Juggling balls and books in Brazil

Brazilians can be religious about their football. But guess what: when they respond to the OECD’s Better Life Index, their #1 priority is … education! Meanwhile, protesters in Brazil have hit the streets, angered by the USD 11 billion spent on hosting the World Cup and calling for more spending on public services.

President Dilma Rousseff has called this a “false dilemma”. And, despite much work to be done, Brazil has made impressive progress in education. Between 2003 and 2012, enrolment among 15-year-olds rose from 65 to 78 per cent, according to the OECD. Brazil improved more than any other country in PISA maths, and reading scores went up too. The share of “low performers” in maths fell from 75 to 67 per cent. The government has spent big and directed more funds to disadvantaged schools – Golazo!

As for tonight’s game against Croatia, I have been given exclusive access to Brazil coach Felipe Scolari’s tactics chart. It shows how Neymar and Hulk will confuse the opposition by suddenly changing their lines of attack.

Brazil - books and football

Just kidding! What the chart really shows is that Brazil can make huge strides in education if it accepts a small drop in its FIFA football ranking. Just look at how reading results improved when Brazil’s FIFA ranking dropped from 1st to 5th!

And Croatia, Brazil’s opponents tonight?

Croatia is on track to meet most of its Education for All targets (1-0: golazo!!!). More of its children are attending both primary and lower secondary school, and more of its adults are literate (2-0!!).

However, Croatia’s big weakness is in pre-primary education. PISA tells us that students who attend pre-primary school for more than one year perform much better than those who did not.

Yet, Croatia is highly likely to miss the EFA goal of enrolling 70 per cent of children in pre-primary education – as of 2011, 61 per cent were enrolled. PISA chimes in: among the 64 countries that participated in PISA 2012, only seven had lower pre-primary enrolment rates than Croatia.

Own goal: 2-1!

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