Everywhere we look we find people talking about the BNCC and its effect on regular education in Brazil. However, I wonder if everybody is aware of the real consequences we will have to deal in mainstream schools as well as language centers because of it. Many teachers who I have talked to claim that the BNCC should only be the concern of publishing houses, as if the new curriculum base would only affect syllabus. We might be mislead into thinking that, as teachers, all we have to do is follow the syllabus,  and make minor adaptations to a coursebook which is chosen for us. Other teachers say that they work at language centers and the BNCC was designed for basic education. Therefore, they think they do not have to worry about it since English schools have to worry just about the teaching of English and we do not play a role where the BNCC should be taken into consideration.

My experience has shown me that, before stating an opinion about the relevance of the BNCC, we have to try going deep into it so we have more tools to get to our opinions before jumping to conclusions which might be misleading. When you look at the document which can be downloaded at

we will see that it has almost 500 pages, among which only a small bit is devoted to the English language teaching, less than 20 pages. It is quite common to skip everything and go straight to these 18 pages and disconsider everything which is stated before. This might be a very dangerous movement since you might, by doing so, make the mistake of simply comparing what you have in your current coursebook and what comes in those 18 pages and have a checking attitude: just comparing the syllabus you have and what is there, or what is missing. However, this approach to the BNCC might be quite superficial and pointless.

Working on competences rather than skills

The BNCC works strongly with the development of competences, as a result of Integral Education. Integral Education is the cornerstone here. There are many ways of understanding the concept of Integral Education, but here we are going to work with the one stated by Delors (1998) He sees Integral Education as the development of four educational areas which have been incorporated to the Pillars for the 21st Century Education stated by UNESCO. They are…

  1. Learning to know
  2. Learning to do
  3. Learning to be
  4. Learning to live together

As for these four pillars, it is important to give some details: Learning to know has little to do with memorizing information and having data known by heart. It emphasizes on learning how to create know-how and to find knowledge autonomously. The pillar gives emphasis on the ability to learn by yourself and to use knowledge into innovations in order to generate new scenarios for human development. Learning to do is connected to the way you become an agent in the world.  Developing yourself is more than just imparting the know-how knowledge to do a job. It has to do with developing motivation to conduct active engagement in your social context for a greater good. Learning to be has to do with the development of the individual. Good curriculum design which consider this pillar should enhance the realization that “everyone always has the personal resources and intellectual tools needed to understand the world and behave as a fair-minded responsible person.” (Cua, 2006). Finally, learning to live together has to do with a curriculum design which offers every opportunity for students to reflect on questions, such as: How can we do better together? How can we educate ourselves to avoid conflict or to resolve everyday issues peacefully?

The result of these integral educational base is the coming up of the 10 competences stated by the BNCC, which all the players involved in education will have to deal with. That includes the English teacher obviously. They are:

  1. Dealing with KNOWLEDGE in order to use it to solve everyday problems;
  2. Developing CRITICAL THINKING to become an active subject;
  3. Exploring the CULTURAL ASPECTS with is within all areas of our lives;
  4. Learning to COMMUNICATE well in order to stand a relevant global status;
  5. Being proficient in DIGITAL COMMUNICATION so you can have a more active role in life;
  6. Developing your LIFE PROJECT which will enable the person to have a professional path according to one’s dreams and aspirations;
  7. Developing ARGUMENTATIVE competence in order to be active and participant in society;
  9. Developing EMPATHY in order to live together more harmoniously;
  10. Dealing in one’s social contexts with RESPONSIBILITY, leading the individual towards GLOBAL CITIZENSHIP.

Looking at these competences might confuse the standard English teacher. After all, we teach English, not digital communication or how to take care of yourself. It is easy to embrace competences 01, 04 and 07. However, is the English teacher supposed to teach critical thinking? responsibility? empathy? citizenship? The answer for that is a giant YES! This “yes” applies not only to the English teacher, but to the Geography teacher, the Math teacher, the Science teacher, and so on. I dare say this is one of the most important paradigms that the BNCC is bringing upon us. It demands teachers to become educators in the sense that each and every one of us is responsible for the construction of the 4 Pillars of Unesco (Delors, 1998).

In order to accomplish that, the BNCC divided the teaching of English into 5 boxes. They are ORAL COMPETENCE, READING COMPETENCE, WRITING COMPETENCE, LINGUISTIC KNOWLEDGE and INTERCULTURAL DIMENSION.  Even though they seem to be language oriented boxes, if look at them more closely you will be able to find the 10 basic competences stated before. For instance, in the Oral Competence box, one of the items is

“Funções e usos da língua inglesa: convivência e colaboração em sala de aula”.  

In the Reading Competence box, we will be having:

“Objetivo: Participar de troca de opiniões e informações sobre textos, lidos na sala de aula ou em outros ambientes.”

