— The newly released Brazil Education Services Market Analysis
On the surface, Brazil’s statistics about higher education participation are impressive: Enrollment soared 110 percent in the past 10 years, reaching over 6 million students at 2,377 institutions.
But digging deeper into the numbers paints a more worrisome picture, reports Bloomberg News. For instance, the government fell well short of their goal of having 30 percent of people aged 18 to 24 enrolled in college by 2011. The figure only rose to 14.4 percent in 2010, up from 12 percent in 2001. And the enrollment statistics don’t account for poor graduation rates.
But what troubles Bloomberg most is the small amount of science, math and technology degrees that Brazil produces each year.
There’s a shortage of such skills in the labor market — with many thousands of open positions but not enough graduates to meet the demand. According to Relacoes do Trabalho, a network of experts interested in labor relations, 33,000 engineers graduate from Brazilian universities every year, but the country needs about 90,000. Major oil centers in Rio de Janeiro alone will need 5,000 engineers before the end of 2012. These are essential jobs for the development and sustainability of a fast-growing nation.
The Brazilian government has plans to pay for 75,000 of its college students to study at the best universities in the world, according to Time. The effort, named “Science Without Borders,” comes at a time when Brazil, and all of Latin America, is sorely underrepresented in research and development.
The ambitious plan requires money from the federal Agency for Support and Evaluation of Graduate Education for 40,000 of the scholarship and from the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development for 35,000. Another 25,000 scholarships could be available with funds from the private sector.
Of course, there are hurdles, such as language proficiency and problems in the elementary and secondary school systems, that must be dealt with to see such a big increase. And there is no promise that this initiative won’t suffer from so-called “brain drain,” where a country’s best and brightest leave to be educated elsewhere and never return.
Still it’s something many countries in the region are trying, as Time detailed: “Ecuador last month announced its largest scholarship program yet, hoping to send more than 1,000 students overseas, while Colombia in 2011 will place more people abroad than in the past 18 years combined. Chile is expanding its own program to offer 30,000 scholarships by 2018, and even tiny El Salvador now has a study-abroad project.”
Directly inspired by student protesters in Chile, students in Brazil have taken to the streets demanding education reform in their own country. Specifically, they want 10 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to be spent on education, reports the China Post.
According to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, in 2007, Brazil spent 5.1 percent of it’s GDP on education, only slightly less than the United States. The OECD average was 4.8. Of course, this measure doesn’t guarantee educational success. Cuba, for example, spends over 18 percent of it’s GDP on education.
Nevertheless, students in Brazil are hoping to attract attention to the development of a new 10-year national education plan and make education reform a priority. “Public education in Brazil is bad,” an 18-year-old student named Natalia said in the Post. “We do not have the same opportunities as students in private schools.”
Singapore’s new cap: While most countries across the world are working to up their share of foreign students, Singapore is placing a cap on them. In a reversal of previous policies, the government will hold the number of international students at current levels and add an additional 2,000 university spots for Singaporeans, trying to bring the percentage of foreign students down from 18 to 15. (University World News)
Brazil eyes new schools: Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said earlier this week the government has plans to open four new federal universities and an additional 120 technical schools. (Xinhua News Agency)
Scotland’s happy students: According to a new poll, students in Scotland are “more satisfied with their university experience than those in the rest of the UK.” Eighty-six percent of students rated their experience as positive, with only two universities even dipping below 80 percent. (The Scotsman)