Education Policy

Teacher Development in Brazil

Teacher development is one of the most important concerns for education policymakers. Image source: Virtue Insight
Teacher development is one of the most important concerns for education policymakers. Image source: Virtue Insight
Sameeo Sheesh
Written by Sameeo Sheesh

Teacher development is one of the most important concerns for education policymakers. There remain various factors regarding the issue of teacher development. To achieve the desirable qualities of a teacher, an effective teacher training program is essential. Besides this, sometimes a single strategy may look promising but there remains the possibility to leave out essential factors. This paper will discuss the experience of Brazil regarding the problem of teacher development and student learning. Thus, this memo is going to highlight the following factors:

I.    Desirable qualities of a good teacher
II.    Approaches of teaching
III.    Issues related to teacher development
IV.    Brazil’s experience

I.    Desirable qualities of a good teacher

At first, this paper will point out some of the desirable qualities of a good teacher. The performance of students can be considered as an indicator of the effectiveness of the teachers (World Bank). A teacher needs to accomplish several actions to achieve good performance from the students. The World Bank reported some key behaviors of teachers that carry effect on the students’ achievement, such as:

•    Clear-goal setting
•    Sensible structuring of content
•    Clarity of presentation
•    Effective classroom management
•    High expectation of students
•    Use of low and higher order questions to keep students at work and to check for understanding
•    Providing opportunities to practice the lesson what is taught, both through classroom work and home task
•    Frequent evaluation through testing, corrective instruction and feedback. (World Bank)

To perform the proceeding action a teacher has to achieve some qualities. Some of the desirable qualities of a good teacher as recommended by Linda Darling-Hammod (as quoted in the World Bank) are as follows:

•    Sound comprehension of subject matter
•    Pedagogical content knowledge
•    Knowledge of developmental stages in a child’s life
•    Understanding of different types of motivation
•    Understanding the differences among children
•    Comprehension of learning process
•    Ability to employ different teaching strategies
•    Capacity to use resources and technology to enhance teaching
•    Ability to use assessment techniques
•    Comfortable to collaborate with the students and colleagues
•    Ability to analyze and reflect upon teaching practices (World Bank)

The approach of teaching is very important to perform effectively in the classroom. The World Bank as well as Williams and Alvaraz (2000) emphasized the shift from the traditional approaches to constructive approaches for better effectiveness of teaching.  

II.    Approaches of teaching

Williams and Alvaraz (2000) mentioned that the recently evolved theories on learning by psychologists and educators have challenged the traditional organization of classrooms and teaching training. The traditional way of learning can be called as “transmission of model” of learning where the knowledge is assumed as constant and external to the learner. For this approach, the task of the teacher is to convey the knowledge in the curriculum to the learner. In this case, the classroom is very teacher-centred and the students are the passive recipients.  Memorization is emphasized for assessing a student.

On the other hand, the constructive approach does not assume that the children are ‘blank slates’; rather it believes that the learner can construct knowledge based on the existing knowledge.  Learning process is not considered only as an individual activity but as a social interaction and construction. Here, the classroom setting is centered on the learners. In contrast with the memorization, the individual’s thinking ability and behaviors are emphasized in this approach. (Williams and Alvaraz 2000)

Thus, both World Bank and Williams and Alvaraz (2000) drew the attention on the shift of the teaching approaches. Williams and Alvaraz (2000) highlighted the five types of shifts. One is to shift from the teacher-centered to the learner-centered activities in the classroom. To ensure a knowledge-centered environment they underlined the understanding and application of the knowledge; rather than memorization. Moreover, they authors pointed out the transformation of the attitude that the teachers are the sole source of knowledge. They support the knowledge of the communities and environments and shared norms and standards of learning. Furthermore, they also highlighted the issue on the assessment of the learners. They recommended that the assessment should be based on the feedback to bolster learning, not only to test acquisition of knowledge. They also highlighted that the teachers should be prepared to be creators of good learning environments. Based on the prior discussion the shift from the traditional to constructive approach is illustrated briefly in the following table:

KnowledgeHierarchical, linearComplex, multidimensional
BeliefTransfer to knowledgeConstruction of knowledge
LearningIndividual pursuitLinked to social interaction
Classroom activitiesTeacher-centered, problem-solving abstractLearner-centered, Individualized, problem-solving contextualized
Learners’ rolePassiveActive
Teachers’ roleTransmitter of knowledgeFacilitator of learning
InstructionFact accumulation, rote learning, memorizationUnderstanding, inquiry

III.    Issues related to teacher development

To impart the constructive approach in the classroom as well as for having an effective teaching service, pre and in-service training are essential. The purpose of the pre-service teacher education is to provide an exposure to the curriculum, its objectives, methods and evaluation strategies. In addition to this, the teachers also learn about the classroom management techniques and opportunities for teaching the students from the pre-service training. From in service-professional training, the teachers get opportunities to develop their skill and solve the problem that they face during their teaching.

