"If you want to make an impact on teacher education in Brazil, then the private education sector is the place to start," says Jarkko Wickström, Finland University's Director of Operations for Brazil.
Finland University has been active in Brazil since 2017, when a co-operation agreement was signed with Anima Education – one of the country's largest private providers of higher education courses. Together, the partners have delivered pedagogical education courses to more than 120 university teachers in São Paulo and Belo Horizonte (the two states in which Anima operates).
Finland University and Anima are now working on expanding their curriculum with courses in early childhood education, global innovation management and future studies. A Portuguese-language version of the university pedagogy course is also in the pipeline.
Finding more partners
Wickström, a Finn who has lived in Brazil for more than a decade, is looking at striking similar education partnerships agreements in five additional Brazilian states: Federal District, Paraná, Minas Gerais, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul.
"Brazil is going through an internationalisation process in its higher education institutions," he says. "So the next stage for Finland University is for us to find partners in other Brazilian states too."
The approach is already yielding results, with a new agreement to train 60 teachers from Feevale University – a non-profit educational institute in Brazil's southernmost state, Porto Alegre.
Wickström also enjoys the possibility of supporting the entities known as SESI, SESC and SENAI, which together form the national “S-System” that uses tax contributions from commerce and industry to fund vocational and basic education that prepares people for the working life. "S-System" was created by Brazil's business owners themselves, and has educated some 75 million Brazilians since the 1940s.
Theory into practise
Wickström began learning about opportunities in the Brazilian education market while working for the Finnish embassy in São Paulo from 2016 to 2018.
"Back in my embassy days I saw that there was a lot of interest in Finnish education, and that the secret to this lies in the universities where we train our teachers and do our research," says Wickström.
"Educational experts in Brazil have found that the biggest issue in Brazilian teacher education is the lack of a connection between theory and practise. Our Finnish specialists agree. Teachers in Brazil study the didactics for years, and then they're expected to be ready to work in a classroom. This is very different to Finland, where we put so much effort into teacher-training schools that build the connection between theory and practise."
"There are lots of private faculties in Brazil that don't do any research – they concentrate on teaching," he says. "But through partnerships we are able to bring Finnish research-based knowledge into working Brazilian private universities and reach a much broader audience."
"It's a model with a lot of potential."
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