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Educação e Pesquisa

Print version ISSN 1517-9702On-line version ISSN 1678-4634

Educ. Pesqui. vol.45  São Paulo  2019  Epub May 09, 2019 


The pedagogy course and the universitarization of teaching in Brazil: from the disputes over teachers’ education to its deprofessionalisation *

Flavia Medeiros Sarti1

1 - Universidade Estadual Paulista Júlio de Mesquita Filho (Unesp), Rio Claro, SP; Brazil . Contact:


This article focuses on the Brazilian process of raising the formation of teachers working at the first years of basic education to the level of higher education, problematizing their qualification as a classic case of universitarization and proposing a way of characterizing it that we deem to be more precise and proficuous for the debate about the relations between the formation and professionalisation of those teachers. Based on literature review, it explores the cultural dimension and the symbolic struggles mobilized in that process, so as to characterize it as a sui generis case of universitarization, largely conducted by non-university institutions, and implemented through an atypical movement of institutional transfer – to the Pedagogy course –, which did not take into account the pre-existing formative structures and did not absorb them, as is more commonly the case in processes of universitarization. The article concludes that such universitarization was marked by processes of autonomization and of deprofessionalisation of teachers’ education, particularly due to the sociocultural effacement imposed to the teaching profession. Contrary to the expectations that legitimized it in the educational field, such universitarization conducted through institutional transfer is shown to be incompatible with the objectives of professionalisation of the teaching profession, which prescribe, among other factors, the increase of the control exerted by teachers over the processes concerning their work, among which is included the task of educating the future generations of teachers.

Key words: Universitarization; Teacher professionalisation; Field of teacher education; Culture of the teaching profession


Este artigo focaliza o processo brasileiro de elevação ao nível superior da formação dos professores que atuam nos anos iniciais da educação básica, problematizando sua qualificação como um caso clássico de universitarização, e propondo uma maneira de o caracterizar que, considera-se, seja mais precisa e prolífica para o debate sobre as relações entre a formação e a profissionalização desses professores. Fundamentando-se em revisão de literatura, explora a dimensão cultural e as lutas simbólicas mobilizadas em tal processo, de modo a caracterizá-lo como um caso sui generis de universitarização, levado a efeito em grande parte por instituições não universitárias e implementado por meio de um movimento atípico de transferência institucional – para o curso de pedagogia –, que não considerou as estruturas formativas pré-existentes e não as absorveu, como ocorre mais comumente nos processos de universitarização. Conclui que essa universitarização foi marcada por processos de autonomização e de desprofissionalização da formação docente, sobretudo devido ao apagamento sociocultural imposto ao magistério. Contrariando as expectativas que a legitimaram no campo educacional, essa universitarização realizada por transferência institucional mostra-se incompatível com os propósitos de profissionalização do magistério, o qual prevê, entre outros fatores, o aumento do controle que os professores exercem sobre os processos concernentes ao trabalho que realizam, entre os quais se encontra a tarefa de formar as próximas gerações docentes.

Palavras-Chave: Universitarização; Profissionalização docente; Campo da formação docente; Cultura do magistério

Prescribed by Brazil’s Law of Guidelines and Bases of National Education (LDB 9394/96), the raising of the level of teacher training to that of higher education has been discussed in the Brazilian educational literature as a process of universitarization ( MAUÉS, 2003 ; SARTI, 2005 ; BELLO, 2008 ; among others). This article, which is grounded in a literature review, returns to the case of the training of teachers working in the first years of basic education, with the aim of bringing up certain specificities present in their passage to higher education. Considering this issue in its cultural dimension ( CERTEAU, 1994 ), and aware of the symbolic struggles it mobilizes ( BOURDIEU, 2005 ), the text intends to problematize its qualification as a classic process of universitarization – which includes transformations through either absorption or institutional expansion ( BOURDONCLE, 2007 ) 2 –, as well as to propose a manner of characterizing it that is more precise and, hopefully, more fruitful for the debate about the relations between training and professionalisation of these teachers.

