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Psicologia: teoria e prática

versão impressa ISSN 1516-3687

Psicol. teor. prat. vol.21 no.3 São Paulo set./dez. 2019 



Educational policies and psychology: a literature review


Políticas educacionales y psicología: una revisión de la literatura



Carolina M. MoraesI; Leilanir de S. CarvalhoII; Tatiane dos S. CostaIII; Fauston NegreirosIV; Sandra Elisa de A. FreireV

IPostgraduate Program in Psychology Department, Federal University of Piauí (UFPI)
IIPostgraduate Program in Psychology Department, Federal University of Piauí (UFPI)
IIIPostgraduate Program in Psychology Department, Federal University of Piauí (UFPI)
IVPostgraduate Program in Psychology Department, Federal University of Piauí (UFPI)
VPostgraduate Program in Psychology Department, Federal University of Piauí (UFPI)

Mailling address




This is a literature review on the study of Educational Policies and its relation to School and Educational Psychology. The study is exploratory-descriptive in nature. After meeting the inclusion/exclusion criteria, there were a total of 23 articles categorized according to general aspects (year of publication and country of origin of the study) and the focus of the studies. There was an increase in research on the topic since 2011, and most of the studies were from Latin American countries, mainly in Brazil. Most of the studies addressed only educational policies. However, there were also research correlated with other policies. Research on the intersection between Educational Policies and School and Educational Psychology is still incipient.

Keywords: public policies; educational policies; educational psychology; school psychology; psychologist's performance.


Se trata de una revisión de literatura sobre los estudios de las políticas educativas y su relación a la Psicología Escolar y Educacional. El estudio es de carácter exploratorio-descriptivo, en el cual se utilizaron las bases de datos consagradas. Después del refinamiento a partir de los criterios de inclusión/exclusión, quedaron 23 artículos categorizados de acuerdo con los aspectos generales (año de publicación y país de origen del estudio) y en cuanto al foco de los estudios encontrados. Se puede constatar que hubo un aumento de investigaciones sobre el fenómeno a partir de 2011, y que la mayoría de los estudios eran originarios de países de América Latina, principalmente de Brasil. La mayoría de los estudios abordaron únicamente políticas educativas, pero también se realizaron investigaciones correlacionadas con otras políticas. La investigación sobre la intercesión entre políticas educativas y Psicología Escolar y Educacional sigue siendo incipiente

Palabras clave: políticas públicas; políticas educativas; Psicología Educacional; Psicología Escolar; actuación del psicólogo.



1. Introduction

The concept of public policies is broad since it involves diverse and specific governmental actions, as well as the involvement of societies, groups and the population in general (Momma, Cardoso, & Bryan, 2013). Broadly speaking, public policies consist of diversified and specific actions, regulated by documentary guidelines, the purpose of which is to respond to the requirements of society and to guarantee social rights in various areas such as health, work, and education. These policies are shaped according to the country, culture, and social dynamics, gaining their own characteristics according to the current needs (Teixeira, 2002; Sechi, 2014; Fernandes & Mélo, 2016).

For the comprehension of this phenomenon, this study was based on the perspective of Cultural-Historical Psychology. This perspective considers that objects are syntheses of multiple determinations and that to explain them, it is important to consider three dimensions: the history, totality, and contradictions (Meira, 2014; Vygotsky, 2007).

The historical scenario in which public policies have gained shape is an important element for the understanding of the relationship between this object and others. With the liberalization of the market, which started in the sixteenth century, the argument for minimum intervention in the economy and in society intensified (Santos, 2017). This, therefore, led to the growth and accumulation of capital and the overproduction of goods that culminated, in 1929, in the greatest crisis in the history of capitalism and in the outbreak of wars, such as the Second World War, the Cold War, and many other conflicts between countries in the years that followed. The result of this was the hegemonic transition of power and the extermination of thousands of people (Barroco, Matos, & Orso, 2018).

The objective relationships established by such contexts reveal a way of producing a life that is extremely unjust and excluding. When there is the escalation of conflicts between countries, violence, the dismantling of national states, the destruction of the environment and attacks on social rights, there is also the expropriation of resources and wealth from peripheral countries, the accumulation of capital in the hands of a minority and the search for successive agreements and alliances among nations with the intention of promoting peace and social development, without, however, fostering effective transformations in the inequalities and social structure, making the contradictory relations of this form of economic and social organization evident (Barroco et al., 2018).

