Worldfund Launches a Groundbreaking
August 19, 2009
Next week, Worldfund will launch its STEM Brasil program in three public high schools in the northeast city of Recife, Pernambuco. The two-year intensive program will introduce gifted students in poverty-stricken districts to the wonders of engineering and technology as exciting fields of exploration and learning-while setting them on a clearly defined, pragmatic path to higher education and employment. These schools serve a total of 2400 students. Over the next five years, our goal is to deliver STEM Brasil to 1,000 public high schools in impoverished districts throughout Brazil. In terms of demographics, the majority of children served are mixed race and Afro-Brazilian, and 50% are girls. Participating students will display a high aptitude for science and math and a strong desire to pursue careers within in technology and engineering.
The need for STEM Brasil is critical. PISA 2006: Science Competencies for Tomorrow's World reports that more that 40% of 15-year-old students in Brazil performed at or below a Level 1 on the science assessment (Level 1 is the lowest of 6). Indeed, Brazil's ranking in the world is at the bottom 10% of the nations participating in PISA. The implications for Brazil's economy and society are profound; poor students are simply not gaining the competencies required to pass college entrance exams or to secure jobs in science and technology. The vast majority of university graduates (which is only 10% of the population) attended private high schools-and only a fraction study the economically critical sciences. Even fewer are Afro-Brazilian or of mixed race. Worldfund targets this public-school, minority population, which has little chance of attending university.
In response to these challenges, Worldfund has developed a rigorous STEM program in collaboration with experts at the Center for Occupational Research and Development (CORD) -- a U.S. non-profit leader in contextual math and science project-based learning that emphasizes both academics and practical employability skills. Spanning all three years of high school, STEM Brasil places a focus on teacher training, critical-thinking, and the teacher-student bond. The overarching goal is to engage the highest capacity students in a first-rate math and science enrichment program that prepares them for both direct entry into the job market and tertiary education, by:
- Providing 480 hours (over two years) of advanced project-based study that complements state curriculum requirements.
- Giving exposure to career options related to math, science, technology, and engineering as well as life and job skill training;
- Delivering one-on-one training to math and science teachers to equip them with interactive teaching techniques and learning modules that emphasize critical and creative thinking over rote memorization; and,
- Tailoring the curriculum to the engineering and technology sectors of the Brazilian economy where jobs are in great supply.
STEM Teacher Training, August 2009