Brazil’s Option of College or Nothing Forgets How Essential Technical Professionals Are

Senai London will host the Olympics next year but this year, from October 5 to 8, the city held the 41st WorldSkills Competition – the World Olympics of Technical Education. For four days, 944 competitors from 51 countries and from every continent competed for medals in tests that simulate day-to-day work in 46 professions.

To receive a gold, silver or bronze medal in their specialties, the students needed to demonstrate their technical and personal skills in executing tasks within the international standards of quality and within the stipulated time period.

In an immense warehouse where 46 workshops were set up, the public watched the young people compete in cooking, sewing, mechanics, woodworking, gardening, web design, jewelry-making, cabinet-making, carpentry, masonry, and many other professions.

Some of the professional competition attracted the attention of the public, who followed and cheered for their country, just as in a sports competition. But it was a different sort of Olympics because, besides the medal, as in a sport, the competitors created and produced: they left with jobs guaranteed thanks to their performance of a professional skill.

Each winning Korean receives a prize of one thousand dollars. It is no coincidence that once again South Korea was the country that received the most medals. Brazil came in second.

Brazil’s honorable second place is especially due to the National Service for Industrial Training (Senai), which sent 23 students, and the National Service for Commercial Training (Senac), which sent five. It was these two institutions that educated the Brazilians who participated in the world’s greatest professional education and technology tournament.

The Brazilian team’s 28 students won six gold medals, three silver, two bronze, and ten certificates of excellence. Winners of the gold medals were Wilian de Souza (Federal District), in refrigeration mechanics; Natã Barbosa (Santa Catarina), web design; Rodrigo Ferreira da Silva (Rio de Janeiro), jewelry; Gabriel D’Espíndola (Paraná), industrial electronics; Guilherme Augusto (São Paulo), CAD mechanical design; and the pair from Rio Grande do Sul, Maicon Pasin and Christian Alessi, in mechanical electronics.

If our federal technical schools had participated, certainly we would have had an even greater number of champions. Their number will skyrocket when Brazil does two things. First, when it gives more importance to elementary/secondary education.

In order to have a good technical education in today’s world, the student must have had a good foundation in elementary/secondary education, must master the principles of arithmetic, algebra, and geometry and must know a little English.

We have great champions thanks to Senai and Senac, but the number of those who could compete – only 28 students – was small. Imagine if, instead of only a few thousand, we had had millions of young people in technical school, all of them with a good basic education.

Second, when the young people, their parents and the political administrations understand that, henceforth, a good job will be more secure for those who have a good technical education than for those who possess deficient university schooling. In Brazil, we still divide education between University and Nothing, as if the future were to be merely in higher education.

When one analyzes Brazil’s insufficient workforce, however, it can be seen that what we truly lack is technical professionals and not university professionals.

Therefore, if you want a good future for your child, you should consider a university but, before this, think about a good technical course. With a guaranteed profession and certain employment, he or she will be able to consider pursuing higher education to fulfill a vocation but not for a salary, which could be greater as a specialized technician.

To improve elementary/secondary education the political administrations must perceive the importance, from early childhood, of a good school. Also, the families must be attentive, visit the school and demand quality education for their children.

To understand the importance of elementary/secondary education, it would be good if Brazil would participate in the WorldSkills competitive event for students.

The president of the National Confederation of Industry (CNI), Robson Braga de Andrade, with the support of the state federations, presented a proposal in London for us to host the 43rd WorldSkills in 2017.

Until then, we have some time for the families to give their children the incentive to attend schools for technical courses, so that the Brazilian nation will carry out its educational revolution, creating a quality elementary/secondary education for all.

Cristovam Buarque is a professor at the University of Brasília and a PDT senator for the Federal District.  You can visit his website at www.cristovam.org.br/portal2/, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SEN_CRISTOVAM in Portuguese and http://twitter.com/cbbrazilianview in English and write to him at cristovam@senado.gov.br

New translations of his works of fiction The Subterranean Gods and Astricia are now available on Amazon.com.

Translated from the Portuguese by Linda Jerome (LinJerome@cs.com).

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