Considering the problems faced by society in the post-war period, public policies began to gain strength. The economic and political context started to require a greater intervention of the state in the regulation of social relations, taking into account different interests and the guarantee of social welfare. In this sense, these policies were not born of chance, but from demands for social protection at a given historical moment, with them expressing a form of social organization and production relations, and therefore reproducing objective realities (Leonardo, Rossato, & Constantino, 2018).

In this way, educational policies result from the need to guarantee citizens the right to education and the capacity to fight for a higher quality of life and real conditions of human development. Educational policies institute educational practices and directly impact on the development of individuals and activities within the education system (Zibetti, Pacífico, & Tamboril, 2018).

For Lessa and Tonet (2013), with the universalization of education that took place in the 1930s, under the aegis of Social Welfare, a discourse of social justice, income distribution and the possibility of social ascension through education were propagated. The author cautions, however, that although the access of the children of workers to education systems was opened up, the reason for this did not lie in needing to reduce the differentiated participation between the classes, but rather in the requirement of the capitalist system for skilled labor.

The result of this, according to Santos (2017), is a dual model of systematized education, one for the wealthier class and the other for society itself, the workers, so that "school performance determines whether the child would be educated for professional activities, vocational courses or universities" (Lessa & Tonet, 2013, p.33). Thus, given these contradictions, it is evident that inequalities between schools have been the product and producer of the maintenance of inequalities between classes.

In Brazil, during the twentieth century, several incipient propositions of the State emerged regarding formal education, although it was only at the end of this century, with the end of the dictatorial regime, political and economic reopening and intense movements for the struggle for social rights that school education became a right guaranteed to all citizens (Zibetti et al., 2018). With the enactment of the Constitution in 1988, the State assumed responsibility for the complex social requirements and public policies in the area of education, which then had an effective constitutional foundation. It was through a series of regulatory milestones that laws and statutes were established, as well as the procedures and financing to be instituted, and attributions are now given to various organs and federative bodies (Barroco et al., 2018).

It is from this context, with the organization of great axes of public policies, that Psychology started to gain space and to be required in the spheres of Education, Health and Social Welfare. It is evident that, not only was there the movement of Psychology towards these policies, but also changes in the social status of this science. In the first decades of the twentieth century, Psychology was allied with the ruling class, whereas at the end of the century it had turned to the service of the popular classes, this being the so-called proletarianization of the professional activities (Barroco et al., 2018).

The considerations exposed, although succinct, are important elements for the understanding that the phenomenon studied does not occur in isolation, but is in constant movement, in a dialectical relationship of interdependence and reciprocity. Public policies produce and reproduce conditions of life, both determine and are determined by the subjects that benefit from them, and can only be understood if they are integrated into the whole, that is, into their historical materiality and the concepts with which they unite, receiving, therefore, an authentic meaning (Kosik, 1965). The introduction of psychology in this complicated context has important implications for public policy decisions in education and should be studied.

In view of the above, this study aimed to review the literature on educational policies that have been the subject of research in the previous ten years, in order to verify the extent to which the relationship with School and Educational Psychology has been established. Accordingly, the methodological course adopted, the results obtained, the discussion of the theme and the integrative synthesis of what can be stated will be exposed.


2. Method

This was an exploratory and descriptive review of the literature on educational public policies in the interface with school and educational psychology, in which the methodological procedure for the collection of information was: 1. selection of the theme and elaboration of the research problem; 2. search in the literature and delimitation of the descriptors; 3. search in the databases; 4. extraction of the articles, according to the inclusion and exclusion criteria previously established; 5. analysis and synthesis of the data obtained; 6. production of the results and publication.

The databases consulted were: Scientific Electronic Library Online (SciELO), Scopus, Web of Science, MEDLINE (PubMed), and Science Direct. An inquiry was made in the CAPES Periodicals Portal on the subject to select the data required, to identify the databases that index articles on the subject, among which five were selected. The search was done through access to the electronic address of these databases. The descriptors and Boolean operators used were: ("Public Policy" OR "Public Policies") AND "Educational Policies" AND ("Educational Psychology" OR "School Psychology").

As inclusion criterion, articles presenting theoretical and empirical studies published between January 2008 and December 2017 in Portuguese, English, or Spanish were considered. Books, theses, dissertations, or other publications that were not available in full were excluded, as were studies that did not involve educational policies as the research object. The article format was chosen because it is a type of publication that shows a systematic analytical treatment based on an editorial process, which is evaluated by ad hoc reviewers for its approval.

A total of 381 articles were found, of which 290 were excluded because they had no relation to the main theme, 61 due to being duplicates and seven because there was no free access to the databases. Discarding of duplicates was performed in a random manner, as shown in Figure 2.1. The final sample consisted of 23 articles, read in full and analyzed for the general aspects - the year of publication and the country of origin of the study -and also for the identification of the main educational policies focused on and their problematizations. From this extract, three analytical categories emerged: Educational Policies per se; Educational Policies correlated with other policies; and Relationship between Educational Policies and School and Educational Psychology.



