October 1, 2014

Education: Competing Against the World


Only now is Brazil reaching universal elementary education. Overcrowding has forced the country to run schools in shifts.

Mike Vogel | 8/1/2006

Alan Santinele Martino, 17
Escola Estadual Professora Maria Pacheco Nobre
Praia Grande, Brazil

Family: The youngest of two sons of a lower middleclass father in film product sales and a stay-at-home mother. Alan's 22-year-old brother has cerebral palsy, and the family had to struggle to get him into a regular school

School: The public Escola Estadual Professora Maria Pacheco Nobre is a 20-minute drive from his home in Praia Grande, a 237,500- population coastal city in S?o Paulo state in southeast Brazil.

Courses: Mathematics (simultaneous instruction in all math disciplines, including algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus, occurs annually), physics, chemistry, biology, Portuguese, English, psychology, history, geography and drawing.

Alan's school day starts at 7 p.m. and ends at 11 p.m.

Focused on the Test

Clearly, 17-year-old Alan Santinele Martino has a lot on the ball. Community service isn't required of Brazilian secondary school students, but Alan volunteers twice a week with the elderly anyway. His service was one reason he was selected along with other students with good grades, fluent English and a record of volunteering for the U.S. Embassy's Youth Ambassadors Program, which brought him on a two-week visit to Washington and an Illinois school last year.

Like most students at his school in Praia Grande, a seaside city, he has a job. He teaches English at a private school to help support his family. He goes to school himself at a government school from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Brazil's secondary schools are so crowded, and half-day education for high school is so ingrained culturally, that schools run in shifts. Alan's school has family days on the weekend so that families can be together and take enrichment work, from sports to foreign languages. Alan counts himself lucky. His school is free of violence, drug and alcohol abuse.

"Only good students go to this school," he says. "It's the best school in my city." School choice is the norm in Brazil. Unlike the Illinois school he visited, however, choice of subject matter is not. Alan spends his class time with the same 40 students on the same subjects. Electives don't exist at his school, nor at most secondary schools, and there's no debate club, no chess club as he saw in America. Whether attending public, military or private school, ambitious students all have their eyes on one of the coveted slots at Brazil's most prestigious universities -- the free, public colleges or military universities. The ratio of applicants to slots is 80 to one at the public universities. Alan takes the "vestibular" -- university entrance exam -- in October after studying for it for two years.

Tags: North Central, Education

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