The first target of the 2014-2024 National Plan of Education (PNE) is the expansion of the offer of infant education in crèches in order to reach a minimum of 50% of Brazilian children between 0 and 3 years of age by 2024. It is a daring target and a necessary one. Daring because in 2015 only 29.9% of these children were reached. Necessary because the stimuli received in the first infancy are strategic to reduce the deficit in the formation of cognitive and socio-emotional abilities among children coming from a vulnerable environment in comparison with other children from privileged social situations. The FGV/DAPP study was transmitted on Globo News on 29 September (and can be seen here).
In this sense, why are public crèches so important?
Public crèches provide services for a strata of the population in a greater situation of vulnerability, and this policy is necessary for at least three principal motives:
(a) Interventions realized in first infancy with children in situations of social vulnerability, who compose the target public of public crèches, have a positive impact on the cognitive and socio-emotional development of children. If the crèche is capable of offering a suitably stimulating environment, it is capable of mitigating the effects that an environment of social vulnerability has on the formation of the pre-frontal cortex (Cunha and Heckman, 2006) of an individual, which is linked to the capacity to process information, judgment, memory formation, and other executive functions. In other words, an intervention in the first infancy, when it is well designed, improves the cognitive capacity of children in situations of vulnerability, can diminish the hiatus of development between children in different social situations;
(b) Public crèches allow greater autonomy for the family of the child being cared for, since it allows an adult to carry out other activities when the school is open, such as engaging in domestic activities or taking up employment;
(c) Investments in first infancy thereby generate in the future a relatively greater return than investments made at any other stage of a person’s life.
Thus, the prioritization of access to crèches and the guarantee of quality of care in these establishments to the poorest population is revealed to be an effective policy to reduce social inequality. The establishment of crèches in strategic places can mitigate the perpetuate of inequality in the development of cognitive and socio-emotional abilities among children in privileged household and children in situations of vulnerability.
Situation of crèches in Brazil
FGV/DAPP collected data about education units which provide care for children aged between birth and three years of age in 2015; and crossed this with demographic data for the population of this age group to explore the conditions of coverage of this service. The numbers below indicate the challenges to be faced in the coming years in order to think about an effective public policy for the population most in need.
In general terms, the number of matriculated children is low. For each 100 children approximately 30 are matriculated in crèches, 20% lower than the target for 2024. The figure below shows the number of matriculations for each child between 0 and 3 years of age. The state with the greatest relative coverage is Santa Catarina, followed by São Paulo. Both these states provide care for around 50% of children until 3 years of age living in their territory, in other words, they have fulfilled the first requirement for the 2024 target.
It can be noted that the coverage capacity for Brazil is not homogeneous when we consider that only eight states have an offer above the average quantity of matriculations in the country. When we eliminate private crèches from this figure the average care capacity for the population aged 0 – 3 falls to 19 per 100 children. It can also be seen that when only matriculations in the public network are considered, the states of Rio de Janeiro and Rio Grande do Sul, which in the other perspective are above the country’s average, fall, as can be seen by comparing the selection of the option ‘Public and Private Crèches’ with the option ‘Public Crèches.’ In turn, the states of Ceará, Mato Grosso, and Piauí climb to being equal to or above the average offer of matriculations in public crèches in Brazil.
The following figure shows, in descending order in blue, the percentage distribution of the entire Brazilian population between 0 and 3 years of age in Brazilian states, and the percentage distribution of matriculations in crèches – both public and private – in red. This figure allows a comparison of where crèches are and where are the children of the correct age to attend them. In terms of the offer of places, the five states which have the best indicators for the distribution of matriculations in relation to the distribution of children of a suitable age are: São Paulo, Santa Catarina, Rio de Janeiro, Paraná, and Rio Grande do Sul. These states have a higher proportion of crèches than the proportion of children of a corresponding age in relation to the distribution of children in the country as a whole.
Bahia is the state which has the largest difference between the distribution of matriculations in crèches and the distribution of children between the ages of 0 and 3 years of age in Brazilian states. This signifies that in terms of proportional distribution, the state is the most backward when compared to the proportion of children. The classification below shows the best and worst positions when we analyze this cross-tabulation.
Comparison of the presence of crèches with the situation of poverty in Brazil
Despite providing information, comparing the distribution of matriculations of crèches and children in Brazil is not sufficient to indicate which states will have greatest difficulty in complying with the target established by the 2014-2024 PNE, since in the same plan the question of inequality is also raised. In addition to guaranteeing access for at least 50% of the population of children to crèches, Brazil also made a commitment to guarantee that the difference between the rates of frequency of infant education of children of up to three years of age from the highest 20% of per capita family income and that of the lowest 20% will be less than 10%. In other words, the difference of access between children with the highest and lowest income of the country must be lower than ten percentage points.