3. Results

In relation to the general aspects, no study was found on the subject in the years 2008, 2009 and 2010 - with studies starting to be published from 2011 on. There was some stability in the number of publications in subsequent years, ranging from 1 to 6 articles. However, the year 2012 stands out with 11 articles published on this theme, as shown in Figure 3.1



Regarding the origin of the studies, eight countries were found: Brazil, Chile, Portugal, Uruguay, Canada, the United States, Finland, and Argentina. There was a higher prevalence of studies concentrated in Latin American countries. It is important to note that Brazil was the country with the highest number of studies, with a total of 16, three of which were correlated with other countries, one with Portugal, one with Argentina and the other one with Finland. There were also correlational studies between Chile and Uruguay.

Considering the methodological aspects of the studies, 16 theoretical studies were found, that is, studies that carried out an analysis of documents or literature on educational policies. These being: Pretto (2011), Bentancur and Nicolás (2012), Guzzo, Menzzalira, & Moreira (2012), Munhoz & Melo-Silva (2012), Farenzena (2012), Guimarães (2012), McDonald (2012), Cloth et al. (2014), Werle (2014), Tello & Almeida (2014), Oliveira & Scortegagna (2015), Catellane & Zibetti (2016), Marcon, Prudêncio, & Gesser (2016), Antunes & Peroni (2017), Fajardo (2017), Jorquera-Martínez (2017). In addition to these studies, there were seven others of an empirical nature: Vaillant (2012), Sarmento & Fossatti (2012), Amaral & Monteiro (2013), Castro et al. (2014), Patrício (2016), Ferreira et al. (2016), Matiello et al. (2017). Six of these last ones referred to the use of a qualitative approach (Bentancur & Nicolás, 2012; Amaral & Monteiro, 2013; Oliveira & Scortegagna, 2015; Patrício, 2016; Fajardo, 2017; Jorquera-Martínez, 2017) and two to a mixed approach (Vaillant, 2012; Castro et al., 2014), while the other studies did not indicate the type of approach used (see Table 3.1).



Regarding the Educational Policies focused on in the studies, a diversity of policies that were the research target was verified, which will be described here, considering three analytical categories, described below. The Education Policies per se category was the one that grouped the largest number of studies (n = 17). Studies that focused solely on some type of Educational Policy were considered here. This included studies in which the scope was related to annual plans, curricula, and evaluation systems, and cross-sectional themes such as sex education (Bentancur & Nicolás, 2012; Jorquera-Martínez, 2017; Marcon, Prudêncio & Gesser, 2016, Werle, 2014), as well as Studies on Adult Education Policies in Fundamental Education and Higher Education, which discuss unequal proposals for care and intervention in adult development and training programs (Guimarães, 2012; Oliveira & Scortegagna, 2015; Catellane & Zibetti, 2016).

The Educational Policies for Continuing Education and the encouragement of teachers, which discuss the practice and professionalism of teachers, are also in this category (Vaillant, 2012; Sarmento & Fossatti, 2012; Tello & Almeida, 2014; Patrício, 2016), as are the studies on Educational Policies for Financial and Educational Assistance, which deal with the financing and monitoring of public education (Farenzena, 2012; McDonald, 2012; Antunes & Peroni, 2017). The Educational Policies for the Educational Inclusion of people with disabilities, addressing national and international norms and standards in education and policies of educational institutions that enable the creation of programs and models of care for people with disabilities (Cloth et al., 2014; Fajardo, 2017) and the Educational Policies related to School Food, which deal with the adaptation of the menu to the culture of the students (Castro et al., 2014), are also grouped here.

In relation to Educational Policies correlated with other policies, studies were identified that focused on the relationship between educational policies and related areas (n = 4), such as Social Welfare, Culture, Work and Architecture. These studies deal with educational content based on programs that include instruments for the evaluation and perception of the physical space of the school, guidance and the professional career and the technological and digital inclusion of students (Pretto, 2011; Munhoz & Melo-Silva, 2012; Matiello, et al., 2017; Amaral & Monteiro, 2013).

Regarding the relationship between Educational Policies and School and Educational Psychology (n = 2), the studies found discussed educational policies as a useful space for the insertion of psychologists and outlined the practice in the school environment focused on human development (Guzzo, Menzzalira & Moreira, 2012; Ferreira et al., 2016).

