Moving away from a graded system : a policy analysis of the Cycles of Learning project (Brazil)
This study exanunes the formulation of the Cycles of Learning Project and its
implementation in a sample of Brazilian primary schools. The policy investigated was
designed to reduce retention and dropout rates and age/grade mismatch, provide students
with more time to learn and ultimately create a more inclusive educational system.
The theoretical framework used in the thesis is based on the 'policy cycle' approach
developed by Stephen Ball and his colleagues and Basil Bernstein's theories of
recontextualisation and pedagogies. The data, which are largely qualitative, derive from
interviews with policy makers, analysis of policy documents and observations of teacher
training carried out at the Secretariat of Education. The research also involved qualitative
investigation of four primary schools, consisting of interviews with 20 teachers and eight
heads and observations of classrooms and schools' activities.
Overall the research has found that the policy's implementation has been contested and
patchy. The most pivotal findings are as follows: the practitioners were excluded from the
policy-making and took little part in text production and policy implementation; the
principles of visible pedagogy remained predominant in the pedagogical practice; teachers
experienced difficulties in usin~ assessment to provide feedback needed by pupils and when
dealing with heterogeneous groups; inequalities of the graded system were reproduced inside
the classrooms through processes of internal exclusion; policy difficulties were linked to
mode of implementation (top-down orientation) and constraints on the policy as an invisible
pedagogy rather than opposition to the policy itself. This thesis demonstrates the need to
analyse the mode of implementation and the nature of the policy itself so that the process of
reform can be better understood. It also recommends a set of strategies which might tackle
inequalities more effectively.