Bolsonaro govt accused of censoring Brazil school exam

·2-min read
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro came under fire amid accusations his government censored questions on Brazil's high school exit exam (AFP/EVARISTO SA)

President Jair Bolsonaro brushed off controversy over allegations his government censored questions on Brazil's high school exit exam, saying he was proud the test was now starting to "resemble this administration."

The comments came during the president's trip to Dubai Monday.

The far-right president has long criticized what he sees as left-wing bias in the National Secondary Education Examination, or ENEM, the standardized test Brazilian students take at the end of high school that plays a key part in gaining admission to university.

The row erupted last week when 37 education ministry officials resigned weeks from the test, scheduled for November 21 and 28.

Some alleged Sunday in a TV interview, speaking on condition of anonymity, that their superiors had forced them to change exam questions, subjecting them to "intolerable pressure" and harassment.

One said their boss had demanded more than 20 questions be removed from the 180-question exam, which features mostly multiple-choice questions in math, science, history, language and other subjects.

"They were mainly questions that dealt with the country's recent history," the ex-official told Globo television, saying two new versions of the test then had to be drafted.

But Education Minister Milton Ribeiro pushed back against the accusations, telling CNN Brazil that the test's questions are set in a "technical rather than ideological" style that is "neither leftist nor right-wing."

"There is no way to interfere," Ribeiro said. "The idea that there would be interference (on the test) is a narrative from those who would like to politicize education. Education does not have a party."

Bolsonaro has often attacked perceived political and cultural bias in the ENEM, accusations which education experts reject.

Shortly after winning the 2018 presidential election, he lashed out at a question about LGBT history, saying, "Don't worry, next year there won't be any more questions like that."

Last January, he criticized a question about the large salary difference between the biggest stars of Brazilian men's and women's football, Neymar and Marta.

"There are still some ridiculous questions, comparing a woman and a man playing football. There's no comparison. Women's football still isn't a reality in Brazil," he said.

The all-time leading goal scorer in World Cup tournaments -- men's or women's -- Marta has been named the world's best player six times.

Downplaying the latest controversy, Bolsonaro said during a trip to Dubai that he considered changing the exam an accomplishment.

"The questions on the ENEM are starting to resemble this administration," he said.

The comment caused outcry in Brazil, leading opposition lawmakers to announce they would order Ribeiro to appear before Congress to answer to allegations of government censorship of the exam.

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