In view of the results found, it can be seen that educational policies have been studied in recent years, from the perspective of different approaches. Studies have sought not only the individual analysis of these policies, but also their relationships with other fields of knowledge. Studies related to the relationship between these policies and school and educational psychology are still incipient.


4. Discussion

Based on the data collection carried out, a comprehensive description can be presented on the current studies related to educational policies and evidence that, with the universalization of education, these policies have gradually gained space in guaranteeing civil rights (Lessa & Tonet, 2013). Given the totality of this phenomenon, which is explained dialectically from the relationship with other objects (Kosik, 1965), its relation with economic development and the processes of productive restructuring can be observed, because, considering the new and higher demands for professional qualification, that is, for labor, educational policies have been responding to economic as well as social demands.

In the time period of this study (2008-2017), it can be seen that the number of studies is not evenly distributed in relation to the years of publication since no study was found between 2008 and 2010. It was evidenced, however, that in recent years, researchers have been focusing on the study of educational policies. A significant part of the discussions highlights a diverse range of governmental proposals and programs geared to the area of education, which, although addressed to the regional demands of each country, are based on the assumptions established by international bodies and programs, such as the World Bank, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), United Nations (UN/Unesco), International Student Assessment Program (Pisa) and others (Zibetti et al., 2018).

The origins of the studies found show that the phenomenon has mainly been studied in Latin America countries: Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay. Brazil stands out as the country with the highest number of productions. The studies carried out by Antunes and Peroni (2017), Oliveira and Scortegagna (2015), Jorquera-Martínez (2017), and Vaillant (2012) promote reflection on the democratization and expansion of the rights to education and conclude that, with the crisis of capitalism, countries of Latin America, especially Brazil (and also Portugal), have been seeking to respond to the requirements of their populations.

With regard to Brazil, re-democratization in the 1990s, and later, the institution of various laws, agreements, and statutes, marked a fruitful period for the formulation of policies in the field of education. In this period, the democratization of access to school institutions, the decentralization of public financing, participatory management, and the definition of the national salary plan for the teaching profession are prominent (Zibetti et al., 2018; Silva & Oliveira, 2018). This historical and political scenario may have been an important contributor to the broad scientific production in the country on the subject, as well as to the implementation of the diversity of educational policies focused on in the studies found.

The methodological aspects of the articles selected indicate that the research on the subject corresponds mostly to the analysis of documents or literature, with there being few empirical or field studies. Accordingly, although the importance of documentary analysis is recognized, it may not be sufficient for the understanding of how educational policies have been implemented in the political, social, and educational reality. According to Mainardes and Tello (2016), it is necessary to invest in empirical research, considering the need to advance knowledge about educational policies, as well as to support subsequent studies.

Regarding the analytical categories outlined in this study, when related to the increase in the number of publications on the subject in recent years (20112017) and their origin, the close relationship between politics and economics can be perceived. In addition, for the understanding of these policies, it is important to consider aspects beyond the pedagogical and institutional dimension; it is essential that they provide a foundation for the establishment of objective and concrete conditions, that is, that favor the appropriation of historically accumulated knowledge and, for both, mediate social and individual relationships.

With the Welfare State system, governments are accountable for satisfying market interests while simultaneously fulfilling social protection requirements (Lessa & Tonet, 2013). It is up to the state, therefore, to guarantee social rights, especially the right to education and, with that, to institute educational policies that are appropriate for the reality (Patto, 1997; Draibe, 2007; Sloan, 2009; Dimenstein, 2011; Gewirtz & Ball, 2011; Leonardo et al., 2016). Therefore, before the institution of diverse educational policies, there was also an increase in the number of studies on this phenomenon.

It can also be highlighted that the majority of the target nations of the studies found are those in the process of development. Such countries, in order to achieve modernization, to improve poor educational and social indicators and to respond to the demands of the consumer market, are seeking to invest in public education and literacy for the qualification of the workforce through educational plans and programs, a subject discussed in the works of Castro et al. (2014), Amaral and Monteiros (2013), Farenzena (2012), and Bentancur and Nicolás (2012). It should be noted that the capitalist base, according to Saviani (2008), favors the ruling classes and treats productions on the educational policy as subordinate to those on economic policy.

Six other studies were found (Fajardo, 2017; Catellane & Zibetti, 2016; Ferreira et al., 2016; Werle, 2014; Tello & Almeida, 2014; Sarmento & Fossatti, 2012) that discussed the contradictions in the educational policies through different situations: diversity of teaching modalities, the work of the professionals involved in the school area and the training of these professionals.

