Programa Catalisador do Brasil/Planejamento 2012-2013/Parcerias/Ação Educativa/Proposal/Ação Educativa's Background
Ação Educativa Background
Ação Educativa (www.acaoeducativa.org.br) is a not for profit civil organization that has been working over the past 18 years in the ‘right to education’ field. In order to achieve this, they build capacity among social movement groups, schools and communities for the production and dissemination of knowledge and the mobilization and impact on public policies. Therefore, its mission is to promote the rights for education, culture and youth, aiming at social justice, participatory democracy and sustainable development. Ação Educativa has a large experience in building and strengthening fields and communities in the education and human rights fields.
This institutional mission dialogues with the main Brazilian challenges in the field of social policies today. In the last two decades, Brazil has experienced a considerable increase in the access to primary education, achieving universal education at that stage (today, 99% of children and adolescents between 6 and 14 years are enrolled in school). But this expansion, which was done mainly through the public system, was not accompanied by policies and investments needed to maintain the quality of the education offered, and patterns of inequality present in Brazilian society are also reproduced in education. Data such as the rate of youth access to secondary and higher education and also the illiteracy rate in the general population have stagnated or even regressed in Brazil. These challenges must be addressed to ensure that education really represents the possibility of change: overcoming inequalities in education, improving the quality of education offered and the need of valorization education professionals are some of the most urgent among them.
Ação Educativa’s building is located in a central neighbourhood of São Paulo, where it operates their own office and also host Culture and Mobilization spaces, with an auditorium and rooms that are used in training activities and articulation of various groups, organizations and social movements, besides cultural events of popular artistic groups.
The organization has institutional support to projects and their backers are also institutional partners who believe in its mission - individuals or enterprises. In the past 10 years, the list of supporters was composed by international cooperation agencies such as ActionAid Brazil, the Norwegian Church Aid, Cultural Center of Spain / Spanish Agency of International Cooperation for Development, Avina Foundation, Ford Foundation, Kindernothilfe (Germany) Oxfam - UK, Save the Children and Services of the Churches of Germany Development - DSE; multilateral agencies such as UNESCO, UNICEF and the European Union, national government agencies, such as ministries, state and municipal institutions and corporate foundations; civil society organizations and intersectoral joints and universities.
Ação Educativa's most prominent project in the international scenario is the World Social Forum, an event that happens every year concomitantly with the World Economic Forum gathering social movements from all over the world. WSF's executive committee has been for many years incubated as a special project in Ação Educativa, which also holds a seat on the board of WSF.
Throughout its history, Ação Educativa has built competencies, relationships and recognition from various social actors. Among these accumulations, it is worth mentioning:
Experience in participating and coordinating international, national and local networks: AE is founder of the National Campaign for the Right to Education, articulation that brings together over 200 organizations across the country. This ability to build networks favors the dissemination of experiences to other social actors involved with the promotion of human right to education. AE also acts in the Board of the Brazilian Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (Abong) and integrates the World Social Forum, the Platform on Economic, Social and Environmental Human Rights, Rede Nossa São Paulo, the National Forum of Popular Participation, among others.
Technical and pedagogical excellence in the production of teaching materials and training activities for educators and youth: AE has distributed more than 1.5 million copies of books across the country from its collection “Viver, Aprender”, for students and teachers of young and adults programs. The collection was selected by the Brazilian National Textbook Program (PNLD).
Experience in consulting and working in partnership with schools and education departments, besides the Ministry of Education: in recent years AE, in partnership with other organizations, has developed and is implementing a participatory evaluation methodology to kindergartens and schools, which is called Educational Quality Indicators (Indiq), distributed to 50 000 teaching units across the country, with support from the Ministry of Education.
AE started ten years ago a program devoted to developing educational experiments which foster the integration of the school with the community, by maintaining direct relationships with over 50 schools in the metropolitan region of São Paulo and the managers of the respective school systems.
Regular media (website and newsletters) that disseminate quality information to increasingly larger audiences: the electronic site of the Educational Action receives an average of 1500 visitors daily, and its newsletters have more than 10 thousand subscribers. This situation favors the spread of experience across the country for a privileged network of educators and activists.
Awards and Certificates: UNESCO Award - Category Education - 2000; Ashoka Social Entrepreneurs Award - 2002; Jabuti Award - Category Education / Literacy in Brazil - 2004; Jabuti Award - Category Teaching Materials and para Elementary School - 2006; Cooperifa Award - Cultural Cooperative Periphery - 2006; Award Philips Simplicity / Project Quality Indicators in Education - 2007; National Award for Human Rights Education - 2010, Abrinq - certificate of recognition for its commitment to the defense of the rights of children and adolescents in Brazil - Year 2003.
