Studies on the educational and social transformations in the brazilian amazon context and the capability approach: a not so far away land

Alves Basso, Rosângela Aparecida (2018). 'STUDIES ON THE EDUCATIONAL AND SOCIAL TRANSFORMATIONS IN THE BRAZILIAN AMAZON CONTEXT AND THE CAPABILITY APPROACH: A NOT SO FAR AWAY LAND' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Buenos Aires, Argentina 2018.

Abstract

This paper deals with some results from a doctoral thesis, which was developed in Brazil, more specifically in the amazon context, Marajó Island. It will examine how the capability approach can provide innovative tools and criteria to assess quality of life and how its conditions are distributed in the context of cities, ending poverty in all its forms and dimensions by ensuring equal rights and opportunities, socio-economic and cultural diversity, integration in the urban space. It brings together an overview on how public Higher Education on Distance Learning Basis is placing a significant role in places where public Higher Education was not present.  By the end of the first decade of the 21st century, public higher education and distance learning reached places where schooling may be considered a conquest for the local population and as the public policy of the State which upgrades numerically higher education in Brazil. Current problematization is therefore related to social, cultural and economic significances of the educational policy of the local population. The Open University of Brazil as a stance in public policy is problematized with regard to the social and cultural produced. Discussions on the policy for access to public Higher Education are foregrounded on the principles and terms of democracy, citizenship and human development according to Amartya Sen´s Capability Approach. Additionally, terms such as widening capability and widening participation studied by Walker and Unterhalter and concepts of Capital developed by Bourdieu are also discussed. Data were produced at Breves and São Sebastião da Boa Vista, two educational learning centres in the Island of Marajó, Brazil. Both are located 10 to 15 hour by boat from the capital of the state, Belem. Field work comprised documentary sources, questionnaires, observation of sites and halfstructured autobiographical-style interviews. Personnel comprised 43 graduates from the Open University of Brazil, who answered the questionnaire and ten interviews, all of them had finished their undergraduate or graduate courses. Most of them hailed from families without any schooling or with short schooling tradition. In fact, they were first in the family to attend an undergraduate course. Results show that, although 70% of the population in the state of Pará, Brazil, live in the backlands and in spite of the fact that only two Higher Education Institutes have their campuses in the hinterland, running Open University of Brazil learning centres in 27 municipalities have an important role in people´s life opportunities, especially those marked by social conditions. Further, educational data in the state of Pará reveal an increase in teachers´ qualifications backed by Open University of Brazil and Parfor, in Human Development Index and in the transformation of cultural capital into social and economic capital described by the interviewed people. The above evidence cannot be discarded when the democratization of access to higher education is discussed, especially the role of DE in the process, as well as the public education valorization. Distance Education´s social roles in specific places as a national educational policy should be understood and acknowledged. In fact, it produces individual and social effects locally and contributes towards a better life style within an unequal and unjust society.  

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