RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – Participation in the standardized admission exam to the University of Brazil on Sunday appeared to be the lowest in 15 years, largely reflecting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the education of the country, according to experts.
Just over 3 million students have registered for the annual exam, down 44% from last year and the lowest since 2006. The grueling 5.5-hour test, held over two weekends, is the main admission standard for Brazilian universities.
Experts said they expected many of those who signed up at the start of the year to be absent on Sunday. About half of the 5.7 million people who signed up for last year’s tests also failed to show up when they were finally held up amid the pandemic.
Numerous school closures and the frustration with online education have affected millions of students across the country.
“It is possible that due to the interruption of in-person learning, there was a feeling that there was not enough time to prepare for the exams,” said Claudia Costin, director of the Center. excellence and innovation in educational policies, a think tank in Rio de Janeiro.
She also noted that the pandemic has caused economic hardship that has caused many people to work rather than study.
Low attendance was evident in some places in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday. Crowds of parents usually congregate outside while their children take tests. But only a few street vendors selling pens and face masks were on site moments before the exam began at the Catholic University.
Conservative President Jair Bolsonaro, meanwhile, has made the review himself part of his cultural war battle against the left. He accused the test designers of inserting a leftist bias. And he questioned its usefulness in judging college applicants – a position often associated with left-wing critics of testing in the United States.
“Look at Enem’s diagram,” he said this week during a visit to Qatar. “For God’s sake, does that measure any knowledge? Or is it political activism and behavioral issues? “
Critics say Bolsonaro’s administration stepped in to adjust test questions it didn’t like – in a case recasting a reference to the 1964 military coup to call it a “revolution,” as the ‘said his supporters.
The Education Department did not respond to The Associated Press’s request for comment on low enrollment numbers or accusations of interference.
Thirty-seven members of the agency that prepares the exam – the National Institute for Studies and Research in Education – resigned this week, complaining about the government’s attempts to interfere in the tests by inserting an ideology into them.
The main union representing workers at the institute on Friday called for an investigation into alleged censorship attempts.
“Since Bolsonaro was elected, INEP officials have been treated like communists, politically motivated. And the management of the institute does not want to respect the technical opinions during the preparation of the exams, declared the president of the union, Alexandre Retamal, to the Associated Press.
Costin, who is also a former secretary of education in Rio de Janeiro, warned that growing mistrust of the exam could lead to even more people avoiding taking it in years to come.
She told the PA that officials have a conspiratorial view “which leads the government to believe that universities are political centers, not places of research and knowledge production.”