With extensive experience in developing educational approaches, AE develops its work based on the principles of popular education in Latin America, which include:
- an education that recognizes the needs of the students and states them as agents of learning and life, respecting their diversity;
- an education that is built based on the dialogue between educator and student;
- an education that is critical in regard to its content, which means dealing with themes that are meaningful to people, seeking explanations to them;
- an education that reveals the reality of where people are placed so as to increase their awareness about issues that affect their experience;
- an education that aims to discuss alternatives to overcome social inequalities and discrimination of any kind from a development model committed to sustainability and social justice;
- an education that considers universal and national themes dialoguing with regional and local culture, valuing their expressions and their codes;
- an education that is connected to the practice, without disregarding the theory underlying the various contents;
- an education as a human right and as a lifelong process.
In addition to the teams that develop programs and projects, the institution also has support sectors and management that work for the achievement of long-term institutional goals.
One of the features Ação Educativa is its governance, which aims at bringing diversity to the boards not only of the organization itself but also to every multi-stakeholder forums they are involved with.
Always observing transparency in its achievements, Ação Educativa acts accordingly to the Brazilian legislation that obliges organizations to follow the principles of legality, impersonality, morality, publicity and efficiency on every contract and purchase of services and goods - and goes beyond in terms of participation and transparency. To encourage the continued attention to these principles by all employees and partners of the institution, as well as to inspire other organizations, AE published in 2009, with UNICEF support, a detailed Governance Manual (available in Portuguese), which presents to the public the procedures adopted by the organization. Such procedures include, but are not limited to, a division of management responsibilities at all levels of the hierarchy, mechanisms of control and accountability as well as the responsible use of financial, material and environmental resources.
The organizational structure of Ação Educativa is designed to enable the participation of all its professionals in the management process. All documents relating to this process - plans, institutional reports, accountability reports - are available on the internet. Currently, Ação Educativa has 50 statutory members, individuals of recognized public acting identified with the institutional mission. They meet ordinarily once a year in the General Assembly, the highest decision-making instance, which shall elect the Board and the Audit Committee.
The General Coordination is the body responsible for the daily management of the institution. It consists of a Coordinating Board and is responsible for maintaining the flow of information between management and the employees; coordinate the policy of cooperation and funding of projects and activities; maintain the relationship and dialogue with cooperating agencies, to promote internal cohesion and identity of employees and with the institution's values and mission. In some occasions meetings of the Coordination Board may be opened to all teams of areas and sectors invited to join.
An independent audit analyses the financial reports and the use of resources to ensure that they represent the patrimonial and financial reality of the organization. It evaluates the economy, efficiency and effectiveness in the use of funds received from public or private sector, and the reports are reviewed to assess its accuracy and fidelity. This procedure ensures greater transparency of administrative and financial management of Ação Educativa to associates, partners and sponsors of the association.
Communication and Information Technology
For an organization that stands for the realization of fundamental rights, having such transparency concerns and adopting public visibility strategies are essential procedures. Therefore, AE sees the sectors of Communication and Information Technology (IT) as the foundation for political action.
Two important characteristics of IT in AE are autonomy in information management and deployment of open source software, aspects closely linked to political and financial sustainability of the institution. While maintaining a server in its own headquarters, a provider of email hosting and its various electronic pages, the organization has been in recent years appropriating the tools to democratize knowledge by implementing open source programs.
In its program Observatory on Education - created 10 years ago to focus on public education debate - these resources are centrally considered. Aiming to affirm the education as a human right and to give visibility to ignored issues and voices in the media, the journalists who make up the staff of the Observatory promote public debates and produce publications and do research. The events are always broadcast live over the Internet, ensuring accessibility for deaf people and the possibility of interaction via chat.
The right to information and to knowledge and the freedom of expression are therefore central concerns to the program and to the institution as a whole. In its last three-year plan, which ends in 2012, the Observatory chose these topics as priority activities conducted and participated extensively in discussions around that goal. They became structuring for the program, which, based on these guidelines, is now organized into four lines of action: 1. Pluralization and qualification of public debate on education; 2. Access to information, educational information and open technologies; 3. Monitoring councils and education committees in the three spheres of government (federal, state and local) 4. Empowerment of teacher’s voice in educational debate.
