The Future of Education in Brazil
As the fifth most populous country in the world — surpassed only by China, India, the U.S., and Indonesia — Brazil has a population of approximately 200 million and one of the largest economies in the world. What does the educational system look like now, what’s in store for the future, and how will these developments drive economic growth?
As Brazil’s middle class grows, there is still room to improve the quality and access of education in the country. The OECD’s 2009 PISA educational survey, which measures 15-year-olds’ reading, math, and science skills, ranked Brazil 53rd out of 65 countries, behind nations such as Bulgaria, Mexico, Turkey, Trinidad and Tobago, and Romania. And nearly 13 million people, or 8.6 percent of the population, are illiterate. Coupled with these challenges are a range of employment challenges. Sixty million people between the age of 15 and 24 face employment problems ranging from low salaries and underemployment to long-term and permanent unemployment.
Brazil is actively working to improve access to education and increasing graduation rates. The country already has free elite universities for those accepted and the world’s largest public school meal and free textbook distribution programs. Top Brazilian higher education institutions continue to have strong relationships with the government, corporations, and high-technology firms. (A prominent example is the relationship between the Technological Institute of Aeronautics (ITA) and aircraft manufacturer Embraer, a $6 billion global aviation company.) Increased access to technology is also driving improved learning outcomes throughout the region. By 2015, 30 million Latin American students will have an electronic device to support their learning, and 80% of the “One Laptop Per Child” initiative laptops purchased worldwide have already been distributed in Latin America.
In the coming decade, education will be an important factor in solving some of the nation’s employment problems, unlocking tremendous economic potential in the process. World politics, technology, energy production, and food security are just a few of the many areas where Brazil will not only contribute but probably also lead globally in the 21st century.