It should be noted from the outset that teacher education has been raised to the level of higher education in Brazil through distinct processes with regard to the different segments of basic education. For teachers that work in the final years of fundamental education and in secondary education (previously gathered under the denomination of secondary education), no professional formation was required until 1931 when, following the Francisco Campos Reform, legislation began to require pedagogical complementation for the exercise of the teaching profession. This training was initially offered by the Institutes of Education created in the Federal District and in São Paulo under the New School ideals which, after a short period of time, were elevated to higher education and incorporated into the recently created universities (University of São Paulo in 1934, and University of the Federal District in 1935). Through this process of outsourcing of the Institutes of Education by the universities, the formation of secondary education teachers was precociously universitarized in the country. The formative model thus established was that of the cultivated man ( BOURDONCLE, 1990 ), strongly marked by an academic perspective that implied the centrality of the “cultural-cognitive contents, relegating the pedagogic-didactic aspect to an appendix of minor importance” ( SAVIANI, 2009 , p. 147).

On the other hand, and notwithstanding the purposes of the reformers of that period of universitarizing the formation of teachers at all levels of education (as attested by the 1932 Manifesto of the Pioneers of New Education), teachers that worked in the first years of the segment nowadays denominated basic education continued to be formed at the level of secondary education until 1990. It was only with the above-mentioned LBD, promulgated in 1996, that legislation began to require higher education for those teachers as well. And, in accordance to that Act, the last 20 years have indeed been marked by a movement of raising of teachers’ training to higher education, which in turn has become a strong impulse for the expansion of the higher education system throughout the country (especially regarding private institutions, universities or otherwise) and for the emergence of a rather profitable formation market ( SOUZA; SARTI, 2014 ). Based on data made public by the 2016 School Census conducted by the National Institute of Pedagogic Research (Inep), we can say that in the last decades Brazil has advanced significantly towards the goal of elevating the level of certification of its teachers. Data reveal that the percentage of Brazilian teachers with higher education has moved from 48.6% in 1997 to 77.5% in 2016. But among the 22.5% of teachers still lacking a higher education certificate, the majority work in early childhood education and/or in the first years of fundamental education.

The teachers’ move towards higher education has been taking place through processes marked by significant imprecisions, among which the fact that the minimum education requirement is still that of secondary education. Imprecisions also affect the locus of the formation to be offered. The original text of the 62 nd Article of LBD, which deals with the formation of all basic education teachers, indicated that higher education for teachers should be offered as a full undergraduate course, a Licentiateship course, at universities or institutes of higher education 3 . The Act did not specify the formation to be offered by universities to teachers working in the first years of fundamental education and early childhood education but indicated in its 63rd Article that in the Institutes of Higher Education such education would be carried out within the Higher Normal Course.

The legal imprecision created therefore a duplicity in the higher education of these teachers. Although the Act indicated the creation of a new formative space, the Higher Normal Course, it opened the possibility that teachers would continue to be formed in pedagogic courses which since the 1980s have been adapting to take on this task in the wake of a strong call for the elevation of the teachers formation throughout the country to higher education ( SCHEIBE; AGUIAR, 1999 ). Although defining in its 64th Article the formative attributions of this course (the formation of education professionals for basic education management, planning, inspection, supervision and guidance), the Act did not remove its ability to continue forming teachers for the initial years of education. On the other hand, according to Scheibe and Aguiar (1999 , p. 230), the duplicity created by the legislation pointed to an “emptying of the Pedagogy course”, with the loss of its exclusive status at the licentiateship (acquired in 1969), with the weakening of the objective of considering teaching as the basis for the identity of the pedagogue, and with the return to its initial mission of forming BAs specialists in education. This scenario outlined for the pedagogy course and for the formation of teachers for the initial years of education clashed against the movements that have been asserting themselves in the educational field at the time, in search of a more organic view of teacher education ( SCHEIBE; AGUIAR, 1999 ) that would go beyond the dichotomies historically present in the formation of teachers at the different levels through its organization around the common national basis focused on the formation of the educator and anchored in teaching.

Such state of affairs caused to emerge important disputes of a symbolic nature within the educational field. For certain groups, the valuation of education professionals predicted by the 206th Article of the 1988 Federal Constitution and reaffirmed in the 3 rd and 67 th Articles of the 1996 LDB, required, in what concerned their education, its complete universitarization. The argument for making the pedagogy course the responsible for the education of teachers of the initial years meant at that moment, for some, the possibility of tying it to university education, socially more valued ( BRZEZINSKI, 1996 ; SCHEIBE; AGUIAR, 1999 ; FREITAS, 1999 ). Four such groups, the university, through its pedagogy courses, would be the instance that would allow teachers of the first years an education committed to higher aspirations – from the theoretical, ethical and aesthetic points of view – and, therefore, compatible with the social role of prominent political importance then attributed to them: that of educators ( SANTOS, 1991 ). For other groups, however, the formation of teachers required the creation of a (new) space specifically focused “on the teacher professionality and on the construction of teacher identity” ( LIBÂNEO; PIMENTA, 1999 , p. 265), either within the University or in other higher education spaces.

