Investing in parents for a more productive and inclusive Brazil


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Brazil's state of Ceará has just introduced a new parenting designed to stimulate a stronger early childhood development.
Brazil's state of Ceará has just introduced a new parenting program designed to stimulate stronger early childhood development. (Photo: Julio Pantoja / World Bank)

Quality and innovative education policies emerge usually from a combination of factors such as good teachers, quality school management, and parental engagement, among others. In Brazil, a country with tremendous diversity and regional inequalities, good examples have emerged even when they are least expected. Ceará, a state in the northeast region of Brazil — where more than 500,000 children are living in rural areas and where poverty rates are high — is showing encouraging signs of success from innovative initiatives in education. The figures speak for themselves. Today, more than 70 of the 100 best schools in Brazil are in Ceará. 

This month, with support from the World Bank, a new set of innovations are taking place, this time in early childhood. The state has just introduced a new parenting program based both on home visits and community meetings that is designed to stimulate a stronger child development. The program is part of a World Bank project and is being implemented in the 36 municipalities and two regions of the state capital of Fortaleza, areas that have the highest poverty rates.

Led by the Ceará Department of Education, the Early Childhood Development Support program (PADIN in Portuguese) partners at the state level with the “Secretarias” of social development, health, and the Ceará Economic Research Institute. It will benefit about 2,000 families where the average years of schooling of mothers in rural zones is of only six years. Despite the progress that these six years already represents with respect to the average schooling recorded as of 2004, it contrasts greatly with the almost nine years of schooling that is typical in urban areas. This context sets the stage for very different educational trajectories for children of rich versus poor families, where inequalities start in the early years of a child’s life.
Although inspired by successful experiences in Jamaica, Colombia, Peru, and Chile, PADIN creates a new and innovative product fully adapted to the Ceará context. It arises in response to three major challenges faced by the state: reducing the inequality of opportunity between rich and poor children before they reach preschool age (between 4 and 5 years old); the need for more efficient public policies directed at development of children under age four in environments of low population density; and promoting of recognition of the family as the principal determinant in child development.
PADIN is offered in close collaboration with the selected municipalities, based on three important principles:

  1. Home visits to parents are coordinated by the state Department of Education, but will be coordinated with the departments of Health and Social Protection so that the intervention is more effective in promoting comprehensive child development;
  2. Fostering exchanges among parents is important to share information and knowledge, not only between the program agents and participating families, but also between caregiving fathers and mothers, so as to help them improve their relationships with their children;
  3. The quality of the officers who will conduct the program matters. Teachers who have some college education as well as applied experience in early childhood education will be selected. The quality and relevance in the backgrounds of the officers is essential in dealing with challenges and the opportunities for improving the quality of the relationship and the encouragement given by parents to their young children.
During the next several months, the program will be rigorously assessed through an impact evaluation. This effort will also be supported by the project developed with the World Bank and will be conducted in close cooperation with the state. The assessment will compare differences in the development of children in PADIN participant neighborhoods and those in non-participating neighborhoods.

The expectation, based on similar programs in Peru, Colombia, Chile, or Jamaica, is that the program will have a significant impact on the cognitive and socio-emotional competencies of children, who will later become elementary and high school students, and perhaps attend universities. It is expected that PADIN will also foster more successful student trajectories, with students repeating less in school years and achieving better levels of learning.

All this will translate into a population of individuals who are more employable and more productive, thereby contributing to stronger and more inclusive growth in Ceará and in Brazil as a whole.
The World Bank Group hosted a Partners’ Roundtable on Investing in the Early Years: Identifying Synergies and Catalyzing Action on April 19, 2017. Join the conversation with #EarlyYears.

Find out more about World Bank Group Education on our website and on Twitter.


Rita Almeida

Program Leader, Human Development, Central America, World Bank Group

Leandro Costa

Senior Economist, Education

Join the Conversation

May 18, 2017

you have shared such an amazing article . i agree with you that innovative education policies emerge from a combination of factors like good teachers, quality school management, and parental engagement

lucia maranhao
June 03, 2017

The author states that: "Today, more than 70 of the 100 best schools in Brazil are in Ceará" - this statement seems absolutely wrong. On what basis such a non-sense statistics was created? Was there a credible research to back such data? This article seems to be prepared by a low level professional. At every state level in Brazil, when anyone asks how they are performing, they say: we are the best. BTW, Ceara is a beautiful estate that has been infected by corruption as any other state in Brazil. Education is bad as anywhere else in Brazil. Only public workers that are fed by corruption or ignorance think Ceara is better than anywhere else in Brazil - in terms of education

Rita Almeida and Leandro Costa (authors)
June 21, 2017

Thank you for your follow up and interest. Our measure of success is based on the level of an indicator regularly published by the Brazilian Education Institute (INEP), IDEB for the early grades of primary education (“ Índice de Desenvolvimento da Educação Básica” in Portuguese). IDEB is an indicator of the quality of education that combines information on student learning (captured by national assessments at the end of school year) with student passing rates. In 2015, among the 100 top schools in the first cycle of Fundamental Education (covering grades 1st through 5th) nationwide, more than 70 best performing schools are located in the Ceara state.
This may be surprising at first sight, but surely partly reflects the important reforms that the state and several of its 184 municipios have implemented over the last years. Some important contributions were the creation of PAIC (Programa Alfabetizacao na Idade Certa) and innovations in management for results in the education sector which have included providing finantial incentives to reward positive school and student performance.
Furthermore, the state was also one of the first to built in financial incentives through the state level transfers to the municipios ( through the design of the ICMS) while providing technical assistance and support to the lagging schools/municipios.