A number of organizations are working with local governments to combat educational disparities in Brazil. In 2021, people are living in a modern world that has deep connections to the internet, so a significant disparity for education in Brazil is access to connected technology. A majority of Latin American students lack access to digital devices with internet connections. A 2018 report stated that less than 30% of students in major countries including Brazil and Argentina had access to the web. One of the few countries with a majority of students connected to the internet is Chile. For context, around 18% of “remote rural” students in Mississippi lack internet connections. Students, especially those in extreme poverty, need access to the web, and educators need the proper equipment to teach their students.
Disparity Between Urban and Rural Students
A few factors play into the educational disparities in Brazil. The country invests one of the lowest shares of its GDP into primary and tertiary education. This may directly link to the fact that approximately 11.5 million Brazilians over the age of 15 are illiterate. A 2017 poll of public school teachers in Brazil found that “two-thirds of Brazilian public school teachers cite poor equipment as a reason for not using technological resources in the classroom.” Research shows that educational equipment and tools along with internet access at schools improve student academic performance. Meanwhile, rural students continue to have access to a limited number of technological resources.
A large education disparity in Brazil exists between rural and urban students. Both rural and urban students transitioned from in-person to online school during COVID-19. However, teacher Ivonaldo Lopes de Araújo found that half of his class lacked access to the internet. Brazil’s government, international organizations and Google for Education are working to fix these issues.
Google for Education
Google’s parent company, Alphabet, created a program called Google for Education. The mission of the program involves “directing [its] products, people, programs and philanthropy toward a future where every student has access to the quality education they deserve.” Specifically, the program helps fund initiatives and institutions in Brazil that provide technology access for students and teachers. Colégio Agostiniano São José is a reference school for Google. The school has experience using Google Workspace and Chromebooks. The college services early childhood education and grade school educators and classrooms. Certified coaches run workshops for Brazilian educators, in which the coaches teach the educators how to properly utilize the technology in classrooms.
Google also spotlights Latin American innovation projects. In 2018, Google highlighted a few ways that the organization partnered with local governments in Brazil to make computers accessible to students and teachers in public schools. Carol Neris, a high school student, created an app called Hack Health, which gives users information about health resources near the students. The app shows doctor availability, vaccine availability and other information that bridges educational access gaps for locals. Other students from a reference school in São Paulo’s Colegio Magno developed a way to condense local water sources into drinkable water. The students even created a system to purify and use river water to grow vegetables for the cafeteria to use. Students and educators are using the technology resources available to enhance student education and improve local communities.
Resources from UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) outlined information and technology use in Brazilian education. The U.N. organization developed a program that works with regional governments and institutions to contribute resources to enhance the classroom. The program’s goals include providing policy support, training educators and promoting inclusive education that bridges economic and gender gaps. The program also collects statistics that help UNESCO develop and refine the program.
How Partnerships Help
Educational disparities in Brazil exist because of historical underfunding that has led to a limit on the technological resources available to educators and students. However, local education administrations that partner with Google and UNESCO help bridge the technology gap in public schools. While these programs cannot fix the lack of funding, the initiatives help promote technology and communication access in Brazil, which gives students and educators the necessary resources to succeed in this interconnected world.
– Jacob Richard Bergeron