The locus of the formation of these teachers was, therefore, to be the object of bitter disputes within the educational field staged by groups linked to higher education. On one side, there were the proponents of the creation of the Higher Normal Courses (or order similar formative spaces), seen as the professionally most interesting way to elevate teacher education to higher level. The creation of these courses could induce a process of institutional expansion, if the Institutes of Higher Education predicted by the LDB established university links. And, on the other side, there were groups that supported the transfer of the formation of teachers of the initial years to the pedagogy course, of university tradition, and therefore, from this point of view – or so they vouched –, capable of bringing more value to this formation.

In the years that followed the promulgation of the LDB, the path to the creation of new courses geared towards the initial formation of these teachers did not assert itself symbolically in the field, representing for some groups an option of little legitimacy that offered an abridged, low-cost formation through short duration courses ( SAVIANI, 2009 ) and which, as predicted in the legislation, separated the professional formation from university education ( KISHIMOTO, 1999 ). From this struggle resulted the predominance of the pedagogy course in the formation of teachers for early childhood education and the initial years of fundamental education, such as observed in the most recent School Census of Basic Education (INEP, 2017). In 2006 the National Curriculum Guidelines for the pedagogy course were established, defining it as a licentiateship focused on the

[…] formation of teachers to conduct teaching functions at Early Childhood Education and at the first years of Fundamental Education, in the Secondary Education courses, under the Normal modality, Professional Education in the area of services and school support and in other areas in which pedagogical knowledge is deemed necessary. ( BRASIL, 2006 , 2 nd Art., p. 1).

However, contrary to what was expected, this path did not result in the effective universitarization of the formation of these teachers, since a significant part of the pedagogy courses were offered by non-university institutions. According to data presented by Inep (2017), 48% out of the 1548 presence pedagogy courses in the country are offered by isolated schools (while 41.9% are being offered by universities and 8.6% by university centers). Thus, the efforts to elevate the level of certificates of these teachers have not produced a universitarization stricto sensu ( BOURDONCLE, 2007 , p. 138). It is more the case of a rather incomplete process from the structural point of view. But, notwithstanding this merely partial presence of universities in the formation produced, one can observe the intense efforts of its agents in the development and circulation of academic-educational knowledges that feed the formative market organized around the teachers ( SOUZA; SARTI, 2014 ; VILARONGA; SARTI, 2012 ). It seems possible to say that we are faced with a universitarization that is at the same time incomplete and indirect. Paradoxically, in many cases this peculiar situation is producing a secondary-school style of formation ( SARTI; BUENO, 2007 ) due to the presence of formative practices typical of secondary education, as well as to the low symbolic value that such formation has in the social hierarchy.

At any rate, for the purposes of the discussion proposed here it is important to highlight that none of the paths outlined for the raising of the level of the education of teachers of the first years – either pedagogy courses or higher normal and similar courses – proposed to absorb the formation directed at them at that point, at secondary education level, and that continued to exist in parallel, according to the 62 nd Article of the LDB4. Some doubt about the continuity of that formation was originated by the 87 th Article of the above-mentioned Act which, as a transitory disposition, pointed to a path of complete elevation of teacher education to higher education within a period of 10 years, which would imply, or so it was presumed, extinguishing completely the previous formative path (a fact that has not materialized to this day).

In this way, the project of elevating the formation of teachers of the first years to higher education was conducted away from the institutions that traditionally carried out such formation: the Teaching-Specific Capacitation (HEM), socially undervalued ( TANURI, 2000 , p. 82) for carrying the historical mark of being a technical course targeted at the less favored social classes ( CAVALCANTE, 1994 ), comprising a picture of “loss of character of the normal model of formation” ( SAVIANI, 2005 , p. 18); and the Specialized Centers for the Formation and Improvement of Teaching (CEFAM), a project to revitalize the Normal School that had a rather restrict and uneven effect in the various states due to the lack of financial resources ( CAVALCANTE, 1994 ), despite the good quality of its results ( SAVIANI, 2009 , p. 147).

