Integrated Centre for Adult and Youth Education (CIEJA), Brazil (2023)

Programme Overview

Programme TitleCentro Integrado de Educação de Jovens e Adultos (CIEJA, the Integrated Centre for Adult and Youth Education)
Implementing OrganizationMunicipal education department of the city of São Paulo and the Regional Education Directory of Campo Limpo
Language of InstructionPortuguese
FundingMunicipal education department of the city of São Paulo and sporadic partnerships
Programme PartnersNGO Capão Cidadão, Projeto TV Doc Inclui and Projeto Viela
Date of Inception1999

Country Context

Over the past two decades, quality of life indicators in Brazil have improved in terms of education, living conditions and wealth, with the percentage of the population living on less than US $1.90 per day falling from 13.6 per cent in 2001 to 4.9 per cent in 2013. Free primary education is now universal, while the 2012 National Pact for Literacy at the Right Age aims to improve the literacy skills of children, helping ensure that every child has satisfactory literacy skills by the age of 8 years old (Brazilian Ministry of Education, 2012). Although illiteracy rates among young people and adults fell from over 18 million in 1980 to nearly 12 million in 2015, much remains to be done to improve the access to and quality of education for youths and adults. This effort would benefit from including the underprivileged communities in the literacy process.

In the city of São Paulo, an initiative was launched to create spaces offering flexible educational opportunities to young people and adults. It aims to empower youth and adults to be socially, economically and politically active citizens throughout their lives.

Programme Overview

The Campo Limpo Centro Integrado de Educação de Jovens e Adultos (CIEJA) (Integrated Centre for Adult and Youth Education) was established in 1999 in the city of São Paulo. CIEJAs were originally known as Centros de Educação Municipal de Ensino Supletivo (CIEMENS or Municipal Centres for Supplementary Study) and were at first headquartered in church facilities. CIEJA began offering educational activities dedicated to young people and adults in 2001, in cooperation with municipal authorities. In the same year, the CIEJA programme was adopted as a permanent policy by the municipal authorities. There are currently 14 units implementing the CIEJA approach/programme. This case study focuses on the work and results of CIEJA Campo Limpo.

The focus of this initiative is to provide inclusive education for young people and adults. It owes much to the inspiration of philosopher and educator Paulo Freire. Innovation and creativity are the leading principles of the directing administrative team, employees and teachers, alongside a commitment to work for the education of all as a mean to positively transform lives. This commitment stems from an understanding and acknowledgement of the target groups as active producers of art, culture, entertainment and knowledge. In addition, the initiative recognized cultural agents within neighbourhoods as crucial elements in the development of activities and a curriculum addressing value creation and transformation in the community.

The target groups benefitting from the programme include out-of-school young people and adults who have not completed school and seek to improve their literacy and basic skills for better work opportunities and living conditions, as well as for personal development. Among CIEJA’s learners are people from minority groups, immigrants (two students from Haiti have enrolled in 2016), and people from indigenous communities.

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The programme enrols an average of 1,322 students per year (approximately 60 per cent of them women, 30 per cent young people) and focuses on the local communities and surrounding areas. Enrolment is open all year round. The number of students varies according to the level of interest within the community in education and the day-to-day demands and responsibilities of their lives.

Aims and Objectives

CIEJA aims to provide inclusive education to minority groups and immigrants, as well as to learners with indigenous backgrounds who have recently become aware of how their heritage affects their lives. The programme also aims to improve participants' awareness and understanding of gender and intergenerational biases and challenges. With regard to the last aim, it is interesting to note how often two generations of the same family have participated in the programme.

Other specific objectives include:

  • Improving learners' cultural understanding of their own and other cultures.
  • Improving learners' understanding of their own social and ethnic backgrounds.
  • Acquiring a better understanding of learners' possible disabilities and improving their quality of life with them.
  • Empowering students to work within their community to create positive changes.
  • Fostering collaborative work within and outside learners' communities.

One of the common goals of learners when they enroll in the programme is to become more involved in the learning process of their children. It is also one of the most observed outcomes of the programme.

Programme implementation

Integrated Centre for Adult and Youth Education (CIEJA), Brazil (1)

The Campo Limpo unit currently relies on the work of 35 facilitators. Facilitators have the status of civil servants and are assigned to work in their respective units after successfully completing the required exams and selection process. Facilitators work with an average of 15 learners at a time.

