Are public schools where they should be? Or, in other words, does the public education service manage to focus on the populations who most need public education? This is a difficult question to answer, but it is possible to provoke some reflections on the subject through the visualization of the data.
FGV/DAPP located on a map public state schools according to their performance in the 2014 ENEM maths test. The schools are divided according to the quartiles of distribution of the marks of all the schools in the city, (including private and federal ones).
The aim of the study, published in this Tuesday’s edition (2 August) of O Globo newspaper, is to correlate the geographic distribution with school performance, in order to verify the results of public education in accordance with territorial location. State schools were chosen because they are an absolute majority among public second level schools in the city, while federal schools represent a more specific universe.
See the map:
Observation of the map allows some considerations to be advanced:
Comparison with the socio-economic indicator of schools
FGV/DAPP also compared the socio-economic level of schools with their performance in ENEM. The figure below illustrates the result, showing that there is a high concentration of schools in the first quartile (in red) in the average and above average levels.
This figure illustrates an important fact: the state schools with the best performance have students from a high socio-economic level, while schools which are doing badly have students from a low socio-economic background. In other words, public educational services are not necessarily reaching those who need them most.
It is worth emphasizing that a large part of the schools with the best performance have rigorous selection processes, which implies that there is a selection bias in the data presented. Furthermore, it also implies that the students in these schools already have a higher than average education level, a fact that is correlated to the reality of their socio-economic context and the education level of their parents.
Considerations in line with World Bank studies
In 2004, the World Bank launched an innovative study about the reason why public services fail to focus on the poorest part of the population, focusing above all on the dimensions of information, politics, and accountability. The central thesis of the report is that there are failures in the focusing of the provision of public services – they are not found where they need to be – which is strongly related to administration problems whose solution involves the empowerment of the poorest part of the population, becoming a full part of the policy preparation, monitoring, and assessment process.
The discussion proposed in this report continues to be relevant, with a conference being held on it in 2014 by the British ODI (Overseas Development Institute). According to the idealizer of the study, Shanta Devarajan, one of the principal lessons presented is that having resources alone is not sufficient to resolve problems of public services provision, citing the case of Brazil as a country recognized as being a global leader in the improvement of policies for the poor, but which still possesses a series of dilemmas about the quality of public expenditure and the need to improve education and health policies, for example.
Note about the socioeconomic indicator
The indicator of socio-economic level was obtained from INEP (2014 ENEM data). It involves self-declared information about the possession of domestic goods (television, telephone, internet, electro-domestics, etc.), domicile structure (number of bathrooms and bedrooms, etc.); hiring of domestic services; monthly family income, in monthly minimum wages, and parents’ education level.
The classification is based on seven ordinal levels: very low, low, average, above average, high, and very high. In addition, the socioeconomic level of the school is the arithmetic average of the socioeconomic level of its students. The distribution among public schools in Rio de Janeiro varies between Average and Very High.