However, there remain different constraints and weaknesses in the current teacher-training program of some countries, especially in the Latin American region. Based on a production function research World Bank viewed that developing countries often fail to gain impact of teacher education on student achievement, which is an indicator of the teachers’ effectiveness (mentioned in the part I). For example, World Bank reported that teachers’ knowledge and experience were significant predictors for the students’ achievement only in 50-60% cases. World Bank also identified some reasons for this ineffectiveness, such as:

•    Training programs are poorly integrated educational theory with supervised and extensive teaching practice,
•    Training programs are too short to develop the required competencies,
•    They have lack of follow-up mechanisms,
•    The curriculum of the training institutes are outdated and irrelevant,
•    The teacher-educators may have limited education,
•    The failure of the ongoing professional program to address the needs of the teachers
•    There is lack of self-supporting reading materials for the trainee teachers,
•    The study guides and the textbooks are inflexible and give little scope to adopt new methods.

Furthermore, Williams and Alvaraz (2000) identified some problems of the teacher education in Brazil, such as, text-based, passive and lecture oriented teacher education, poorly designed, inflexible, very theoretical teacher preparation, failure to bridge the gap between the curricular content and real teaching practice. Moreover, they commented that the pre-service teacher education is more focused on the storage of information rather than the development of the capacity. There also remains a gap between the training and actual demand for the effective and innovative teaching manner. The following part of this paper is going to highlight the problem of Brazil’s teacher development issue.

IV.    Brazil’s experience

World Bank (2000) identified several problems regarding the teacher education and student learning, such as:

i.    Weak content mastery

The overall academic background and the knowledge of the teachers of Brazil did not show a satisfactory result.  In 1997, the percentage of the teachers with tertiary level of education was 55.6%, which was lower than other Latin American countries, for example, it was 70% and 95.5% in Argentina and Chile, respectively. One study showed that one-fourth of the teachers had spelling errors in over 7% of the words they wrote, and three-fourth made syntax errors in a language test in Portuguese. Thus, it can be viewed that this affected the learning of the students. World Bank (2000)

ii.    Limited repertoire of very traditional teaching practices

The techniques that were applied in the classroom were usually teacher-centred. The World Bank (2000) observed that the teacher did not use the teaching guides and materials properly, also the approaches of teaching were very passive. There was little chance of interactive activities in the classroom. Rarely, the signs of constructive approaches were observed, e.g., students prepared materials, creatively used local resources and so on. So, most of the teachers were following the traditional approach in the classroom.

iii.    Little use of interactive teaching methods

Likewise, the application of interactive activities was not found very frequently. Most of the teaching methods were viewed as mechanistic and monotonous. The students were frequently offered unchallenging assignments. (World Bank 2000) Thus, it can be viewed that there is a lack of constructive approaches to tasks in the teaching practice.   

iv.    Ineffective use of time

World Bank (2000) also viewed that there was an ineffective use of time in the classroom. Most of the time the students were engaged with the low-order task, such as copying and memorizing. The instruction did not always focus on a particular goal. So, for both teachers and students who spent the time in the classroom, and did not get an effective outcome.

v.    A Culture of failure

The teachers did not feel accountable for the student’s progress and showed a tendency to blame the non-school factors for the poor achievement of the students. (World Bank 2000) The evidence showed that in many cases the teachers blamed the students and also other factors, e.g., poverty, family instability, poor nutrition and others for the student’s performance. Thus, the culture of accountability and high expectations from the learners were missing there.

This memo points out the desirable qualities of a good teacher and discusses the essential approaches for teaching. The constructive approach for effective teaching is emphasized and to implement this teachers require pre and professional training. The issues related to teacher training are also highlighted and then this paper drew attention to the teaching problem in Brazil where instead of the constructive approach the traditional approach was widely practised.


Williams, James and Benjamin Alvaraz (2000). Teacher Development and Management in Latin America: A Review of Research and Practice on Improving Quality. Washington DC: World Bank.

World Bank (2000). Brazil: Teachers Development and Incentives: A Strategic Framework. Washington DC: The World Bank, Human Development, Brazil Country management Unit

World Bank. Teachers at the Heart of the Economic System.

About the author

Sameeo Sheesh

Sameeo Sheesh

Sameeo Sheesh is currently working as a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Advanced Research in Arts and Social Sciences, Dhaka University in Bangladesh. He did his bachelor and Master in Economics from the University of Dhaka. Then, he did Master in Development Studies from BRAC University, Master in International Education from the George Washington University and MA in Educational Research and Evaluation from the University of Sussex. He is involved with social and cultural activities and study circles. He has a great knack for freehand writing and making presentation in seminars/workshops. He has four published books and a number of articles. He also directed a film named ‘Swapno’ (Dream).

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