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ERIC Number: EJ820472
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2007
Pages: 24
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-1467-9620
Human Capital or Human Connections? The Cultural Meanings of Education in Brazil
Bartlett, Lesley
Teachers College Record, v109 n7 p1613-1636 2007
Background/Context: In the field of educational research, conventional wisdom holds that primary-level schooling, specifically literacy acquisition, promotes economic mobility for individuals and economic development for the nation. This belief is rooted in human capital theory, the causal argument claiming that state investment in schooling or training increases worker productivity and therefore workers' incomes, owners' profits, and (ultimately) national development through economic growth. The idea that literacy instruction yields economic and other forms of development, which features widely in global educational policy documents, constitutes what anthropologist Brian Street called an "autonomous" model of literacy, one that suggests that literacy instruction results in automatic "effects" on individual and national economic development. Focus of Study: Arguing against human capital theory and other autonomous models of literacy, this article reveals how the outcomes of literacy schooling are mediated by complex social interactions and by the meanings that students attach to schooling. Research Design: This article draws on 24 months of ethnographic research with highly impoverished literacy students from four literacy programs in two Brazilian cities. Findings/Results: This article shows three things. First, the students interviewed for the study talked about education not only as book learning and formal study but also as sociability and manners. Second, they said that sociability and manners derive, in part, from schooling. Third, the students consistently remarked, and my observations confirmed, that the economic opportunities that attendance at school opened for them were the product of their development as "educated" people, which contributed to their efforts to extend and maintain social networks. Conclusions/Recommendations: The data presented in this article suggest a need to reconsider key theories and dominant discourses about literacy and economic development that, rooted in human capital theory, predict a tight, causal link between learning to read and write and improved economic opportunities. Instead, I argue that the social, political, and/or economic benefits of literacy must be examined in light of a sociocultural, interactional model of education.
Teachers College, Columbia University. P.O. Box 103, 525 West 120th Street, New York, NY 10027. Tel: 212-678-3774; Fax: 212-678-6619; e-mail: tcr@tc.edu; Web site: http://www.tcrecord.org
Publication Type: Information Analyses; Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Brazil