Célia Maria de Castro Almeida
Brazilian law obligates art education in its basic education levels, which include early child education (ages three to six), fundamental education (ages seven to fourteen) and middle school (ages fifteen to seventeen). Teaching visual arts, music, drama, and dance falls under "Educação Artística" (Art Education), though in many schools, dance is taught as a Physical Education subject, and poetry is a subject of Portuguese; drama is a subject of Art Education as well as Portuguese. The art classes run from about 50 minutes to one and one-half hours a week.
In most Brazilian schools, the teachers for younger children have only a high school education, and they are responsible for all subjects— history, science, math, and art. (This is especially true in the rural areas, where the schools are very poor.) For classes beyond fifth grade, the teachers have been graduated from a general art education course (a four-year study). There are specialized teachers in some schools, especially private schools, but in most Brazilian schools one teacher alone is responsible for teaching all arts disciplines.
In early child education and the first four grades in elementary school, many teachers see the main goals of teaching art to be to develop the full humanity of students, to teach other subjects through art, and or to do art as recreation. The teachers emphasize learning art not so much for the students' professional futures as artists, but for their general culture education, that is, to educate youth to value the arts.
In Brazilian models of arts education, there is a very strong influence from North American ideas, and the Getty Center's Disciplined-Based Arts Education proposal has had wide penetration since the 1980s. Beyond that influence, most of the teachers in Brazil do not know about art education in other countries, not even the other countries of South America.
Outside of formal education, there are education programs targeting poor communities that are sponsored by the government, philanthropic entities, the church, the unions, and non-governmental organizations (nonprofits). These programs emphasize the recreational and citizenship aspects of the arts; some aim to bring therapeutic effects (as in special programs for addicts and "social misfits") or to rescue poor children from the streets.
In Brazil, there are large obstacles to education and employment, which are more related to one's social class rather than to ethnicity or gender. Only one third of all students reach and complete middle school, and the percentage of Brazilians who cannot read is higher than the percentage that goes to college. People in the lower classes (which the majority of non-whites are) most often leave school before completing their basic studies, and therefore do not have access the more advantageous careers.
Célia Maria de Castro Almeida is Professor of Education and Education in Teaching at Brazil's State University of Campinas and University of Uberaba. She is also Brazil's contact for IDEA, an international arts education project on the Internet.
For more information on arts education in select countries (including Brazil), see the IDEA site: http://sirens.unb.ca/idea.