Aquino, 2010) and revealed in Graph 10, this was not accompanied by a policy of expansion, qualification and valuation of the professionals who work in the MEC, who do not even have a career plan as do other Ministries.

Source: Boletim Estatístico de Pessoal da SEGEP/MPOG, n. 219, jul. 2014, p. 69. Author’s elaboration.

Graph 10 - Federal Ministries with the highest number of active employees in 2013. 

This clearly demonstrates that the policy for expansion of the federal government in education was aimed nearly exclusively at schools themselves and not the administrative branches, generating a growing gap with the capacity for public administration of a complex set of educational policies and programs.

In the specific case of SECADI, for many years the need for specialized staff was met by hiring temporary consultants from international agencies - with contracts renewed until their legal limit. Nevertheless, the precarious ties involved and questioned by federal government control agencies, in particular the General Federal Controller (Controladoria Geral da União - CGU) and the TCU, led to an abrupt decrease in these professionals, many of whom detained a technical and political memory of the actions and programs of the secretariat.

The internal disarticulation of MEC

Another factor that influenced problems of execution went beyond SECADI and is related to the organizational challenges of the MEC itself, particularly its lack of procedures that favor better articulation between the Secretariats and entities associated to the Ministry, to allow developing a political project that is more refined and regularly revised.

For a unit such as SECAD, which was created to meet the challenge of transversally addressing difficult agendas, the institutional culture of disarticulation within the ministry - with secretariats operating as small ministries - was one of the main obstacles. This reality can be seen in what Ana Paula Paes de Paula (2005) identifies to be a conviviality in the Labor Party government of various conflicting perspectives about public administration, due to the lack of a global project for reform of the state. There was no global project that articulates the economic-financial, institutional-administrative and socio-political dimensions to support the effective democratization of public administration and the political-institutional reinvention present in the programs of the PT government.

According to Paes de Paula, based on the experiences of the PT in municipal administrations in the 1990s, the Popular Democratic Alliance entered the federal government with a large accumulation of sociopolitical experience - highlighted by the participatory budget process, administrative councils and thematic forums - but with incipient proposals for the two other dimensions of public administration: the economic-financial and the administrative institutional one, which made more complex the task of political-institutional reinvention raised in the government program.

Due to this situation, it is possible to understand the existence of a permanent tension within the MEC, which is often characterized as a split between policy and administration. This tension generated a strange conviviality between: insulated bureaucracies and participatory processes; intersectoral arrangements and those in network with policies, programs, and actions that are isolated in one secretariat with poor articulation between units of the ministry; managerial, economistic practices stemming from the state reform conducted by the FHC government (1998) and those that originated in social movements and civil society organizations, at public universities and even others linked to the historic and persistent authoritarian patrimonialism of the Brazilian State.

This institutional culture does not contribute to overcoming a frontier that still exists between the so called “hard policies” of the MEC, the universal macropolicies, and the policies that address the relationship between equality and differences and the challenges of socio-environmental sustainability. This frontier at times appears to be more flexible, more permeable and marked by strong discursive adhesion to the importance of these policies. But it has proved to have been renewed and maintained in such a way that does not allow a more integral and effective approach to the challenges, and thus effectively guaranteeing the human right to education for all. One of the examples of this situation, in 2014, was the construction of the proposal by the MEC to regulate the National Common Curricular Base, foreseen in the new National Education Plan and coordinated by the SEB.

The adverse political context: strengthening of ultraconservative groups

The sixth and final factor that we highlight is the growing influence on the Brazilian political scene of political groups opposed to the human rights agendas. This ultraconservative phenomenon is also present in other countries of the Americas and Europe and is understood to be a reaction to democratic advances in recent decades. This phenomenon began with local and isolated actions and became transnational, organized by lobbies, parties and ultraconservative social movements who internationally share strategies, discourses and symbols and denounce equality as an “antinatural aberration” (Cornejo-Valle and Pichardo, 2017).

In Brazil, these groups can be found operating in daily activities at schools and in educational administrations of municipalities, states and the MEC, among other spaces, to oppose the execution of various policies and actions undertaken by SECADI, which is considered the agency that concentrates various agendas that challenge the Brazilian status quo: from racism to concentration of land ownership; from LGBTphobia and sexism to consumerism and the predatory exploitation of nature; among many other conflicts, inequalities and violences. These agendas also function as bargaining chips in the complex political game of governability of the country.

The growth of the political strength of ultraconservative groups in Brazilian society, including fundamentalist religious groups, groups of large landowners and the Nonpartisan School Movement (Escola sem Partido), have led to setbacks in recent years in SECADI’s structural agendas, to self-censorship and often to action characterized by what we can call “strategic political invisibility”. This invisibility is a characteristic of times of resistance, of political contexts adverse to human rights. Aware of the growing fragility in the ability to confront certain disputes, it is marked by actions of low public visibility that seek to maintain these agendas alive by not attracting attention from opposing political groups.


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*This article was recommended for publication in Revista Brasileira de Educação (RBE) by the Scientific Committee of the 38th Reunião Nacional da Associação Nacional de Pós-Graduação e Pesquisa em Educação (ANPEd) (2017) and by the RBE Editorial Board.

1To allow comparison, the annual amounts were corrected by the National Consumer Price Index (Índice Nacional de Preços ao Consumidor - INPC) using the Citizen’s Calculator offered by Brazil’s Central Bank, using December 2014 as a reference month.

2In 2011 SECAD incorporated the SEE, also from the MEC, and the name was changed to the Secretariat of Continuing Education, Literacy, Diversity and Inclusion (SECADI).

3According to federal decree n. 4.887/2003, quilombolas are ethnic-racial groups that identify themselves as such and who have a strong historic relationship with certain territories and with the black ancestry related to resistance to colonial slavery and the struggle against the oppression suffered throughout history. There are more than three Thousand recognized quilombola communities in Brazil.

4According to an administrative report from SEE, in 2010, the last year of its existence, this secretariat executed nearly R$61 million, or approximately 6.2% of the amount spent by SECAD and 0.08% of MEC spending for that year.

5A verticalization approach focuses more on an intensification of the actions of each specific agenda than on the inter-relation between the various agendas that treat the relationship between difference and inequalities in educational policies concerning so-called diversity.

6Realized by the Palmares Cultural Foundation of the MEC, the certification is the first step for a community to be able to benefit from public policies for quilombolas, including the construction of schools, access to educational programs and projects to develop didactic materials. The certification creates the base to begin the process of gaining title to lands.

7In April 2007 then Minister of Education Fernando Haddad launched the PDE, which was promoted as part of the positive agenda that marked the beginning of the second mandate of president Lula. The PDE conditioned technical and financial support from the MEC to the signing, by the states, municipalities and the federal capital of the Plan of Goals from the Everyone for Education Commitment. After adhesion, the states and municipalities would develop PAR with support from a network of consultants contracted by the ministry. The PAR is an educational planning tool for a period of four years. The Indigenous PAR and the Quilombola PAR were developed based on the proposal from SECAD that sought to stimulate, raise awareness and support the municipalities and states with indigenous populations and quilombolas to access federal resources aimed at these populations. Fernando Haddad was executive secretary of the MEC in the management of Tarso Genro, taking over as Minister of Education in July 2005. Professor of political science at the Universidade de São Paulo (USP), Haddad holds a bachelor's degree in law, a master's degree in economics and a doctorate in philosophy.

Received: May 11, 2018; Accepted: October 15, 2018

Denise Carreira has a doctorate in education from the Universidade de São Paulo (USP). Institutional Coordinator of the non-governmental organization Ação Educativa. E-mail:

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