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Results Briefs November 16, 2020

Improving Education Quality and Public Management Capacity in Recife, Brazil


Each year, more than 80,000 children, most living in Recife’s poorest households, have benefited from activities supported by the project

Photo by Andrea Rego Barros/City of Recife/Handout

The municipality of Recife, a large Brazilian city with one of the nation’s highest poverty levels, has put forward two significant educational reforms, benefiting mainly the city’s children. Recife has improved the quality of basic education, measured by student learning and progression rates, and, in addition, it has considerably increased early childhood education coverage.


With over 46,000 children aged 0–5 enrolled in early childhood education (ECE) in Recife, the municipality lagged behind both the region and the country in terms of coverage. Nursery school coverage was 12 percent of the 0–3 population, significantly below the national and northeast regional coverages of 18 percent and 16 percent, respectively. Coverage at the preschool level (ages 4–5) was 80 percent, slightly higher than the national average, but below the regional coverage. The quality of primary and lower secondary education was also weak, with Recife seriously underperforming compared to other state capitals in national learning assessment results. Recife also faced high age-grade distortion rates, which is strongly associated with low student learning performance and high dropout rates. The high rates of illiteracy in the early grades made achieving a quality education in later grades almost impossible. The education system’s ineffectiveness was directly linked to inefficiency in the municipal public sector.


The Recife Swap Education and Public Management Project used results-based financing under a sector-wide approach, as well as a technical assistance component, to support the municipal government in tackling the main challenges associated with education quality and ECE coverage. The supported activities under the results-based component included constructing and rehabilitating ECE centers, training teachers in improved classroom practice (for both ECE and basic education levels), expanding full-time schools and accelerated learning classes, and providing technical support to improve school management and accountability. Activities under the technical assistance component focused on improving teacher effectiveness and the municipal government’s management capacity, as well as producing analytical work to guide Recife’s education policy.


Bank Group Contribution

The World Bank, through the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), provided a loan in the amount of US$130 million to help finance the project. Of these loan proceeds, US$120 million was used to support Recife’s overall municipal budget of approximately US$850 million during the life of the project, and US$10 million supported activities under the technical assistance component.


Key partners helping to support Recife’s municipal government to implement project programs included Ayrton Senna Institute (accelerated learning) and Lemann Foundation (professional development for teachers and principals).


Each year, more than 80,000 children, most living in Recife’s poorest households, have benefited from activities supported by the project. Following project activities, students enrolled in municipal schools in Recife attained higher levels of learning, and more children aged newborn to five — particularly those from poor households — are enrolled in ECE centers. In addition, the teachers and principals of Recife’s municipal early childhood, primary, and lower secondary schools now have more effective professional skills as well as development opportunities that enable them to better promote their students’ learning.  

Moving Forward

Given the operation’s sector-wide approach, all activities supported by the project under the results-based component are expected to continue into the future, since they are fully integrated into the municipal government’s education policy and budget.