In the Writing Competence box, we will meet the following aim for writing:

“Produzir textos (comentários em fóruns, relatos pessoais, mensagens instantâneas, tweets, reportagens, histórias de ficção, blogues, entre outros), com o uso de estratégias de escrita (planejamento, produção de rascunho, revisão e edição final), apontando sonhos e projetos para o futuro (pessoal, da família, da comunidade ou do planeta).”

In the Linguistic Knowledge box, we can find the following objective:

“Utilizar conectores indicadores de adição, condição, oposição, contraste, conclusão e síntese como auxiliares na construção da argumentação e intencionalidade discursiva.”

Finally, in the Intercultural Dimension box, Culture is much more than just Halloween or Saint Patrick’s Day.  Have a look at one of the aims for this area:

“Discutir a comunicação intercultural por meio da língua inglesa como mecanismo de valorização pessoal e de construção de identidades no mundo globalizado.”

The conclusion we get to, when we look at these items, is that there is a whole bunch of things we have to learn how to teach,  using English as one of the tools for that. Educators will definitely teach the English language, but also we have the power and obligation to teach our students much more than that. One might state here that we already have so many difficulties in our area: lack of good working conditions, lack of good salaries, long hours of work, etc… and now I also have other things to teach?!? It sounds unfair, perhaps. Nevertheless, we have to change people to change society. We either do it now, or better days might never come. It is a new cicle we have the mission to create.

What about ELT in language centers?

We might also think that, since I teach at a language center, I do not have to worry about the BNCC. After all, for my contexts all I have to worry about is to help my students become fluent in English, get his/her international certifications, be successful on their interchange programs, etc. However, I would like to leave here some food for thought on this matter. I believe the ELT in language centers will somehow be affected by the BNCC as well and I will state here three possible reasons for that:

  1. Coursebooks will be redesigned. Even though they are international and should fit anywhere in the world, the concept of Integral Education and the view of the 4 Pillars of the 21st century education by Unesco is being increasingly considered by coursebook writers. I have already been in touch with many recent materials which embrace a new and different way of teaching English. I know not all language centers use international coursebooks, but they tend to adapt and change according to the market and market demands, creating a bound between their exclusive material and the coursebooks which are being used in ELT contexts.
  2. Mainstream schools will learn how to teach English effectively. Language centers might have to reinvent their courses (even for kids and teens) in order to offer more than just the teaching of English. Working with culture and how to act socially well if you live abroad, if you study abroad, if you have to interact with people everywhere on the planet might become new “syllabus” to be included in what language centers offer to students.
  3. Formative Education has to be our mission. It is past time when some people were taught only the necessary things to do his/her job. Nowadays, we do not even know which the professions of the future will be. Anyone who attempts to work with education has to sense that the role of teaching has got to change. No matter the context you are involved with, it is every teacher’s job to help human beings develop all their potential. This is the only way to contribute to the development of a better world.

In conclusion…

As a conclusion, I invite all my fellow colleagues of profession to give some thought on the BNCC. There are many problems to point out throughout this document and many areas in which the how-to-do-it is blurred and unclear. The challenges to face are enormous, specially in terms of the necessary teacher development which is the base for the implementation of this new curriculum base. Perhaps, the best we could do for the time being would be to locate the positive points that may improve our teaching practices and include these items little by little in what we do in the classroom. It is with the union of many small changes that education in Brazil might act in order to become something of value to help us create the kind of nation we need our country to be. During the 70’s, Paulo Freire already stated: “É preciso, sobretudo, e aí já vai um dos saberes indispensáveis ao Educador, que o formando, desde o princípio mesmo de sua experiência formadora, assuma-se como sujeito também da produção do saber. É preciso que o Educador se convença definitivamente de que ensinar não é transferir conhecimento, mas criar as possibilidades para a sua produção ou a sua construção.”


UNESCO FOUR PILLARS OF EDUCATION (Reflected and commented by Francisco Cua, 2006). Available from:

Delors, J. EDUCAÇÃO: UM TESOURO A DESCOBRIR. Relatório para a Unesco da Comissão Internacional sobre  Educação para o século XXI. Brasília, 1998.

Freire, P. Pedagogia da Autonomia. Ed. Paz e Terra, 1996

Lúcia Rodrigues Alves


Lucia Rodrigues Alves é formada em Letras pela Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas da USP, é Mestre em Linguística Aplicada à Educação pela PUC – SP.
É Educadora Google e Google Certified Trainer. Também é certificada como Multiplicadora em Educação Midiática.
Atualmente, faz parte do Conselho Executivo da maior associação de profissionais de língua inglesa do Brasil, o BRAZ-TESOL e é a Diretora de Desenvolvimento de Negócios e Parcerias da Fundação Wadhwani, que oferece formações em Competências para a empregabilidade, em formato pro-bono, visando a inserção produtiva de jovens, jovens adultos e adultos.

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