Worldfund’s STEM Brasil program is an intensive 18-month teacher training program for public high school science and math teachers. The program provides these educators with a rigorous and innovative approach to teaching science and math. The goal is to offer high school students with a high-quality, project-based approach to learning these subjects, enabling them to pursue science and math in higher education and in the job market.
The program was launched in August 2009 in three public high schools in the northeast city of Recife, Pernambuco. In August 2010, the program was expanded to a total of 21 high schools in Pernambuco, reaching 170 teachers and 5,000 students. Based on the success achieved to date, Worldfund’s goal is to continue scaling STEM Brasil both in Pernambuco and throughout Brazil.
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 that features contextual math and science project-based learning, emphasizing both academics and practical employability skills. Spanning all three years of high school, STEM Brasil focuses on teacher training, critical-thinking, and the teacher-student bond. The overarching goal is to engage students in a first-rate math and science program that prepares them for both direct entry into the job market and tertiary education, by:
- Providing 180 hours of intensive teacher training workshops (over the course of 18 months) in each of five subject areas: Biology, Chemistry, Math, Physics, and 21stCentury skills;
- Emphasizing advanced project-based study that reinforces state curriculum requirements in each subject area;
- Exposing students to career options related to math, science, technology, and engineering as well as life and job skill training;
- Delivering in-person 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,
- Connecting the science and math curriculum to the engineering and technology sectors of the Brazilian economy, where there are significant job opportunities.