The Curse of Vestibular


February 26, 2010 by Willy Cardoso

One of the happiest and worst times of my teenage was when I finished high school. The happiest because going to that school was an unbearable torture. The worst because I had to face Vestibular, the reason of this post. In order to make this writing more vivid I’ll write it pretending I’m at this moment of my life again.

One big criticized issue in Brazilian education among students is the Vestibular, a test that will tell whether the students can enter the university. Each university has its own Vestibular, and there are some joint ones for the public unis. The point is that, the hard-earning grades in secondary education are simply ignored, showing that there’s no reliance between secondary and tertiary education. For many high school leavers it feels like, “ok, this stage of my life was useless in terms of preparing me to what I really wanna be, and now I’ll study one or two more years in a complete anti-humanistic approach, and I’ll have to master Chemistry, Biology and Physics, when in fact what I want is to get into Music School.”

How can this be???

We study Chemistry, Biology and Physics for 8 years at school, fine, I don’t like it but some people do, so it’s got to be there in the curriculum, they say it’s important, okay. But how come do we have to know it well enough to start a degree in Marketing, Law, Economy, and so on. Of course, it goes the other way around, one has to know a lot of History to get into Math.

To make matters worse, the ones that eventually learned a lot about everything to get into a good university, will forget that everything in less than one year, and you might already know why, right? Because they studied to pass a ridiculous test! In real life, they don’t know Biology well enough not to pollute the environment. They don’t know Math well enough to take care of their personal finances and income taxes on their own.

Three shameful consequences (out of hundreds):

–          Knowing that getting into public universities is extremely hard, many new private universities, that care about nothing but money, set up dumb Vestibulares, which any 10 year-old would pass. Consequently, the level of the courses are below a snake’s ass, because if made harder people wouldn’t cope, would drop out, and the uni would lose money. And the circle of mass production of unprepared professionals begins.

–          In the last years of high school teachers teach to the test, since the test sucks, teaching sucks.

–          If one comes from public education, one will hardly get into public universities. In Brazil, it works like this: Public education is 100% free, primary and secondary are calamitous, tertiary is good. What’s the point then of having public unis, if the ones that will be there would come from private schools? i.e. they could afford to pay a private one.

Okay, since I’m writing this from my “high-schooler perspective” I don’t know how to write a conclusion to this text, and I won’t make an effort to do so, because in the end what I need to focus is on the Vestibular. Seriously, I don’t know what I can do to make this better, and honestly, I can’t do much right now. The first thing I thought was to get it off my chest, and then I hope that people (myself included) discuss it more often when talking about ways to improve educational systems.

I’ll take this license I gave myself to quote one of my favorite movie characters; this is an educationally incorrect thought and I don’t share it right now (2010), but I did back in 1999.

“Those who can’t do, teach… and those who can’t teach, teach gym… and of course, those who couldn’t do anything, I think, were signed to our school.” – Alvie (Woody Allen) in the fantastic film Annie Hall.


One thought on “The Curse of Vestibular

  1. Jason Whitney says:

    Wow, who knew Brazil has issues of assessment similar to that of the United States? I’m really glad to be in contact. I’ll be sure to check into your Blog. Did you read some of my earlier posts about setting up the PLN? We are all following along according to my model, and it’s been surprising who gets involved in the conversation. By the way, I spent some time in Brazil, in San Paulo and Aracaju, and I had a terrific time.

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