Beyond the differences recognized between these two institutions, both represented, albeit under different angles, the formative model traditionally present in the education of teachers of the first years ( BUENO, 1996 ; ROLIM, 1999 ; SARTI, 2000 ). A formation characterized by the emphasis on didactic-pedagogical aspects ( SAVIANI, 2009 ), as well as by the old craft-based ( LANG,1996 ) and charismatic model ( BOURDONCLE,1990 ) – based on personal relations, emphasizing the direct experiences of the subjects in lieu of conceptual reflection.

The traditional formative model was losing relevance against the demands for the formation of the educator, which pointed to knowledges related to a “globalizing, political view of the relations between education and society” ( LIBÂNEO; PIMENTA, 1999 , p. 251), in line with certain social presentations about the teaching profession which, as said before, highlighted its political dimension ( SANTOS, 1991 ). To such end, according to Marafelli, Rodrigues and Brandão (2017, p. 987), the “myth of the superiority of education” created in the 1950s and 1960s was resurrected, along with its rhetoric around the teaching profession as a superior occupation, bigger and set apart from the other professions, a fact that, as proposed by those same researchers, would have contributed significantly to its loss of professional character and for the ambiguity of the formation offered to teachers of the first years (already marked by premises related to the feminine “vocation”), shifting attention from its professional character. According to Libâneo and Pimenta (1999 , p. 251), “this tendency resulted in various places in the explicit negation of the very field of studies of pedagogy (and consequently of didactics)”, and, therefore, of the didactic-pedagogical model of formation ( SAVIANI, 2009 ) characteristic of the normal modality.

On a different front, a rather distinct discursive strand gained legitimacy at that time within the competitive space for the formation of teachers, stating the importance of professional intelligence for the exercise of the teaching profession and of a reflective-practical teaching ( SCHÖN, 1997 ) within teacher education as a means to better prepare teachers for their work at schools. According to this perspective, it would be up to the formation of teachers to offer more reflective and critical approximations to the pedagogical practice, so as to foster the development of specific competencies (TARDIF; LESSARD; LAHAYE, 1991). It was a formation based on the importance of the practicum ( ZEICHNER, 1993 ; GARRIDO; CARVALHO, 1999 ), and that would establish “the practice as an integrating element of the whole path of formation, constituting an epistemological principle of formation” ( LIBÂNEO; PIMENTA, 1999 , p. 266). Such perspective, unlike the one previously mentioned, highlighted the didactic-pedagogical aspects of formation – also present in the formative work developed by the HEMs and by CEFAM –, recognizing them as knowledges that integrated a field of specific knowledges that constituted the teaching profession and that articulated to theoretical and critical knowledges about reality ( LIBÂNEO; PIMENTA, 1999 ). At the same time, however, it considered the conception of formation related to the normal modality as outdated ( LIBÂNEO; PIMENTA, 1999 ), anchored as it was in the charismatic model ( BOURDONCLE, 1990 ) and in its emphasis on exemplary work attitudes and in craft-like experiences ( LANG, 1996 ), and not on a reflective attitude towards practice.

The scenario that was then taking shape around the issue of teacher education was therefore characterized by the coexistence of two competing tendencies which, nevertheless, converged onto at least two aspects: in the affirmation of issues of an epistemological order for teacher education, and in denying under various guises the current formative model for the formation of teachers of the initial years. In this way, none of the tendencies saw as advantageous (with regard to the symbolic and value uses) to absorb the existing formative structure associated to the normal model.

The Brazilian process of elevating the formation of teachers to higher education departed thus from a more conventional model of universitarization which, according to Bourdoncle (2007 , 2009 ), proposes that the University should absorb the knowledges of a professional segment, as well as the space of transmission of these knowledges and the educators that transmit them. In such a process, as explained by Bourdoncle (2009) , the original Institutes of Education tend to be profoundly transformed by the university structures. The professional knowledges in this case tend to be produced, accumulated and transmitted according to the specific rules of universities, which confer a significant space for research activities. And educators find themselves confronted with a new dominating statute, that of academic researchers, for which a doctorate is required. On the part of the university, the enterprise of absorbing the pre-existing formation – with its culture, agents and demands – tends to result in significant tensions and changes. In the Brazilian case, however, the existing formation would not be absorbed, it would not suffer or impose transformations, given that it would be replaced by a different formative structure (university-based or otherwise, pre-existing or to be created). It was, therefore, a process that displayed important peculiarities regarding the institutional movement involved, and that brought considerable changes, from the economic point of view ( BOURDIEU, 2005 ) to the disputes around the formation of teachers in the country.

