When COVID-19 forced school closures across Brazil, we quickly hit on four core priorities for our approach. For all of us around the world committed to education, it is good to take stock of these as we continue our responses, get ready for children’s return to school and plan for longer-term resilience:
- Above all, we need to be collaborative. When aligned around shared priorities, strategy and division of labor, the work of the third sector, government, teachers and other players goes further, faster. It is also important to leverage news media as part of the partnership, making sure that information about resources for teaching and learning have a high profile.
- We need to adjust the curriculum. In our response, we made it a priority to quickly trim down lessons. Content needs to be grounded in what can realistically be accomplished through distance learning. We can’t expect the complete curriculum to be covered. A revised curriculum should focus on the most critical elements for returning successfully to school.
- We need a spectrum of delivery formats. We all know the Internet is a great way to teach. But we also know that its reach is limited. So, delivering lessons by broadcast and even print is critical. For our foundation, supporting broadcast initiatives has been a vital strategy. The crisis has taught us we need to do even more.
- Consolidation of teaching and learning tools makes a difference. Just as we needed to respond quickly to the crisis, so did teachers and students. To do so, they had to find the right resources. Putting those resources all in one place made that easier and faster for them.
While there are many lessons to be learned and many factors that lead to success, these fundamentals helped us drive our response and will continue to do so.
The learning crisis in Brazil
Almost 40 million children attend public schools in Brazil, an enrollment that is higher than the population of most of the world’s countries. Fully half already face learning poverty, which the World Bank defines as being unable to read and understand a simple text by age 10. Unsurprisingly, most of the kids that suffer from this learning crisis are from historically marginalized communities — Afro-Brazilians, indigenous, rural, and poor.
Like most countries across the world, ours is grappling with the unprecedented dilemma of millions of children suddenly out of school at one time.