Brazil's President Rousseff praises new study abroad program
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff spoke at Harvard University on the connection between country's rapid economic growth and education.
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“Coming here and being near top technologies and research ... just being in contact with such technology and professors will be great experience for me when I come back and start working in Brazil,” he says.Skip to next paragraph
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Allan Goodman, president and CEO of the Institute of International Education (IIE), the organization helping facilitate the Science Without Borders program in the US says “this is way more than a traditional exchange program because of its scale and scope and how rapidly it started and how rapidly it grew.” It’s hard to find detractors of the program’s work, he says: “With any program, there are certain skeptics and critics. But I haven’t heard any on this one.”
Mr. Goodman says Rousseff reflected popular sentiment in Brazil when she created Science Without Borders. This was reiterated when the private sector quickly exceeded the government’s original call for a 25 percent contribution to the scholarship program (the government said it would take on 75 percent of the costs). “Industries really want this to happen because they need workers with a science and math background, and some knowledge of English,” Goodman says. He refers to Rousseff as “an education president.”
Azevedo says, sure, he may a beneficiary of the program, but “really, it’s money well spent … education is the main basis for a country to grow, so I think they’re doing the right thing in investing in education,” he says. “It’s [the] first step of being a first world country.”
Next year the Science Without Borders program will start sending students to other foreign countries such as France and Germany, as well. The program is slated to run through 2015, but given its initial success – and Brazil’s vision for quality education and a globally-ready work force – there may be opportunity for further expansion.
“I must be clear that we have huge challenges ahead,” Rousseff said Tuesday night at Harvard. “Precisely because Brazil is a complex country, and the challenge of eradicating extreme poverty while working to implement high education opportunities.”
With nearly four months studying abroad behind him, Azevedo says he is already gaining insight into the US system. “In Brazil, students mainly help each other out with exams and homework and papers, but here … students don’t want to help each other because they’re trying to get the top grade in their class,” he says. It’s not a bad thing, he insists, just a cultural difference. “Being competitive is one of the main things the world wants from us, but we also need to know how to work with other people and cooperate,” he says.
Neither Harvard University nor the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are hosting Science Without Borders students this year, says IIE. But Rousseff met with representatives from both schools this week in an effort to expand the program in coming years. Some 1,600 additional students are slated to go abroad this summer as part of Science Without Borders.
This program is by no means one-sided Azevedo says. US-based students and institutions are learning a little something from their young Brazilian education ambassadors as well. “So many people think we speak ‘Brazilian’ in Brazil” he says. “It’s Portuguese.”
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