Variations in exchange rates and new configurations of the competition space for the formation of teachers in Brazil

The formative model associated to the normal modality, which was being devalued within the Brazilian educational field at that moment, was historically configured through special relations established between State authorities and the teaching community ( SARTI, 2012 ). In its inception, this model was characterized by a “social conservatism” ( LANG, 1996 , p. 9), since teachers acted in the name of the State to disseminate alongside school knowledges the moral qualities related to certain ways of acting, thinking and feeling ( TANURI, 2000 ). With the affirmation of that model, the presence of primary teachers among the educators in Normal Schools became ever more common. They took on an increasing preeminence in establishing the good pedagogical practices that should be learned by the future teachers in order to be put in practice (and therefore perpetuated) in their future teaching actions. Such craft-based formative model ( LANG, 1996 ) played an important role in demarcating the teaching profession as a specific office that went beyond its vocational tradition and brought to teachers the confidence, the recognition and the delegation of authority by the State ( TARDIF, 2013 ).

Within that model anchored in practice and in imitation, pedagogy was “understood as the ‘art of teaching’ and the method could not be separated in practice from the arts of the doing ” ( CARVALHO, 2000 , p. 113, emphasis in the original), with the teaching expertise incarnated by teachers recognized as exemplary. The learning by teachers was, therefore, conducted through observation, through the establishment of intergenerational relationships, and took place in the Model School, next to the Normal School. Marta Carvalho (2000) explains that such model of formation was structured under the primacy of visibility, which required understanding exemplary practices with the comprehension of the principles that guided them, in order to apply them creatively. It was a time when teaching was perceived as a practical art, in the expression of Israel Scheffler (1974) , and formation took on an intrareferenced character ( BOURDONCLE, 2000 ) related to an occupation that was carried out in loco and by the formation agents themselves.

Drawing from that formative model, the teaching profession and its culture assumed its own place in the formation of teachers. According to the perspective proposed by Michel de Certeau (1994) , it is from a place circumscribed as his own that subjects – of will and power – conduct the management (strategic, therefore) of their relations to a distinct exteriority to, then, capitalize on earnings, prepare expansions and ensure their independence in the face of circumstances.

However, at the transition between the 19th to the 20th century, the craft-based model of primary teacher formation suffered a first blow with the emergence of the scientific pedagogy, according to which scientifically sanctioned knowledges began to appear as the foundations for the teaching practice, whilst processes of autonomization of the teaching methods were taking place ( CARVALHO, 2000 ). Under the new emerging perspective, learning to teach was no longer equivalent to the learning of teaching models, and began to be associated to the learning of knowledges to be applied in the situations of teaching. This new pedagogy, no longer seen as an art, but rather as applied science, ceased to be a subject concerning the primary teachers themselves, since the more legitimate knowledges related to teaching were to be produced externally to the teaching profession. The Model school became the School of Application; and the teacher, formerly a practitioner of the art of teaching, would experience a gradual increase of the technical dimension of his/her work, now reduced to an instrumental level.

According to the Organic Law of Normal Education ( BRASIL, 1946 ), higher education was to be required of teachers of the Normal School. The formation of primary teachers was then transferred to pedagogues (education experts) and to secondary education teachers. The primary teachers themselves, educated in the Normal School, would no longer be the educators of the new generations that would succeed them in the teaching profession. Thus, they lost a position of their own ( CERTEAU, 1994 ) formerly achieved in this formation, and would then appear as passive references for the work of other agents who, at that moment, possessed a capital that was valued in the field, under the aegis of the scientific pedagogy. They faced, therefore, a situation of symbolic weakening of their knowledges and practices.

