While victories have been claimed at the primary and tertiary levels in recent years by successive governments, reflecting their shift to social issues, Brazilian public high schools are still far from receiving adequate policy attention and funding. As a result of the poor quality and quantity of public secondary education, the bulk of the population (of lower socio-economic status) is underrepresented at the university level. This study examines — both on theoretical and empirical grounds — whether the education policies implemented during the administration of Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva (2003–2010) were founded on the needs of students and appropriate for the obstacles at hand. It discusses the literature on factors that affect educational outcomes. It then presents findings from the case study conducted in the state of Goiás. Lastly, based on the quantitative and qualitative information collected, policy recommendations are put forth, keeping in mind the national goals of moving forward as a nation through providing its citizens the necessary tools to thrive. In addition to the potential to improve the national economy, enhancing the quality of the education offered in public high schools could serve to improve the ability of students of lower socio-economic status in being admitted into universities, increasing their life-chances and the possibility of higher incomes – ultimately, breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty and moving Brazil forward in the face of the knowledge economy.
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Thesis advisor: Hira, Anil
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