Currently there is a valuation of knowledge, mainly through the National Assessment Systems, that highlights the schools with the best results, without considering, however, the objective and symbolic conditions of the educational processes for learning and human development of all the actors involved, whether students, teachers, managers or other professionals (Leonardo et al., 2018, Zibetti et al., 2018). The discourse of democratizing opportunities, explaining success and failure through the ideology of natural aptitudes, or through individual effort, is the basis of the meritocracy principle and has been one of the many contradictions that underpin educational policies (Dardot & Laval, 2016).

Other contradictions are related to the relationship between the level or degree of schooling of the population and their ability to enter and remain in the labor market. This discussion is seen in the study by Munhoz and Melo-Silva (2012), which discusses the relationship between the school, society, and market demands. Accordingly, educational promotion is sought with a view to greater productivity, quality and competitiveness, marks of a market economy in a growing process of globalization, to the detriment of education for the human formation or, in other words, to make the process of humanization viable (Saviani, 2007).

It should be noted that Educational Policies do not happen in isolation, but correlate with other policies. The studies highlight intersectionality with other areas of knowledge, such as Architecture and Social Welfare. They, therefore, indicate the possibility of a dialogue between education and the conditionalities of the Bolsa Família Welfare Program (Amaral & Monteiro, 2013), the educational use of digital technologies based on the National Program for Culture, Education and Citizenship (Pretto, 2011), the relationship between the educational context and the preparation for work and career, considering what was established by the Ministry of Labor and Employment (Munhoz & Melo-Silva, 2012), and even the urban space in the context of full-time schools (Matiello et al., 2017).

Regarding the relationship between Educational Policies and School and Educational Psychology, the studies found to originate in Brazil. It was evidenced that, although Psychology has historically assumed a role of contribution to the theoretical tendencies and pedagogical ideas that base the educational practices in Brazil (Tanamachi & Meira, 2003), and even with the movement of approximation of the Public Policies highlighted by Barroco et al. (2018), few studies focused on the intercession with School and Educational Psychology. In addition to this, it can be seen that the psychologist has not participated in the formulation and implementation of educational policies, and is not recognized in the legislative sphere as a fundamental actor in the composition of the school team (Guzzo & Wechsler, 2001; Oakland & Sternberg, 2001; Guzzo, 2008), being this a possible explanation for the limited production relating Psychology and educational policies.

Therefore, the contradiction was revealed that, although the studies analyzed that correlated educational policies showed this to be a fruitful field for the psychologist's performance, few studies were found that had the performance of this professional in their scope (Urt, 2017). The studies that were found (Guzzo et al., 2012; Ferreira et al., 2016) incipiently discuss the performance of school psychologists, highlighting the elements that influence their entrance and permanence in the school and how the role of the school psychologist is configured.

Corroborating this, Martinez (2009, 2010) and Souza (2009) indicate that the implementation of public policies has not been the focus of action of school psychologists and institutions. Despite this, it is necessary to consider that, when discussing emerging forms of action in the educational area, these professionals need to consider, in addition to the psychoeducational dimension, the psychosocial dimension; at which point it is urgent to discuss the formulation and implementation of educational policies.


5. Final Considerations

This study aimed to review the literature on educational policies that have been the subject of research in the previous ten years, in order to verify the extent to which the relationship with School and Educational Psychology has been established. The subject has been the object of recent investigations, and it was possible to identify a tendency for studies correlating education with other areas of knowledge. However, regarding School and Educational Psychology, these studies are still scarce.

Despite the methodological rigor adopted in this study, it is necessary to highlight some limitations. Considering that this was a cross-section of studies performed from certain specific descriptors and databases, such choices may have limited the scope of the totality of studies involving the phenomenon, and therefore, some studies may have ended up not being included in this inquiry. In addition, when the inclusion/exclusion criteria were established for the search of the articles, other types of documents were not considered. However, rather than detracting from the relevance of the study, this indicates a way for reviews of earlier literature on the subject.

In view of these considerations, it is known that the institution of the various educational policies has facilitated the democratization of access to school education. However, these policies are not disconnected from the system of production and from the social and individual relationships derived from it; before they establish objective and concrete conditions of life, that can impact on the humanization process of the subjects. Accordingly, Psychology, whether through research or through professional action, from a critical perspective, needs to be aware of the historical and social determinations that involve society, in addition to educational policies, so as to prepare the path that leads to the assumption of an active role in the interposition of obstacles and in the contribution to human development.



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Mailling address:
Carolina Martins Moraes
Rua Deoclécio Brito, n 3180, Planalto Ininga
Teresina, PI, Brasil. CEP 64050-050

Submission: 02/10/2018
Acceptance: 03/06/2019

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