Nevertheless, within that same context of the emergence of scientific pedagogy, the game for teacher education continued to be played by agents associated to school education. Agents who, armed with capitals collected thanks to their incursion into higher education, were strengthened – as experts – to assume their own place within that game. Although being experts formed under the model of the cultivated man ( BOURDONCLE, 1990 ), pedagogues (many of them former primary teachers) and teachers of secondary education were, from the occupational point of view, associated to the school space and culture, as well as to the teaching occupation and profession. Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, those agents took their place in the formation of primary teachers, insuring its intrareferenced character ( BOURDONCLE, 2007 ).

The position of these teachers within the field became, however, more and more vulnerable with the “loss of character of the normal school” ( SAVIANI, 2005 ) effected by the policies implemented during the military regime, which culminated with the creation of the Teaching Specific Capacitation (HEM) in 1971. The teachers that worked in the formation of primary teachers faced then a steady and rather significant weakening of their position in the field, with the devaluation of their space of action – reduced to “one capacitation among many others” ( SAVIANI, 2005 , p. 5) – and with the precarization of their material conditions for work and formation ( CENAFOR, 1986 ).

This situation, marked by the loss of character of the normal formative model and by the loss of value of the capital accumulated by the more traditional agents in the field, favored the emergence in the late 1980s of new configurations for the disputes around the formation of Brazilian teachers working in the first years. It was then that, as mentioned above, new agents – associated to higher education and to the scientific-academic community – began to be more actively involved in such disputes and to employ their capitals to achieve more central positions in the game. And the discourses that acquired legitimacy at the time, although opposing each other in many aspects, coincided in at least one point: the delegitimization of the existing formative model.

The Brazilian game for the education of primary teachers would then take on new configurations. From a place proper to the teaching profession, it would move towards a different one ( CERTEAU, 1994 , p. 46). The other one, in this case, was the scientific-educational community which, according to Nóvoa (1999) , experienced during that period a strong international development of its sphere of influence.

The debate circumscribing the formation of these teachers in Brazil as something proper of the scientific-educational community was, as mentioned above, a vigorous one. For certain groups, the University should be the locus of the teacher education proper which could thereby be raised to the model of the cultivated man ( BOURDONCLE, 1990 ), characterized by an academic perspective that would imply a centrality of cognitive-cultural contents to the detriment of the didactic-pedagogical aspects prioritized in the previous model. For other groups associated to the same community, teacher education should not necessarily take place within the university, as long as it was supported by scientific-academic knowledges about teaching, about learning and other aspects that would produce an approximation of the teaching practice and routine to more sophisticated levels from an epistemological point of view.

A new configuration therefore emerged in the Brazilian space for teacher education in which universities, research institutes and other agents associated to the academic space and to higher education formed closer ties to the State authorities regarding the formation of teachers for the first years5. In view of the negation of the former model of teacher education, in which the teaching profession had its own place, the education experts acquired “the monopoly of authority ( BOURDIEU, 2003 ) and of competence to establish what teachers should know, how they should act professionally, where, how and by whom they should be formed” ( SARTI, 2012 , p. 332).

Because of that, and taking on an extrareferenced character – dealing with an occupation that is carried out and governed outside the formative space ( BOURDONCLE, 2007 ) –, but lacking a proper place for teachers of basic education, the formation of teachers for the first years seemed to have experienced its autonomization6, drifting away from the culture of the teaching profession and occupation. From the institutional point of view, basic teaching now occupied a marginal position in this process, as a passive reference for the other competing agents. Its existence continued to justify the disputes in question ( SARTI, 2012 ), without relying on symbolic capital (in the form of a systematized corpus of knowledges associated to teaching and the teacher education) that would allow the emergence, from within, of a group capable of carving for itself a place inside that new configuration of the competition space for the formation of teachers. It is to be supposed that from that moment on Brazilian teachers working in the first years of education no longer had a proper place in the formation of the new generations of teachers, and moved to a no-place ( CERTEAU, 1994 , p. 100) devoid of power, from which they could only “play in the terrain imposed to them such as it is organized by the law of an alien force”. All that was left to them was the place of the dead ( NÓVOA, 1999 ), from which they now acted as mere consumers of a formation produced outside their occupational group ( SARTI, 2012 ). Without a proper place in this formation, teachers experienced the effacement of the teaching occupation and its culture within this game. Their symbolic capitals, conquered in previous disputes in which they played a part, were now vanishing, losing value, becoming insignificancies. Such sociocultural effacement suffered by the teaching profession brought important impacts on the formative structure to be developed for teachers that worked in the first years of basic education. That is what is discussed next.

