Schoolteachers’ health in Brazil

Ada Ávila Assunção About the author

This Supplement of CSP provides an overview of schoolteachers’ health in Basic Education (K-12) in Brazil. Education, work, and health are interconnected dimensions in the studies discussed in the following articles. The authors share concepts and research methods from the field of workers’ health to examine the connections at the macro level between the educational sector and the unique level of the health-disease process 11. Maia EG, Claro RM, Assunção AA. Múltiplas exposições ao risco de faltar ao trabalho nas escolas da Educação Básica no Brasil. Cad Saúde Pública 2019; 35 Suppl 1:e00166517..

The quality of educational services is related to schoolteachers’ working conditions, although the assessments of the current crisis in learning in Brazil tend to focus on the curriculum guidelines or the teachers’ motivations and training. In fact, the school is a space where the work of classroom teaching converges with the spaces where pupils learn that which they would not have the opportunity to know if it were not for schooling. To reduce school dropout, improve performance indicators, expand the school day, induce greater teacher retention at the same school, and open new learning opportunities are the educational sector’s current targets that depend on situations in which teachers’ activities coincide with the process by which the students develop the necessary skills for their future as citizens. These ideas explain why teachers are valued as “an integral part and link in the National System of Education”, whose parameters for working conditions at the national level are essential 22. Almeida Jr. AM, Nogueira FMB, Lambertucci AR, Grossi Jr. G. O Sistema Nacional de Educação: em busca de consensos. In: Cunha C, Gadotti M, Bordignon G, Nogueira FMB, organizadores. O Sistema Nacional de Educação: diversos olhares 80 anos após o Manifesto. Brasília: Secretaria de Articulação com os Sistemas de Ensino, Ministério da Educação; 2014. p. 109-25.. The results of the Educatel Study, which analyzed a probabilistic and representative nationwide sample of the school-teaching profession, with 1,789,651 female teachers and 439,618 male teachers 33. Assunção AA, Medeiros AM, Claro RM, Vieira MT, Maia EG, Andrade JM. Hipóteses, delineamento e instrumentos do Estudo Educatel, Brasil, 2015/2016. Cad Saúde Pública 2019; 35 Suppl 1:e00108618., revealed gaps in the fulfillment of plans and guidelines as regards the relevance of valuing teachers for the school systems objectives 44. Nogueira FMB, Lambertucci AR. O SNE e o cuidado com a saúde para a valorização do educador. Retratos da Escola 2012; 6:355-64.. Second, increasing the level of schooling with quality and access for all contributes to achieving public health objectives as well. Studies show that individuals with more schooling tend to enjoy better health status, since in addition to increasing their odds of joining the labor market and obtaining better income, they benefit from a wider range of cognitive, emotional, and interactional resources to develop more effective strategies to cope with adversities 55. Eide ER, Showalter MH. Estimating the relation between health and education: what do we know and what do we need to know? Econ Educ Rev 2011; 30:778-91..

As for teachers’ absences from work, the research techniques used by the authors allowed avoiding the traditional single-cause approach, rather acknowledging the multidimensional nature of the phenomena 11. Maia EG, Claro RM, Assunção AA. Múltiplas exposições ao risco de faltar ao trabalho nas escolas da Educação Básica no Brasil. Cad Saúde Pública 2019; 35 Suppl 1:e00166517.. There is substantial evidence to consider absenteeism rates an indicator of workers’ health and wellbeing 66. Marmot M, Feeney A, Shipley M, North F, Syme SL. Sickness absence as a measure of health status and functioning: from the UK Whitehall II study. J Epidemiol Community Health 1995; 49:124-30.. The factors related to the risk of missing work at school were found to be related to the characteristics of the technical and organizational environment, contrary to the view that blames individuals themselves for their absences. The latter view not only reinforces the feeling, for the teachers, of “being under suspicion” 77. Oliveira DA. Os trabalhadores da educação e a construção política da profissão docente no Brasil. Educ Rev 2010; (n spe 1):17-35., but also expresses the representation of disease as an individual process, experienced as a personal inadequacy or difficulty 88. Araújo TM, Pinho PS, Masson MLV. Trabalho e saúde de professoras e professores no Brasil: reflexões sobre trajetórias das investigações, avanços e desafios. Cad Saúde Pública 2019; 35 Suppl 1:e00087318.. In fact, the evidence indicates the collective nature of illness in Basic Education in Brazil, since it is associated with a certain configuration of the teachers’ work. Worldwide evidence confirms this assertion 88. Araújo TM, Pinho PS, Masson MLV. Trabalho e saúde de professoras e professores no Brasil: reflexões sobre trajetórias das investigações, avanços e desafios. Cad Saúde Pública 2019; 35 Suppl 1:e00087318.,99. Ferreira LL. Lições de professores sobre suas alegrias e dores no trabalho. Cad Saúde Pública 2019; 35 Suppl 1:e00049018.. The results of the Educatel Study as a whole identify not only the limited success of measures to value Brazilian schoolteachers, but also non-compliance with legal obligations in this regard 1010. Assunção AA, Abreu MNS. Pressão laboral, saúde e condições de trabalho dos professores da Educação Básica no Brasil. Cad Saúde Pública 2019; 35 Suppl 1:e00169517..

