Brazilian City Tackles Truancy With Technology

There are 43,000 students between the ages of 4 and 14 in Vitoria da Conquista's public school system. Next year all of them will be wearing microchips embedded within their school uniform designed to electronically monitor when they enter school. The program began this week. The city's education secretary, Coriolano Moraes, was enthusiastic about the new way to tackle an old problem:

"We noticed that many parents would bring their children to school but would not see if they actually entered the building because they always left in a hurry to get to work on time," Moraes said in a telephone interview. "They would always be surprised when told of the number times their children skipped class.

The locator chips monitor when the student enters school and sends parents a text message if their child hasn't been logged by the system within 20 minutes after classes start. The city government invested $670,000 in the program, but as this included design and testing costs future rollouts should be cheaper. This figure is a fraction of the cost involved in GPS plans considered in the United States before.

The T-shirts, can be washed and ironed without damaging the chips, Moraes said adding that the chips have a "security system that makes tampering virtually impossible."

Some critics will note that the chips used are very similar to those used to track pets and claim that using such a system is an infringement of the students' dignity and rights.

The trial in Anaheim last year used handheld GPS devices to avoid ‘criminalizing' the children involved.

In Vitoria da Conquista the chips are located under the school's coat of arms and by an apt phrase that critics of the program could contemplate:

"Education does not transform the world. Education changes people and people transform the world."

03 26, 2012
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