Podcast BWE with Priscilla Tavares: education, opportunities, and the pandemic

In this new episode of Brazilian Women in Economics’s Podcast, Laura Karpuska and Maria Dolores Diaz interview Priscilla Tavares, BSc and MSc in economics from USP, and PhD from FGV-EESP. Priscilla is a Professor at FGV-EESP and a researcher in economics of education. In addition, Priscilla has already been a technical consultant at the Secretariat of Education of the State of São Paulo, a consultant for the United Nations Development Program, World Bank, UNESCO, and the Ministry of Education.


Priscilla tells us that she had a relatively linear trajectory with the influence of other women acting in the area: still in her first year at college in FEA-RP/USP she got involved with an undergraduate research project and had Professor Elaine Pazello as her undergraduate advisor. These experiences made her realize that to continue doing research, she would need to pursue a Master’s degree, which she did at FEA-USP. Before entering a Doctorate program, Priscilla worked at the State Secretariat of Education, where she helped implement a policy of teachers’ bonuses. This contributed to make her see the academic work under new lenses, also awoke in her an interest in researching how to improve educational management. Thus, when starting the Doctorate, she is already studying economics of education.


Priscilla also comments on some recent findings in the literature. She points out that in developing countries, such as Brazil, there is a lack of culture of establishment of objective and feasible goals, result monitoring and rewarding performance in education. In one of Priscilla’s papers, in which she uses microdata from the School Census and from Prova Brasil (a national exam to measure students’ learning in public schools) to study opportunity inequality in education, 10% to 23% of the inequality attributed to the students’ profile could be influenced through policies in education. With regards to the impacts of the pandemic in educational inequality, Priscilla believes that the negative effects will be worse among poorer and more vulnerable children and adolescents, which have less resources to keep up with remote classes. She also spoke that these greater difficulties could trigger a higher school dropout rate, something that would have later consequences on the labor market.


In addition, Priscilla speaks on school management research, and on the use of PBL (Problem Based Learning) method. She points out that there is evidence that improving school management practices can impact educational outcomes. She explains that interventions in this sense do not necessarily need more resources, only an improvement in the allocation logic of the ones in place. As for the implementation of different pedagogical approaches, she considers that it is important that education managers be open to consideration, especially for the high school setting where Brazil faces a problem of lack of motivation among students.