What can explain the weak repercussions of the knowledge on Brazilian schoolteachers’ health in the institutions and in society at large, which insist on the teachers’ individual responsibility for guaranteeing quality education in the schools, without including in that discourse the existing needs in the schoolteachers’ workplace 88. Araújo TM, Pinho PS, Masson MLV. Trabalho e saúde de professoras e professores no Brasil: reflexões sobre trajetórias das investigações, avanços e desafios. Cad Saúde Pública 2019; 35 Suppl 1:e00087318.,99. Ferreira LL. Lições de professores sobre suas alegrias e dores no trabalho. Cad Saúde Pública 2019; 35 Suppl 1:e00049018.,1010. Assunção AA, Abreu MNS. Pressão laboral, saúde e condições de trabalho dos professores da Educação Básica no Brasil. Cad Saúde Pública 2019; 35 Suppl 1:e00169517.? Various processes influence the separation of knowledge on workers’ health from the actual definition of public policies. Did the confinement of the scientific discourse 1111. Henry E. Ignorance scientifique et inaction publique. Paris: Presses de Sciences Po; 2017. exert an influence on the invisibility of schoolteachers’ illness? CSP is taking its first steps in the opposite direction.

The concepts of gender relations and sexual division of labor at least partially elucidate why schoolteachers’ precarious working conditions and illness are taken for granted 1212. Neves MYR, Brito JC, Muniz HP. A saúde das professoras, os contornos de gênero e o trabalho no Ensino Fundamental. Cad Saúde Pública 2019; 35 Suppl 1:e00189617.. Thus, the gender dimension should be included alongside the interconnected dimensions of education, work, and health. Importantly, the subject matter in this special thematic edition “is vast, complex, and with a huge diversity of practical situations”, so two observations by Ferreira 99. Ferreira LL. Lições de professores sobre suas alegrias e dores no trabalho. Cad Saúde Pública 2019; 35 Suppl 1:e00049018. stand out, among others: the unavoidable need to hear the teachers themselves and the essential care to avoid over-generalizations.

  • 1
    Maia EG, Claro RM, Assunção AA. Múltiplas exposições ao risco de faltar ao trabalho nas escolas da Educação Básica no Brasil. Cad Saúde Pública 2019; 35 Suppl 1:e00166517.
  • 2
    Almeida Jr. AM, Nogueira FMB, Lambertucci AR, Grossi Jr. G. O Sistema Nacional de Educação: em busca de consensos. In: Cunha C, Gadotti M, Bordignon G, Nogueira FMB, organizadores. O Sistema Nacional de Educação: diversos olhares 80 anos após o Manifesto. Brasília: Secretaria de Articulação com os Sistemas de Ensino, Ministério da Educação; 2014. p. 109-25.
  • 3
    Assunção AA, Medeiros AM, Claro RM, Vieira MT, Maia EG, Andrade JM. Hipóteses, delineamento e instrumentos do Estudo Educatel, Brasil, 2015/2016. Cad Saúde Pública 2019; 35 Suppl 1:e00108618.
  • 4
    Nogueira FMB, Lambertucci AR. O SNE e o cuidado com a saúde para a valorização do educador. Retratos da Escola 2012; 6:355-64.
  • 5
    Eide ER, Showalter MH. Estimating the relation between health and education: what do we know and what do we need to know? Econ Educ Rev 2011; 30:778-91.
  • 6
    Marmot M, Feeney A, Shipley M, North F, Syme SL. Sickness absence as a measure of health status and functioning: from the UK Whitehall II study. J Epidemiol Community Health 1995; 49:124-30.
  • 7
    Oliveira DA. Os trabalhadores da educação e a construção política da profissão docente no Brasil. Educ Rev 2010; (n spe 1):17-35.
  • 8
    Araújo TM, Pinho PS, Masson MLV. Trabalho e saúde de professoras e professores no Brasil: reflexões sobre trajetórias das investigações, avanços e desafios. Cad Saúde Pública 2019; 35 Suppl 1:e00087318.
  • 9
    Ferreira LL. Lições de professores sobre suas alegrias e dores no trabalho. Cad Saúde Pública 2019; 35 Suppl 1:e00049018.
  • 10
    Assunção AA, Abreu MNS. Pressão laboral, saúde e condições de trabalho dos professores da Educação Básica no Brasil. Cad Saúde Pública 2019; 35 Suppl 1:e00169517.
  • 11
    Henry E. Ignorance scientifique et inaction publique. Paris: Presses de Sciences Po; 2017.
  • 12
    Neves MYR, Brito JC, Muniz HP. A saúde das professoras, os contornos de gênero e o trabalho no Ensino Fundamental. Cad Saúde Pública 2019; 35 Suppl 1:e00189617.
Escola Nacional de Saúde Pública Sergio Arouca, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz Rio de Janeiro - RJ - Brazil
E-mail: cadernos@ensp.fiocruz.br