Universitarization by institutional transfer, autonomization and deprofessionalisation of teacher education

In view of what was argued above, we can consider that the Brazilian movement to raise the formation of primary and early childhood education teachers to higher education resulted in a sui generis universitarization conducted to a large extent by non-university institutions and implemented through an atypical process of institutional transfer ( déplacement , according to BUTLEN, 2006) that did not consider the pre-existing formative structures and did not absorb them, as is more commonly the case in universitarization processes, in fact orienting itself towards an effacement of the presence of the teaching profession and its culture within this space. This process of sociocultural effacement has been observed, for example, in the curricula of many pedagogy courses, which pointed to a “formation of a more abstract character and little integrated into the concrete context in which the teacher-professional will work” ( GATTI; NUNES, 2009 , p. 55), with the “absence of relationships with knowledges coming from the world of teaching practice and basic education” ( GATTI, 2012 , p. 158).

Nevertheless, such process collides head-on with the objectives of professionalisation that have been guiding the discourses and legal texts related to the formation of teachers, and which have become more emphatic among us during the last years (CNE/CP 2/2015). The clash occurs because the raising of an occupation to the level of a profession presupposes, among other factors, the professionalisation of its formative processes, which should then

[…] guide themselves more strongly towards the professional activity, with regard to its programs (which are now expressed in terms of competences), its pedagogy (apprenticeships, alternation), its specific methods (case studies, simulations, practical analysis, problem solving) and its stronger ties to the professional space (from which a large part of its educators will come). ( BOURDONCLE, 2000 , p. 118, our translation, our emphasis).

Thus, among other aspects, to professionalize an occupation requires attributing to practitioners an active role in the formation of new generations of professionals, so as to allow students to construct an identity associated to the profession to which they are being formed. It is, therefore, a formation that requires the use of devices that bring together the university student and his/her work, its agents and the reference professional culture. Professional formation is defined, in these terms, as a socialization process ( SOREL, 2005 ).

However, contrary to such perspective, the universitarization of the formation of Brazilian teachers to engage in the first years of education was marked by processes of autonomization, with significant losses regarding its socializing potential, producing – as it seems possible to infer – its deprofessionalisation. Such universitarization was not aligned, as is usually presupposed ( BOURDONCLE, 2000 , 2007 ), to the movement of professionalisation of the teaching profession, understood as a process that involves, among other factors, an increase in the control that the members of the occupation in question exercise over the work they conduct ( FREIDSON, 1998 ), among which the formation of the future generations is located. In an ideal typical model, the professionals

[…] with total capacity to control their own work are organized in associations, independent both from the State and from capital, and organize and manage the practice of a body of knowledge and competence or jurisdiction unequivocally demarcated and monopolized by its members. These associations determine the qualifications and the number of those that should be trained for the practice, the substance of this training, the requisites for the satisfactory conclusion of the training, and the admission in the practice and the terms, conditions and goals of the practice itself. ( FREIDSON, 1998 , p. 68, our emphasis).

The members of an occupation recognized in its professional statute assume, under this perspective, a place of their own, which gives them the strategic control of their work and of the social representations connected to their group.

It is important to clarify, however, that this ideal model of professionalism, marked by a monopoly of authority ( BOURDIEU, 2003 ), has been challenged by a crisis that affects the prestige of professions, then questioned regarding the value of their knowledges, formation, ethics and degree of reliability ( TARDIF, 2006 ). So, it seems reasonable to consider that the search for a professionalisation of teaching should not go through the conquest of such monopoly on the part of teachers, which would not be likely to contribute to overcome this instrumental perspective that has been characterizing the debate about school and its challenges for some time now.

It is not, therefore, the case of adopting as a goal the North American myth of teaching professionalisation ( TARDIF, 2013 ), according to which educational problems could be solved through the production of the professional teacher ( POPKEWITZ; NÓVOA, 2001 ). It is rather a case of searching for alternative meanings for the process of professionalisation of the teaching occupation, more in tune with the ethical and political dimension of teaching, and that promote a real social rescue of the teaching profession ( NÓVOA, 1999 , p. 17-18), allowing teachers to achieve more central positions in the educational field, from which they could assume greater control of their work and formation. A movement that allows them to “raise their professionalism against the forces of restructuring” ( GOODSON; HARGREAVES, 2008 , p. 210), re-appropriating the “projects of professionalisation at the level of professional practices” ( GOODSON; HARGREAVES, 2008 , p. 213).

