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March 10th, 2020
Education • Legitimacy

Public policies for universal early childhood education in Campinas, São Paulo

Since 2013, universal access to basic education has been compulsory for Brazil's 4 to 5 year olds. There is also an emphasis on non-compulsory early childhood education, for children up to 3 years of age. But in 2013, the city of Campinas, São Paulo was a long way from meeting these demands, either for universal early childhood education for 4 to 5 year olds, or for children of non-compulsory age, where it had a deficit of more than 9,000 school places.

From 2014 to 2018, Campinas' education department increased its total investment in the education sector by 13 percent, and by coordinating its initiative with other actors and stakeholders, it significantly increased the number of early school places it could offer. As a result of its new policies, by 2016 the city was able to provide access to compulsory early childhood education for all children aged 4 to 5. Two years later, it met 89 percent of demand for non-compulsory education.

The initiative

To overcome these challenges and meet all the demand for early childhood education in Campinas, the SME team ran the entire process, bringing together the various actors and stakeholders to achieve their goals.

They did so by undertaking a number of activities, principally:

  • Registering the demand for places - applying social classification criteria - ensuring transparency in monitoring the process

  • Monitoring daily school attendance in order to distribute meals and avoid vacant or underused school places

  • Managing school transport to ensure that all children were able to travel to school

  • Publishing the Caderno Curricular Temático - Tempos e Espaços da Educação Infantil (The Thematic Curriculum - Times and Spaces of Early Childhood Education)

  • Supervising educational projects, teaching plans, and teachers' workplans, to ensure quality of care

  • Ensuring the continuing qualification of education professionals, based on the National Core Curriculum Common Base [Base Nacional Comum Curricular] (BNCC), with more than 2,500 educators in training at any given time

  • Optimising school place numbers and the construction of new school buildings, using Conduct Adjustment Agreements [Termos de Ajuste de Conduta] (TAC) that underpin new property developments in the city

Optimising the enrolment processes through non-traditional partnership models, e.g. a contractor selected by public tender manages the HR. while the SME performs activities such as the supervision of teachers and the provision of computerised management systems. Thus, there is a uniform quality of care, guaranteeing educational quality. The approved institutions receive the Escola Bem Legal seal, which is displayed on the school building.[1]

The challenge

In 1996, the enactment of Brazil's National Education Guidelines and Framework Law [Lei de Diretrizes e Bases da Educação Nacional] (LDB), made all children's access to basic education mandatory. Since 2013, the definition of basic education has expanded to encompass all primary junior and secondary education, that is, from the ages of 4 to 17. In addition to these compulsory stages, there is also non-compulsory early childhood education, which covers children up to 3 years of age.

The city of Campinas in the state of São Paulo has over 1 million inhabitants and is Brazil's seventh largest city. In 2013, it had a deficit of more than 9,000 school places for children of non-compulsory age. In addition, the demand for compulsory early childhood education, for 4 to 5 year olds, was not fully met.

The city faced a complex problem, as demand has tended to increase year on year. As secretary of education in Campinas' municipal government, Solange Villon Kohn Pelicer was responsible for the management of early childhood education. She and her team at the city's Department of Education [Secretaria Municipal de Educação] (SME) took a proactive approach to the problem and focused on reducing the deficit of school places while still maintaining a high quality of care.

For Villon Kohn Pelicer, early childhood education is extremely important, especially in children's cognitive development, and it plays a major role in basic education. Therefore, universal education has always been one of her highest priorities.

To achieve the educational goals set by the LDB, the city of Campinas faced several specific challenges, such as:

  1. Limitations on hiring personnel, due to the Fiscal Responsibility Law [Lei de Responsabilidade Fiscal] (LRF), despite the need to employ full-time teaching staff for all 4 to 5 year olds

  2. Budgetary constraints on the construction of new kindergartens and primary schools

  3. The substandard physical conditions of existing schools

  4. Neighbourhoods with a high demand for public services, especially early childhood education, but with inadequate infrastructure.[1]

The public impact

In 2012, the city met only 68 percent of the demand for school places in early childhood education. By 2018, as a result of its new policies, Campinas was able to meet 89 percent of demand. The municipality now has 48,492 children enrolled, although there are 5,879 children still on the waiting list.

In an interview with CLP Brazil, Villon Kohn Pelicer explained that “according to PNAD 2017, among children in socioeconomic classes A and B, 6.8 percent are not receiving education in kindergartens. Among socioeconomic classes C, D and E, this number reaches 33.9 percent. In Brazil, only 32 percent of children attend kindergartens. In Campinas, we reached 89 percent of demand. The academic literature points out that the formal early childhood education stage is directly responsible for learning rates throughout basic education.”[1] (see embedded video)

In addition, there were several other achievements, which served to improve the educational conditions for Campinas' children:

  • Achieving universal compulsory age education in 2016, sustained through the following years, educating 48,492 children

  • Reducing the number of non-compulsory age children on the waiting list, which in 2012 amounted to 9,130 ​​children and by 2018 had fallen to 5,879 children, a 46 percent reduction

  • Optimising and expanding the services for which the SME was directly responsible, with 24,670 children enrolled (50.89 percent of the total)

  • Consolidating the co-managed service model, with 10,806 enrolled children (22.28 percent of the total)

  • Consolidating the associated service model, with 8,696 children enrolled (17.93 percent of the total)

  • Consolidating the supervised service model, with 4,320 children enrolled (8.9 percent of the total).[1]

The outlook is that demand for school places for the non-compulsory age group will also be fully met. Villon Kohn Pelicer believes that using TACs for new property development projects, along with the SME's other initiatives, have contributed significantly to the progress towards this end.

