The Access and Expansion of Higher Education and Open University in Brazil: a matter of social mobility, university´s roles and capabilities in the amazon context

Alves, Rosangela Aparecida (2016). 'The Access and Expansion of Higher Education and Open University in Brazil: a matter of social mobility, university´s roles and capabilities in the amazon context' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Tokyo 2016.

Based on education as a public good and so, all people are entitled to it and that it is a means of human development, hence democratization of access and the expansion of higher education take place in any agenda which reflects the current scenario and which projects future possibilities. Therefore, the role of higher education as a tool of social mobility has been addressed in conferences and international agencies meetings around the globe. In this regards social mobility is considered as an important measure of how free people are to improve their positions in society and make changes in their life. To this end, the challenge of all education systems, and in this case higher education institutions are raising attention to expand access to students, in equal proportions, from different socio-economic groups. Because free and open societies should promote social mobility by developing talent in every social and ethnic group.  Both developed and developing countries are focussed in to expand access to all, specially the one who were socially discriminated. In this context policies and programs emerge as new possibilities for educational, political, and social outcomes. Although the great expansion of higher education occurred over the past years there still are some disparities among social groups and places. In the context of democratization and expansion of higher education access in public institutions, Brazilian Government started in 2004 a great movement. These policies and programs share the common purpose of improving the existing educational outcomes of public education in order to create a fairer and more democratic society that embraces the rich variety of the country’s cultural resources and, at the same time, establishes links with a global perspective. This paper will address one specific political policy which is based on expansion and democratization of access in public Higher education institutions based on teacher training and development courses both in undergraduate or graduate levels, on distance learning bases. Thus, the Brazilian Open University System and distance learning emerges as a starting point for educational, political and social outcomes. As a developing country, Brazil is striving to include a larger percentage of its youth in higher education. According to the National Institute of Studies and Research (INEP, 2005), in 2001 Brazil had only 12.1% of its young people studying at this level, the smallest percentage in Latin America. Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay reached a corresponding level of 30% in 2002. In addition, Brazil needs to qualify 400,000 in-service teachers in order to meet the declared governmental goal of educating 30% of the population from ages 18-24, as established by the National Plan for Education. For that reason,, 99 public higher education institutions are offering undergraduate and continuing education courses in 786 municipalities across Brazil. In this article the concept of human development is focus on improving lives and expanding choices and opportunities in a range of dimensions of life, and therefore, the purposes of university education are taken to include intrinsic and instrumental purposes which include personal development, economic opportunities and becoming educated people; core ideas of capabilities approach, widening capability studied by Sen (1993), Nussbaum (2011), Walker and Unterhalter (2007) are underpinned. The data are interviews with people who have finished the courses exploring how they have experienced higher education and social mobility. The analysis focuses on understanding the role the Brazilian Open University system is taking with regards to cultural and social aspects and citizen development in Amazon context.

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