Reducing investments to federal universities, research and science, as well as the idea of prioritizing technical education over higher education is considered a “wrong” choice by the president of the National Association of Directors of Federal Institutions of Higher Education (Andifes), Marcos Vinicius David, rector of the Federal University of Juiz de Fora (UFJF). He will deliver a lecture at the Engines of Development Symposium in Rio Grande do Norte on Monday (22). In an interview with TRIBUNA DO NORTE, President Andifes spoke about distance teaching in federal universities and the post-pandemic outlook, criticized the position of the federal government regarding economic policy that reduces the education budget and noted the consequences that this should entail in the medium and long term. paying off.
How do you evaluate the role of education in the post-pandemic moment?
I think education in a post-pandemic scenario plays an essential role with very clear challenges. The first is that the suspension of face-to-face activities caused some damage to the learning process, especially in the public network, because the ability of the system to replace one face-to-face method with a remote one was much less. We maintain a loss in education that puts us up to the challenge of mitigating loss in learning, especially in basic education.
Were losses in higher education lower?
In higher education, although learning losses are noted, I think this loss is much less because the public is already an adult and has greater access to technology that allows for the substitution of personal practices. On the other hand, we have a challenge linked to a new social and economic reality in the post-pandemic period. The pandemic has given us very clear lessons for development projects in countries.
What lessons do you remember?
Countries need to be able to reduce their technological dependencies. This was demonstrated, for example, in places of vaccines and technological equipment for healthcare. Countries that do not have the technology or industrial production capacity are punished more in these scenarios. Higher education, which plays an essential role in the development of science and technology to generate innovation for the productive sector, is acquiring a new role in this project of economic and social development.
How do we ensure that this role is fulfilled in the scenario of budget cuts for education and science?
From the point of view of the nation’s strategic project, we will need, at this moment, a strong investment in science and technology specifically to reduce this dependence on the country, and this is the ideal scenario. But given the economic crisis scenario in which, among other things, there is a dimension to the need to reduce spending cuts, the federal government is making a choice that, in my opinion, is wrong: reducing public investment in strategic areas in an effort to generate fiscal results that it considers positive.
Why is it wrong?
I think this is wrong because when you put strategic public investments on hold, it has dire consequences for society and when it’s in science and technology and in high-quality public higher education, you generate medium and long-term consequences. Intermittent research today has consequences for the next ten or fifteen years.
In this context, what form are you referring to as necessary?
In a time of crisis, we recognize that it needs to invest more in science and technology to generate competitive advantages for Brazil to have global competitiveness. Unfortunately, we are not watching this. This government’s current understanding of pursuing fiscal austerity at any cost is detrimental to strategic public investments that could jeopardize the nation’s future.
How long can we recoup the losses if we reverse this policy today?
Of course, the greater the amount of investments, the greater the ability to recover from the delay. On the other hand, we have paramount ability to generate research production knowledge. There is no point in putting in a volume of resources that these institutions cannot absorb and generate science and technology infrastructure in a short period of time. In the case of vaccines, for example, to be at the forefront, we need well-equipped laboratories, clinical research centers, which are centers linked to hospitals to run tests on patients. It took us so long to get our own vaccine because we were going through a period of low investment in infrastructure and little investment in maintaining research groups.
How would you rate the letter to prioritize technical education and reduce investment in higher education?
This is related to the project of the nation being built. When I think of a country that has global competitiveness, based on high-tech products, I need a very high percentage of the population with a college degree. If I think of a nation that competes globally only with commodities, agricultural production, and mining, and without a high-tech industry, I can focus my training on professionals at a technical level. My assessment is that the nation’s project today, considering that the economic conditions needed are for a sustainable industry, which is characterized not by the exploitation of labor, but by the valorization of workers, I must think of a technology intensive economy with technology-based companies and so I need to invest extensively in higher education. Brazil has very low indicators for higher education professionals, dismantling the argument that we can reduce investments in higher education to focus investments in technological education. This does not mean that you do not need to invest in technological education, because part of the population also maintains this level of education.
Will universities return in person in 2022?
The outlook for next year, in my opinion, is that if we continue to control the epidemic, there will indeed be a strong resumption of in-person activities. The federal university budget in 2021 is 22% lower than it was in 2019 without adjusting for inflation. There was an understanding, when setting budget policy, that they would not work personally in 2021 because if they did, there would be no budget. When a decision is made to return face-to-face to higher education, it is not just a matter of getting out of the house and attending classes, there is a whole process of moving between cities and interstates to get to the course sites. It is expensive. To make a hybrid format, we have to charge the student a switch for only a few days, without a full face-to-face education offering. It is a more complex process. For this reason, the subjects that have caused the most harm due to low attendance, as in the health field, we need face-to-face activities. It was not a deliberate choice by the remote model.
Why is it important to discuss education more vigorously at this time, as the Motores Symposium suggested?
This bringing governments, universities, and the productive sector together to think about the future of the nation and the state, in a way that brings science and technology together with the productive sector, regulated and articulated by state government policies, is very positive. The debate now is to assess the challenges posed by the new economic, scientific and technological realities and the responses we can make together for the development of the region, the country and Brazil.
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