CIEJA offers six distinct periods, each lasting two and a half hours. This approach is based on legislation allowing students to fulfill half of their required study hours outside the classroom. Instead of the traditional grade divisions, students are divided into four levels (called ‘models’), according to their knowledge levels: literacy, post-literacy, intermediate and final. In each of the six time periods – from 7.30am to 10pm – there are classes for all four modules working at the same pace. This allows for flexibility so learners who miss a class, can attend the same class at a different time and catch up on what they have missed. The administration’s office is open during teaching hours, so that students can enrol and join a class at any time.

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The Campo Limpo unit has extensive partnerships with the community. These result in events, visits, field trips and learning activities. The opportunity to become a CIEJA partner is open to anyone who proposes valuable educational activities for CIEJA learners. Examples of events organized in partnership with the São Paulo community include the twelfth seminar on black participation in education (celebrating and raising awareness of the challenges which must be overcome in order to create a more inclusive education system for Afro-Brazilians), the third annual seminar on indigenous communities, a therapeutic coffee break group with panel discussions, lectures and workshops, and cultural activities involving more than 600 participants at a time.

The Campo Limpo unit and the CIEJA programme as a whole aim to create a space where students can discuss the challenges and problems they face in their everyday lives and receive support in finding solutions. Learning content is therefore useful and applicable to their contexts and needs.

Enrolment and Assessment of Learning Needs

Enrolment is open all year round. Learners progress from the first to the second cycle according to the development of their reading, writing, textual interpretation, and critical thinking skills. Learners are enrolled after undertaking a diagnostic activity. The diagnostic activity engages the prospective learner in a series of reading and writing exercises, e.g. reading a short sentence or a dictation, to assess their existing literacy and numeracy skills and identify possible difficulties. An initial orientation is then given to learners to familiarize them with the facilities and opportunities within the programme.

After undertaking the diagnostic activity students are placed in either the first or the second cycle of the programme. In the first cycle, activities are carried out with the support of a facilitator. It is during this cycle that the bulk of literacy activities take place. In the second cycle, learners lead activities themselves and it is during this time that post-literacy activities are incorporated into apprenticeship training, making the learning process more dynamic. This cycle introduces a division of learning into four categories: humanities, languages and codes, cognitive sciences and mathematics. At the beginning of the 2016 school year, students suggested topics that were grouped into four main generating themes:

  • Family,
  • Food,
  • Work,
  • Sports and travel.

Assemblies for learners and facilitators are held regularly and constant communication between facilitators, administration and students, within and outside the classrooms is encouraged and maintained in order to identify challenges and solutions to the problems faced.

Programme Content and Approach

Integrated Centre for Adult and Youth Education (CIEJA), Brazil (2)

Each semester, students choose a broad subject area they wish to explore, which might be an abstract concept. The choice is made within the group. Initially, teachers attempt to draw out learners' existing knowledge related to the given topic, highlighting how that is affected by and affects their lives, and then try to broaden the concept to more abstract knowledge. Learners must draw from the thematic work ways of including the community through presentations and plans for interventions.

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As well as studying the semester’s chosen subject, students are divided into classrooms dealing with one of four broad areas of knowledge, including: languages (Portuguese and English); humanities (history and geography); cognitive sciences (natural sciences and philosophy); and logical and artistic essays (mathematics and the arts).

At the end of the month, the learners are rotated to a different area of knowledge, allowing them to study all the areas. This teaching methodology aims to empower students and motivate them to be proactive and autonomous researchers in different fields, providing them with the chance to learn about different fields. The objective is to enable them to continue learning after they leave CIEJA, and to be capable of developing innovative and creative solutions to improve their own lives, and those of their families and communities. That aim is supported through the kind of activities learners are involved with during their time at CIEJA. These are usually centred around a real situation or problem and allow learners to apply the knowledge they have acquired in a real-life situation.

The programme uses textbooks distributed by the government as well as other learning and teaching material independently developed by CIEJA staff.

The main thematic focus areas included are:

  • Basic literacy and numeracy skills;
  • Post-literacy;
  • Life skills;
  • Health;
  • Professional training and income-generating competencies;
  • Poverty reduction;
  • Multilingual contexts;
  • Democratic citizenship;
  • Family and inter-generational learning;
  • Support to literate environments;
  • Sustainable development;
  • Sustainable community;
  • Gender;
  • Literacy for the workplace;
  • Ethnic and racial issues;
  • Issues concerning indigenous communities;
  • Issues concerning the lives of young people;
  • Issues concerning the lives of animals.

