Brazil Working to Improve Education, International Cooperation

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Brazil’s social development minister has announced that expanding nursery provisions, improving educational standards and offering more vocational training for adults will be some of the highest priorities in the country’s fight against poverty and inequality in coming years.

The minister, Tereza Campello, said the country has a long way to go in order to create a fair and prosperous society, despite advancements made through the bolsa familia poverty-relief program, which offers funds to almost 25% of Brazilian families so long as their children receive vaccinations and attend school.

The program, which was introduced in 2003 by the government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, is said to have helped about 36 million families remain above the poverty line as well as to dramatically reduce the infant mortality rate in the country.

However, Campello said the program is not completely responsible for the socioeconomic gains in the country.  The poorest 20% of residents in the country saw their income rise 6.2% between 2002 and 2013, while the top 20% only saw a rise of 2.6%.

“Everybody thinks it’s because of bolsa familia, but that’s not the case,” said Campello. “We’ve also had a 72% growth in the minimum wage – above the rate of inflation – and an increase in employment of 20.8-million formal jobs.”

The minister continued to stress the importance of education in the coming fight on poverty.

“Our poor children don’t have sufficient access to preschool education,” she said. “We want to ensure that, by 2016, all children from four to six go to school, and we are starting to expand nursery provision.”

In addition, educational standards in the country need to see improvements made through strategies such as better teacher training, building libraries and laboratories, and ensuring that students spend the full school day in their classes.

“We’ve made great efforts to have a full and integral school day,” she said. “Getting poorer children to stay at school all day is vital: not only do they get free meals, it also means they can be kept away from violence and criminality. We need to expand school provision, but we have a physical limitation as there are 260 000 schools in Brazil.”

Recently, faculty members from the SUNY Oswego college community traveled to the State University of Piaui in Brazil to participate in a three-day international seminar as part of an ongoing teacher training partnership.  The attendees shared knowledge and experiences across a variety of areas including educational research, theory and practice.

Brazil, which recently placed 10th in the list of countries who send the most students to the US, hopes to improve their educational standards enough to attract US students to the country as well.

The country is also planning to expand an ongoing educational program in partnership with Qatar, currently in place in five Rio de Janeiro schools, to reach more Brazilian schools.  The program is sponsored by the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF), offering Arabic programs in the participating schools.

The expansion is expected to include federal universities in Brazil.