The two maps below show the distribution of poverty among children from 0 – 3 years of age in the Brazilian states and the distribution of the matriculation deficit in each state. In the map on the left, the darker it is, the greater the proportion of poor people in the age group selected – reflecting the distribution among the population quartiles. In the map on the right, the darker it is the greater the deficit of matriculations in the state – reflecting the distribution between the quartiles of the proportion of the matriculation deficit. The ideal situation is that the deficit of matriculations will be lower in the states where there are more poor children. The states that are darker in the two maps are the states which have indications of urgency in relation to thinking about the guarantee of access to crèches for the most needy population, such as Pará and Amazonas in the Northern Region of Brazil, and Bahia, Sergipe, Alagoas, Pernambuco, and Paraíba in the Northeast.
The figure below shows the distribution of poor children and the distribution of matriculations in public crèches per state. This figure shows the capacity to provide care to the neediest child population. The blue bars indicate the distribution in Brazil  of the population aged between 0 – 3 who are poor and the circles in red indicate the distribution in crèches. States whose red lines are above the blue bars are in a better situation for providing care for children in situations of social vulnerability when compared to states whose blue bars exceed the red.
The classification below shows the best and worst positions considering the distribution of matriculations in public crèches and the distribution of poor children agreed between 0 and 3 throughout the country. This classification serves to help the prioritization of urgency in the provision of care, given the context of the distribution of poverty in Brazil and the commitment to reduce inequality of access to this service between the different substrata of income in the country. In other words, the best positioned have greater efficiency in relation to the provision of matriculations in crèches in Brazil and the distribution of poor children.
10 states had a positive relationship between effective matriculations in public crèches in 2015 and their poor population, in other words, there were more matriculations than people in need: São Paulo, Santa Catarina, Paraná, Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Sul, Espírito Santo, Mato Grosso do Sul, Mato Grosso, Minas Gerais, and Goiás. In turn, the order of states with deficits is: Bahia, Maranhão, Pará, Pernambuco, Ceará, Amazonas, Alagoas, Paraíba, Piauí, Sergipe, Rio Grande do Norte, Distrito Federal, Amapá, Acre, Rondônia, Tocantins, and Roraima. Bahia concentrates 18.7% of the total deficit of matriculations in crèches, followed by Maranhão and Piauí with 14.1% and 13.4% respectively. The Northeast concentrates 71.9% of deficits in matriculations of poor children between 0 and 3 years of age and effective matriculations, while the North concentrates 26.5% of matriculations.
This mapping of the situation of crèches in Brazilian states is an initial study aimed at understanding the care urgencies for first infancy in the country. It is necessary to understand the distribution of crèches within states and municipalities in order to draft public policy aimed at the needs of the population and the context of each Brazilian city. The states of the North and Northeast, especially Bahia, Pará, Pernambuco, Amazonas, Alagoas, and Sergipe, appeared numerous times in the analyses of the numbers presented, which is an indication of need to verify the strategy for action and the more urgent regional needs.
PAC 2015 – 2018 contains actions to transfer funds from the Federal Union to municipalities for the construction and acquisition of equipment and furnishings for educational units for children under five. Among the information available are the numbers of crèches constructed or being built per state, as well as the number of projects inscribed. In the classification of projects for crèches being built and crèches concluded in 2015 the regions are classified as follows:
It can be noted that once the works are concluded there will be an increase in crèches in the Northeast region, in accordance with the identification of urgency for public policies for this region. Nevertheless, the North Region is in third place. It has less crèches to be delivered that the Southeast, has a greater matriculation deficit and a greater distribution of poor children between 0 and 3 years within the state.
Cunha and Heckman Investing in Our Young People. 2006. Available at: <http://www-news.uchicago.edu/releases/06/061115.education.pdf >. Accessed on 29 Oct. 2012.
IBGE Amostra Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística. Projeção da população Available at: <http://www.ibge.gov.br/home/estatistica/populacao/projecao_da_populacao/2013/default_tab.shtm> Accessed on 16 Feb. 2016
IBGE Research Nacional por Amostra de Domicílios (PNAD) 2015
INEP Instituto Nacional de Estudos e Researchs Educacionais Anísio Teixeira – Censo Escolar 2015
Ministério do Planejamento PAC 2015 – 2018 < http://www.pac.gov.br/infraestrutura-social-e-urbana/creches-e-pre-escolas > Accessed on 3 August 2016
Department of Public Policy Analysis | Getulio Vargas Foundation
Marco Aurélio Ruediger