Learners with special needs are welcome and receive special attention. In 2016 there were 300 learners on the programme with a disability. These included hearing, visual and cognitive disabilities. Learners with special needs and disabilities can join in special activities. A specific area is dedicated to these special activities, known as the ‘Room for Supporting Students with Inclusion’. Activities include taekwondo, painting, playing instruments and capoeira.

Other activities

Integrated Centre for Adult and Youth Education (CIEJA), Brazil (3)

In order to support understanding of the challenges faced by indigenous community in São Paulo, CIEJA carries out many outreach activities with the community. This series of activities is now taking place for the fourth time, bringing together people from different indigenous groups within the city with non-indigenous people. Through these activities, CIEJA has been able to help some of its learners discover their indigenous background, lost during their ancestors’ migration from rural areas to the city of São Paulo.

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Monitoring and Evaluation

Evaluation and monitoring take place through various assessment activities conducted throughout the programme. Learners also fill in assessment forms concerning their overall experience at the school, including their everyday lives, the topic addressed, teaching methods and proposed activities. External evaluations of the programme are conducted through monitoring by the regional educational directorate in Campo Limpo, specifically by a superintendent who visits the unit frequently to oversee and evaluate the activities undertaken.

Impacts and Challenges

The verifiable impact of CIEJA is in the visible transformation of the community in the Campo Limpo unit and in the district at large. As the experience and needs of learners are given priority, learners actively participate in the decision-making process. The aim is to ensure the school remains a supportive environment for their daily lives outside school, and that learners have a support system to make their plans for the future a reality.
Through the constant contribution of several participants and partners, the project has achieved many results in terms of the quality of educational delivery: activities on themes have been suggested by participants, community projects have been started, a curriculum which caters to the demands and issues within the region, including violence, discrimination, drugs, and abuse of power has been created.

Learners also report that participating in the CIEJA programme has put them in a better position to be involved in the development and education of the children for whom they are responsible.

The main challenges faced by the programme have been:

  • Working with different generations and integrating their different interests, needs and perspectives in the educational offer.
  • Lack of space and resources, which has made the implementation of activities challenging.
  • Low number of facilitators. Increasing the number of supporting facilitators and the space available is crucial to both continuity and achieving the programme’s objectives of providing empowering learning experiences to adults who would not have the same opportunities otherwise.


I learned about CIEJA through a colleague at work, and, as I had already been living here for five years without studying due to prohibiting working hours, I decided to come and learn more about CIEJA and I really enjoyed it. I noticed it was a welcoming place without discriminations. While studying here I have learned many things, among them how to write texts, do calculations, the importance of the environment, the issues the indigenous communities face in securing their territories, racism and many other things. What has stood out for me was the inclusion which exists here for people with special needs, and after this one year I can say I do not think the same way I did before … This year at CIEJA has awoken my desire to study so that one day I can also teach and awaken this desire in others as well. Veronica N., a CIEJA learner.

Lessons Learned

  • Commitment to social change is crucial, and for facilitators it is vital to incorporate the needs and expectations of beneficiaries to the educational offer, as well as understanding their background, perspectives, positions and realities.
  • Constantly debating and studying issues present in everyone’s lives, such as ethnicity, gender, intergenerational conflict, environmental rights, food and nutrition, and family and youth issues is crucial to delivering a productive and empowering programme yielding important results.
  • Creating a new educational model, incorporating bottom-up and contextually conscious initiatives, developed through discussion and knowledge sharing, is not only feasible but something to be strived for.


Funding for the programme is unfortunately scarce and CIEJA has come close to being discontinued several times. Nonetheless, it has now run for 15 years, proving that the benefits of the programme are significant and that its willingness to continue serving the Campo Limpo community remains strong. The involvement of the community at large has also helped ensure that everyone in the district is aware of the presence of CIEJA and of its role within the city and the community. The intention is to bring the project to the state and national scales with allocated funding ensured by law through the implementation of new policies by federal government.



Ms Eda Luiz
Director/General Coordinator
Rua Cabo Estácio da Conceição, n. 176 Parque Maria Helena – São Paulo – Brazil
Tel:(0055)(11) 58063701

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