With regard to open knowledge, the efforts of AE complement those of other organizations and individuals who strive to prevent that socioeconomic inequalities are perpetuated by denial of access to knowledge to most of the population that is poor and therefore can not respond to the needs of the market - which makes information and knowledge commercial goods. It is also a goal of the Observatory to disseminate proposals that may represent alternatives to expand access to knowledge. In order to do so, it has provided information to civil society, particularly the actors in the educational field, so they can participate in the debate on the review of copyright law, which directly affects the circulation and use of socially produced knowledge.
The challenge is to broaden the debate and to make it reach the schools, since the right of access to information is directly and explicitly linked to education. It is known that, despite the increased possibilities of access to information and knowledge offered by new digital technologies and the Internet, there are still restrictive mechanisms that undermine the full development of educational processes. The Educational Legislation establishes principles such as "the freedom to learn, teach, research and promotion of culture, ideas, art and knowledge" and "pluralism of ideas and pedagogical conceptions." Despite the fact that copyright law and the criteria for marketing of books, including textbooks, restrict the exercise of those rights, the discussion of the topic has not arrived to the school community in general.
There are few teachers who know the dynamics of textbooks market in Brazil. This sector represents about 60% of the Brazilian publishing market, and the four largest companies concentrate 70% of it. In a parallel move, there is still a strong entry of private education systems in public schools, negotiating both the courseware as the methodology and training for teachers. The packets include the provision of technological equipments and materials most often proprietary, without any discussion with the academic community.
Besides the use of technologies of information in its production (infographics and interactive applications developed with free software) the Observatory is also dedicated to reflect on the use of technology in education, promoting discussions with the school community and questioning the solutions adopted by the public systems.
It is in this context that the AE launched in 2011, also through its Observatory on Education, the a coalition for the valorization of teachers in Latin America - Voices of Education (www.vozesdaeducacao.org.br). The initiative proposes an innovative space for debates, exchange of experiences and information about teaching practices and valorization of teachers in Brazil and Latin American region.
One of the activities planned for 2013 in this coalition is the creation of a repository of Open Educational Resources (OER). OER are digital materials offered freely and openly for educators, students and independent students so they can use them for teaching, learning and research. The creation of a repository of such features in Voices of Education’s site reinforces the question of authorship in teaching, fundamental dimension to their valorization. It includes contents and teaching materials, lesson guides, teaching methods, experiences and other tools that can be shared freely, giving visibility to the production of educators. To achieve this, AE is mapping collectives of educators on the Internet (communities, forums and websites) that can link up to the network, in Brazil and in the countries joining the initiative.
Another planned activity is to promote face chats held bimonthly on education issues, involving teachers and specialists. In each meeting a "fair share" will be organized in which teachers bring learning materials and original production itself (digital or otherwise) to exchange with other educators.
Networking and mobilization
Ação Educativa is enthusiastic about the opportunity of promoting exchanges between the school community and others agents in the educational field and the wide network of volunteer editors and communities organized around Wikipedia and other projects of WF. As detailed above, AE relates to educational agents in a broad spectrum - from primary school to university, from the activists of social movements to the business sector - and this convening capability can be used for the development of programs and projects of the Wikimedia Foundation as part of a partnership.
AE has participated actively in the World Social Forum since its conception, and sum up efforts to strengthen it as a space for debates. Two issues under discussion are the need to make it increasingly virtual, intensifying the use of networks and technologies as a way to expand the universe of people who access the ongoing discussions; and also the use of mechanisms for collaborative writing of texts and materials for the debates, as well as increasing the visibility of civil society knowledge. A first Virtual Social Forum is being discussed for next year.
In its actions at schools, AE always seeks to promote the participation of directors, coordinators, students, parents and especially teachers in the development of educational projects, in discussing and proposing policies that contribute to the quality of education offered in public schools. The experiments generated in the projects are systematized in order to influence debate on educational policies. Thus, the program unites knowledge production and political action focusing on the school community.
In these projects AE develops teacher capacity building processes, both through pedagogical methodologies and through the topics covered. The Wikimedia Education Program could contribute to these processes, as well as formative activities could be developed by educators in the Universities with which AE already has institutional partnership.
We also see great potential in using this methodology to stimulate pedagogical innovation processes in school, from an interdisciplinary approach and issues connected with the reality of community and global concerns - environmental sustainability, diversity etc. Beyond the educational proposal itself, the production of good articles on these and other issues may contribute to the improvement and strengthening of Wikipedia in Portuguese.
This objective is in line with a current challenge for the Brazilian public education system, which is the perspective of strengthening the use of Open Educational Resources as a way to cope with the growing activity of corporations that sell materials and proprietary content to municipalities and states. The use, distribution and stimulus for the adoption of OER in schools are Ação Educativa strategies that could be strengthened in a partnership with the Wikimedia Foundation.