Stakeholder engagement

The SME was responsible for leading the process and demonstrated strong alignment with all actors involved in policymaking and implementation. In 2013, it developed a decentralised management model, which is still in force today. The creation of Decentralised Educational Action Centres [Núcleo de Ação Educacional Descentralizado] (NAEDs) was a successful solution to ensure that all parties were committed to the initiative.

In addition, the SME works on the principle of democratic and transparent management. There is evidence of internal and external stakeholder engagement in policymaking and policy implementation. There were numerous public discussions involving parents and other concerned citizens, which were held in a number of locations, such as kindergartens. These social listening exercises were run by Campinas' Public Services Ministry.

Political commitment

During his two administrations (2013-2016 and 2016-2020), Mayor Jonas Donizette prioritised education in both his Government Plan [2] and his Goals Programme.[3] Among the main objectives, the expansion of services in early childhood education involves not only the increase in the number of school places in kindergartens and the construction of new buildings but also increased and improved teacher training.

During his mandate, he also demonstrated commitment to social participation mechanisms, such as participatory budgeting.[4] In 2014, 150,000 residents of 33 neighbourhoods in the northern region of Campinas responded to surveys by choosing education as a priority, along with health, public safety, and traffic as other key sectors for the administration to address.

In addition, the political commitment of Mayor Donizette's administration is evident from the volume of investment in early childhood education. From 2014 to 2018, total investment in the sector increased by 13 percent. The opening of new kindergartens was a major goal during the first years of the administration and, consequently, a significant proportion of the budget was devoted to building work, representing on average a quarter of total investment.

Public confidence

Mayor Donizette entered politics in 1992 and was the youngest elected city councillor in Campinas.[5] He was reelected twice as councillor, securing the most votes on both occasions. During his third term as councillor in 2002, he was elected as a state representative, and was reelected in 2006 with the largest number of votes in the city. In 2010, he was elected federal representative, also with the largest number votes. In 2012, he was elected for his first term as mayor, with 57.69 percent of votes cast.[6]

At that time, there was strong public confidence in Donizette and his Government Plan.[2] He took over the administration of Campinas as the first directly elected mayor after a local political crisis, during which two mayors were impeached, accused of involvement in a corruption scandal.[7]

In 2016, Donizette was reelected with 65.43 percent of the vote.[8] However, voters evaluated the mayor's previous years' administration in a survey conducted by Ibope, and despite the significant percentage of votes received in the election, only 30 percent of respondents gave him an “excellent” or “good” rating, while the “fair” and “bad” ratings accounted for 51 percent of respondents.

Clarity of objectives

Mayor Donizette set the objectives for his first administration in 2013 through his Government Plan and Goals Programme, in which specific and measurable results were established, such as universal access to early childhood education.[2][3] The target group for the policy was children in non-compulsory early childhood education, and children from 4 to 5 years old, the compulsory age in early childhood education.

The goal for children up to 3 years old was to guarantee universal school access and retention for all those who requested places. In 2012, kindergartens met 68 percent of the demand for places. By 2020, the city's kindergartens had met 89 percent of demand. The goal for children from 4 to 5 years old was to universalise access and retention for all those who requested places. This target was achieved in 2016 and has been sustained since then.

The results obtained were significant and directly addressed the diagnosed problem, and achieving them was only possible through the alignment of all actors involved in the initiative.

Strength of evidence

A co-managed service model for early childhood education was created in 2008, but the current administration has no information or evidence on how the policy was developed.

Due to the political crisis experienced by the city between 2010 and 2012, with the impeachment of two mayors (see Public Trust above),[7] there was no development in early childhood education. From 2013, when Mayor Donizette began his first term and, consequently, appointed a new team to the SME, a process of improvement to the existing model began.

However, no evidence was used in the construction of the policy and the new management model that was developed from 2013 onwards. Equally, there is no evidence from previous studies, research, consultations or references to earlier projects.


From a legal perspective, all partnership methods deployed by the SME are supported by Federal Law 13.019,[9] which establishes general rules for partnerships between public administration and civil society organisations through termos de colaboração (terms of collaboration), termos de fomento (terms of promotion), and acordos de cooperação (cooperation agreements). Partnerships were implemented through invitations to tender published in the city's daily official publication.[10]

Through the SME's analysis of the unsatisfied demand for education, public tenders contain information on the number of school places to be provided, by region and by grouping. The invitations to tender also specify the requirements for the creation of partnerships and the SME's policy guidelines that must be observed when implementing partnerships. This detailed specification also states that the initiative must meet budget requirements and deadlines, thus reinforcing its feasibility.

