Basic education and innovation in Brazil and Finland

March 13, 2012

In my earlier posts I have been observing Brazil from different perspectives and also written on emerging relationship between Brazil and Scandinavian countries mainly focusing on Finland. I argued in my earlier blog post on innovation law that major deficits of Brazilian innovation system are lack of science and engineering education, low level of technology transfer in university-private sector relationship, and lack of R&D investment and understanding in Brazilian private sector. In this post my purpose is to understand the science and engineering education starting from basic education.

So to understand the fundamentals of education, we need to discuss the state of basic education in Brazil focusing on reading, mathematics and science (PISA). In 2000 Brazil entered to PISA evaluation performance even they are not part of OECD and came last from 65 countries. However significant improvement have occurred in last 10 years as picture from Economist article “Education in Brazil – no longer bottom of the class” shows. Accordingly this improvement is caused by simple political decisions to invest in basic education. President Cardoso decided to invest in teacher salaries and pay families to keep their children in school and President Lula continued the same line in his period.

However, just investing is not enough (estadao). In next decade Brazil aims to invest on quality of education and especially on science and engineering based education such as maths, physics, chemistry and biology and infrastructure investment such as laboratory equipment  (UNESCO). Finnish education system strengths as argued by documentary – The Finland Phenomenon: Inside the World’s Most Surprising School System -are high quality teacher education, high level teacher independency creating personal motivation for teaching, low level of class difference in education leading to knowledge transfer (no private education in Finland), high investment of national GDP to education leading high salaries and good infrastructure, high appreciation of teachers in the society, central planning for skills needed in the society and social networking of teachers changing best practices. In Finland, the state decides what should be taught, but not how. Finnish students achieve with average 25 hours weekly schooling the same results as South Korean students with over 30 hours schooling per week:

“…Finnish students, who studied only 4 hours and 22 minutes during weekdays, only half of what Korean 15-year-olds do, scored higher than Korean students in mathematics...”

Still, it is good  to remember the evolutionary perspective of development. Brazil has progressed substantially in basic education since the 1980s. The nation witnessed an increase in school enrolment for children age 7–14, from 80.9% in 1980 to 96.4% in the year 2000. In the 15-17 age demographic, in the same period, this rate rose from 49.7% to 83%.Literacy rates went up, from 75% to 90.0%. (Source wikipedia)

Earlier sections show how innovation related discussion is strongly rooted in the innovation system of the countries. Innovation is closely related to science and engineering capacity and freedom of knowledge transfer in innovation system nationally and internationally. Universities are seen as powerful research centres and producers of highly skilled human resources. However first we need to understand how to provide human resources to universities as this blog post has highlighted. Private sector, in other hand, is responsible for creating societal and economic impact of new skills and technologies.

In Brazil, universities have been performing weakly on producing highly skilled research and development human resources that would benefit the society and especially private sector, university and public research knowledge is weakly transferred to benefit the society and private sector is reluctant to invest in R&D and hiring highly skilled R&D human resources. This means that policy intervention is needed. Next post I will discuss these issues in more detail. To conclude this post:

“We need to teach how to learn, learn how to teach…”

“… and change education paradigms constantly…

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2 Responses to “Basic education and innovation in Brazil and Finland”


  1. Fine text. However, you should take into account other factors. For instance, even those few of our engineers with good high education when hired in our private sectors were asked to perform sales and/or quality control of products designed elsewhere. A reaction to that condition was started when some public initiative created big companies like Petrobras, Embraer, Vale do Rio Doce etc. This was dismantled by “modern” government that considered with good reasons, at some level that we should no reinvent the wheel. We should reduce our government to a minimal. To that purpose, they have included changes in Petrobras name since it was a strong brazillian label. On the left side of our political spectrum this measures would led to a nationalistic plus revolutionary reaction.On the opposite “political side, only “sound economics.


  2. Excellent view point. Great links! Obrigado Tatinho!


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