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Higher education: public good, equity and democratization

Education is a public good, indispensable and irreplaceable, a right of everyone and a duty of the State. It is the duty of the State to create and offer effective conditions to achieve this, with the essential and appropriate amplitude, quality and sustainability. As a public good, education must be of quality. This is the basis of discussion about democratization and affirmative policies. In turn, democratization and affirmative policies of higher education, as part of a much wider movement, impose the discussion of a concept of social quality, related to relevance, in opposition to scientific concepts and definitions committed to market. An educational institution is committed to the strengthening of democracy and must practice daily the contents and forms of democratic life. The limits of the public and private realms are not very precise and there is no established consensus about their consequences in higher education. Therefore it is necessary that they be discussed. In a special way, it is important to examine the limits and impacts of inclusion in higher education of traditionally excluded groups, due to very few possibilities of choice of programs with high social and economic value, as well as conditions of permanence, conclusion with quality and good employment prospects. The inclusion of these groups is accompanied by feelings of gains and losses. It serves an essential social function of including contingents of people traditionally excluded, but also it can be contaminated by a phenomenon that can be named "exclusion into" the education system. Some of the main conclusion of this text is to affirm that democratization of higher education must be part of the democratization of society and the promotion of social justice; it is not restricted to the increase of access, but it also relates to quality, pertinence and social relevance; in addiction, quality improvement of higher education is linked to qualitative increase of the education system as a whole and, more widely, to the structural transformation of society. It is, therefore, a collective responsibility.

Higher education; Democratization; Relevance; Inclusion

Publicação da Rede de Avaliação Institucional da Educação Superior (RAIES), da Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP) e da Universidade de Sorocaba (UNISO). Rodovia Raposo Tavares, km. 92,5, CEP 18023-000 Sorocaba - São Paulo, Fone: (55 15) 2101-7016 , Fax : (55 15) 2101-7112 - Sorocaba - SP - Brazil