Therefore, the proposed approach was viable in terms of financial and human resources, since the amounts paid to partner organisations were strictly based on the number of children, their age group, and their length of attendance at school.


The secretary for education, Solange Villon Kohn Pelicer, has a degree in Education and worked as a teacher, vice principal, and principal in elementary schools at Campinas for 20 years.[5] She was the municipal secretary of education from 1991 to 1992 and participated in the transition of kindergartens from the Department of Social Assistance to the SME.

She developed, in partnership with an international NGO, a curriculum reorientation programme for educators and leaders in social projects. She also organised and participated in the Latin American and Caribbean Meeting on Childhood, held in Campinas in 2004. Since her first term as secretary for education, she has participated in the development of Mayor Donizette's government education plan. She had, therefore, the necessary knowledge and experience to lead the universal early childhood education project.

The SME acts in a decentralised manner through the five Decentralised Educational Action Centers [Núcleo de Ação Educacional Descentralizado] (NAEDs). They are divided according to the regions geographically defined in Campinas' decentralisation policy. They are: North, South, East, Southwest and Northwest, and comprise the municipal schools for early childhood education, and primary and secondary schools, as well as private schools located in the areas they cover.

Regional representatives, whose objective is to ensure the decentralisation and implementation of educational policies in the Campinas Municipal Education Network, direct the NAEDs. Educational supervisors and teaching coordinators make up the educational team for each NAED. They are responsible for monitoring and advising schools and ensuring that they comply with the requirements of the municipal education system.


The initiative ensures measurement of public impact over time through four clear and well-defined key indicators:

  • The proportion of demand for school places that has been met

  • Access to school places in kindergartens

  • Retention of children in kindergartens

  • The national Basic Education Development Index [Índice da Educação Básica] (IDEB).

The indicators chosen demonstrate the SME's commitment to providing both quality and access to education for the target audience. IDEB was chosen as the main quality indicator, and in 2018, Campinas' municipal schools exceeded the target established by IDEB.[11]

The impact of the initiative is regularly assessed by applying the IDEB quality indicators and, as they are consistent in demonstrating key outcomes, there was no need to adapt them or look for new tools.


The SME demonstrated strong alignment when it created, in 2009, its new decentralised management model. The model, which was refined from 2013 onwards, shares the management of kindergartens with various actors. In order to guarantee alignment, the five NAEDS were created to ensure the decentralisation and implementation of educational policies in Campinas' municipal education network.

Under this new decentralised structure, the SME is responsible for supervising education and the use of computerised management systems. Each school has to be fully legally compliant, and has to submit all its educational plans to SME staff. This degree of alignment guarantees a uniformly high standard of educational care for Campinas' children.


[1] Políticas públicas de universalização da educação infantil em Campinas - SP (Public policies for the universalisation of early childhood education in Campinas - SP, 14 August 2019, CLP,, Accessed 24 February 2020

[2] Proposta de Governo, Prefeito 2016-2020 (Mayor's Government Plan, 2016-2020 Administration), 2013, Jonas Donizette,, Accessed 24 February 2020

[3] O Programa de Metas (The Goals Programme), 2 April 2013, Prefeitura Municipal de Campinas (Campinas Prefecture), Accessed 24 February 2020

[4] Saúde, segurança, educação e trânsito são prioridades para AR-11 (Health, public safety, education and traffic are priorities for AR-11), 5 June 2014, Prefeitura Municipal de Campinas (Campinas Prefecture), Accessed 24 February 2020

[5] Equipe de Governo da Prefeitura de Campinas 2017/2020 (Campinas City Government's Team 2017/2020), Prefeitura Municipal de Campinas (Campinas Prefecture), Accessed 24 February 2020

[6] Campinas ELEIÇÕES 2012 (Campinas Elections 2012),, Accessed 24 February 2020

[7] Campinas pode perder 2º prefeito em 4 meses (Campinas may lose 2nd mayor in 4 months), Rose Mary de Souza, 21 December 2011, Exame,, Accessed 24 February 2020

[8] Eleições 2016: Campinas SP (Elections 2016: Campinas),, Accessed 24 February 2020

[9] Lei Nº 13.019, de 31 de Julho de 2014 (Federal Law No. 13.019/2014), Amended 2019, Presidência da República, Casa Civil: Subchefia para Assuntos Jurídicos (Presidency of the Republic, Civil Branch, Sub-branch for Legal Affairs), Accessed 24 February 2020

[10] Edital De Chamamento Público Nº 02/2018: Atendimento à Demanda de Educação Infantil (Public Call Notice No. 02/2018 for Early Childhood Care), 2018, Secretaria Municipal de Educação: Departamento Financeiro, Prefeitura Municipal de Campinas (Municipal Secretary of Education: Finance Department, Campinas Prefecture), Accessed 24 February 2020

[11] Escolas Municipais de Campinas superam meta brasileira projetada pelo Ideb (Campinas Municipal Schools exceed Brazilian target established by IDEB), 5 September 2018, Prefeitura Municipal de Campinas (Campinas Prefecture), Accessed 24 February 2020

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