We understand that this re-demarcation of the teaching practice as proper to the teachers is part of a wider movement of strengthening of the teachers’ position in the educational field – involving social, political and epistemological dimensions – that would allow them to assume a strategic place of will and power within the space of competition for education, from where they could “capitalize on achieved advantages, prepare future expansions and thereby obtain for themselves an independence with respect to the variability of circumstances” ( CERTEAU, 1994 , p. 99).

Differently from what occurred in the case explored here, with regard to the formation of teachers that work in the first years, this strengthening of the teaching profession within the educational and formation field can be compatible with a project of universitarization, as long as the latter is capable of facing the challenge of “constructing a true professional formation” for teachers ( PERRENOUD, 1993 , p. 73). However, and despite the anxiety we have cultivated during the last 30 years in this country around the formation of teachers as a panacea for our grave difficulties regarding school education, the production of a true professional formation for teachers will have two await the result – even partial, as it is usually the case in the social fields – of disputes that are prior to it and that refer to the demarcation of what we understand by professional formation and by teaching.

The search for a consensus, in the sense given to it by Bourdieu (2003) , around such definitions was at play in the case explored here – that of the universitarization of the formation of Brazilian teachers working in the first years of basic education – and is still taking place within the competition space generated around teacher education. The result of the dispute conducted in previous years produced a universitarization that, differently from what was expected, did not offer teachers the valuation announced by legislation. On the contrary, as if by a perverse effect ( BOUDON, 1977 ), the universitarization of the formation of our primary teachers produced a socially devalued formation ( NOGUEIRA; PEREIRA, 2010 ), as discussed here, deprofessionalized and of low socializing potential, particularly as a result of the sociocultural effacement imposed to the teaching profession.

Regarding the University, the attempt to offer those teachers a formation through the pedagogy course spared it from the challenge of absorbing the pre-existing formative structure in order to, under the given material conditions, transform it to (hopefully) produce new possibilities of formation. As we attempted to demonstrate here, in a context marked by considerable symbolic fragility of teachers of the first years, the path to raise the level of their professional formation was legitimized within disputes that were largely external to them, established among others, more specifically among agents connected to the scientific-academic community and to higher education which, at that moment, already possessed specific capitals to assume the formation of teachers of basic education as their own. This process, marked by grave imprecisions, resulted in an uncommon, timid universitarization which, we must recognize, has been showing itself incapable of impacting more significantly the formative work developed by the University.


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2- In the first case, Bourdoncle includes Quebec where in 1965 the Normal Schools were absorbed by universities, becoming departments or faculties of education. In the second case, which includes the United States of America, Normal Schools (which in many states where the only institutions of higher education at the time) were since the 19th century transformed into colleges and, later, into universities.

3- The legal text was altered by the Act 13415 (16 Feb 2017) and the 62Article no longer mentioned any locus of formation (universities or institutes of higher education), indicating only that the formation of teachers at higher education level should be conducted through Licentiateship courses. The minimum education requirement at secondary education was kept, as well as the 63Article that specifies the education to be offered by the Institutes of Higher Education.

4- To which purpose were instituted the specific 1999 Curriculum Guidelines (CEB Report 01/99).

5- Such relations appear clearly, for example in the National Plan of Formation of Teachers of Basic Education (BRASIL, 2009), which proposes joint actions between the Ministry for Education – through the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (Capes) –, institutes of higher education and Secretariats for Education of states and municipalities to offer higher education to teachers.

6- The notion of autonomization is employed here in the sense attributed to it by Carvalho (2000) when discussing the impacts of the emergence of scientific pedagogy on the processes of constitution of pedagogical methods.

*This article is a result of research activities related to the project entitled “Presence and distance teacher educators: between professionalisation and deprofessionalisation processes” CNPq (Process 407983/2016).

Received: January 10, 2018; Revised: April 24, 2018; Accepted: May 15, 2018

Flavia Medeiros Sarti has a doctorate in education from the University of São Paulo (2005) and a post-doc at the University of Cergy-Pontoise (France, 2011). Since 2006 has been an assistant professor at the São Paulo State University, campus of Rio Claro.

Translated to English by Jessé Rebello de Souza Junior. Contact:

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