Brazil’s 2013 Plan at Hand: Fixing the Education Gap ASAP

“In the long term, most plans are of little importance but that said,
thoughtful planning is always essential.”
— Winston Churchill

This past summer, when the last 2012 London Olympics athletes finally left England with their medals in tow, and after the last Confetti gun was fired at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the whole UK let out a collective, appreciative sigh. Understandably worn out, her majesty’s government wasted no time in passing on the ‘Party Host’ torch (pardon the pun) to Brazil.  Their Southern Atlantic neighbor will spend the next four years serving as the official ‘Celebration Nation’ not just to the 2016 Olympics but also to the 2014 World Cup community.

Never mind Brazil’s infamous reputation concerning the ability to throw one fun carnival; that’s not exactly helpful when it comes knocking out a housekeeping ‘To-Do’ list many miles long.  Every Culture,  Tourism, and Engineering office continues to spend day and night strategizing ways to accommodate a guest list exceeding millions.  And forget the tea candles, place cards, or pressed napkins.  For now, the country’s education leaders will spend next year’s majority trying to fix the education gap that’s holding back amongst other things Brazil’s booming growth spurt.

While in São Paulo for BBC World News, Katty Kay’s latest report on this topic explains how looming concerns over slower economic growth, inflation, etc., stand to nullify every progressive educational benchmark Brazil’s surpassed since the early/mid 90s.  Moreover, the leading international research firm PISA, recently profiled national education systems, ranking Brazil 53rd.  It’s a concerning placement, taking into account that Brazil’s economy -now the world’s #6 GDP- just bumped the UK to spot #7 not all that long ago.  To point, Kay notes that if Brazil wishes to sustain noticeable progress, “it will require more than muscle to lift a country into modernity; they will need human resources too.”  And while it’s not an exact science,  the process to improve a nation’s ability to educate their domestic population needs to begin with reviewing all teacher feedback.

It’s extremely risky when a government, underestimates a teacher’s role (no matter the grade level) and their ability to influence the educational community locally, nationally, and abroad.  Speaking candidly with Kay about the subject, Priscila Cruz, a prominent Education Campaigner, reiterates that Brazil’s 2+ million teachers posses a great voting power.  In serving as the Executive Director to the organization, Todos Pela Educação, Cruz operates an invaluable company, using the latest technology and media to distribute countless necessary resources, in order to help any Brazilian teacher receive better professional training.  As a result when it comes to electing senior officials who have the power to change government policies concerning education, more teachers will cast knowledge votes.  Any social, economic, or political change relies upon the individual citizen’s ability to maintain a versed political understanding- all party loyalties aside.

As Kay’s article for BBC points out, it’s true that “over the past 20 years Brazil has done an impressive job of getting more students into the education system.”  However that success translates to a different problem, as enrolling more students, now requires schools to expand their class availability.  Furthermore, if teachers fail to receive extensive training before they actually start teaching their classes – the negative impact gradually trickles down and directly impacts every Brazilian student.  Although sophomoric, many young students voice their genuine understanding that gaining even the most basic education, acts as a passport that will eventually grant access to creating a successful future.  Such enthusiastic, insistent student potential deserves far more than an educational environment that underserves the teachers and their instructional materials.

Failing to implement such serious changes will not only hurt Brazil’s academic reputation internationally; there’s also weighty financial implications to consider.  It stands to reason that if Brazil’s working demographic isn’t sufficiently educated, then it will force the present and future commercial development to hire a labor force – not locally from Brazil – but more expensive professionals, eager to relocate overseas.  A Brazilian workforce lacking transferable skills, also jeopardizes the ability to diversify the nation’s economic activity.  It’s exceptionally dangerous for any country to rely on a single trade exchange, i.e. only exporting natural resources or supplying commodities to China.  Hence, if Brazil wishes to evolve past the ’emerging leader’ role then they must prepare to keep pace with Asia/US/European competition.

Without question, luck, timing and a rare geographic/coincidental proximity between two such monumental events like the Olympics and World Cup all give Brazil premium opportunity to show off the nation’s historic legacy and other strengths.  But in order to make this global presentation a truly successful, resonating performance they must first figure out how to redesign the way both lower/higher education rouses the population.  Once this internal enlightening begins, it’s only a matter of time before Brazil’s talent pool will flood into the market place.  It will serve Brazil well to follow their national motto more closely than ever over the next decade.  It’s an unremitting philosophy… Order first, then Progress.

Verdade, meus amigos, muito verdadeiro. // True, my friends, very true.

Amanda // @acmontgomery


Is New Media Violating Small, Town USA? Do They Enjoy It?

This year I decided to spend the Labor Day holiday outside of Dallas, about 4 hours away, nestled in the Texas Hill Country, while resting at my family country home in Fredericksburg, Texas.  Over the weekend I came across a quote that perfectly captured my intentions for the weekend, “Spending One Day in the Country, Makes a Month in the City Worth It…”

For those not familiar with this quaint, German settlement just outside of Austin, Fredericksburg is full of delightful entertainments to make a weekend go right along.  Whether you find yourself drinking wine amongst the local vineyards, or popping your head into antique shops down Main Street, when city folks arrive to enjoy their weekend stay—those ugly, mundane to-dos that occupy the majority of one’s day back in the city simply melt away.  I took a breath and paused.

My intention over the weekend was above all things to forget about work.  As I mentioned before I work in Social Media outside of pursuing my Master’s degree in Emerging Media and Communications, so for one weekend only I wanted to perhaps, not live La Vida New Media for a brief 72 hours.  Where better to do this than in the quiet country home with no landline and no cell phone charger.

Here’s the thing…as much as I wanted to leave my La Vida New Media in Dallas for the weekend in exchange for a quite country get away… it turns out that even in Small Town, USA folks can still live some type of New Media Vida, and I think they’re kind of enjoying it.

When my parents bought our family house in 1993, Fredericksburg was half the size it is now.  It had half the stores; half the restaurants but some of the same stores I walked to on Main Street when I was 10 are still in the same spot 17 years later.  However 17 years later, they promote a Facebook Fan page.  Take Hondo’s for the example – the local cantina watering hole has a lively 405 fans, 4 or so photo albums, 7 outside link connections, and an Events Tab…

I have to wonder— Would Fredericksburg have experienced the tremendous amount of growth over the years had it not been for the development of new media?  The underlying question to all of this, narrative anecdote aside, is the following: Is the power of New Media Violating Small Town, USA?  And more to the point, are they enjoying it?

It’s quite a quandary… by exposing a small town to a vast and infinite audience online, they run the risk of garnering up such media attention and tourism that eventually the powerhouse brands will attempt to move in and secure a piece of the market share that the local brands have enjoyed a monopoly on for so long.  However, without continued growth, new development, and change the small town will not generate an evolving presence that will allow it to keep up with the times.

It’s a tough question to answer and I am still scratching my head over the question even though I had a glorious 4-hour car ride home to mull it over.  If you do get a chance to head down to Fredericksburg any time soon, be sure to stop by the local burger shop, and drink a beer at Hondo’s, buy an antique map of Texas, then fan the places you liked upon your return home.  I hope that Fredericksburg will remain the rare exception that can continue to enjoy growth but still keep it’s country charm while livin’ la vida new media—