Tag Archives: Brazil

When Not Reading Books Means Getting Booked

Thugs and bullies have left their mark on this World Cup. First Pepe got ugly against Müller. Then Suarez took a bite of Chiellini. And now Zúñiga has kicked Neymar all the way out of the tournament.

Brazilian fans are mourning the loss of their star player. But critics argue that the team has only itself to blame – Brazil’s rough tactics have invited opponents to fight back. There has been more foul play than jogo bonito.

Dirty tackles are as unwelcome at school as they are on the pitch. Education research shows that orderly classrooms help students learn more. Fortunately, PISA tells us that the disciplinary climate has been improving since 2003. But how disciplined are the World Cup semi-finalists?

Naughty or Nice

As you can see in the graph, the semi finals will be a battle of Naughty vs. Nice. Brazil (96) and the Netherlands (91) have committed many more fouls in this World Cup than their respective opponents, Germany (57) and Argentina (54). According to school principals surveyed by the OECD, almost 1 in 4 students are affected by bullying and intimidation in Brazil and the Netherlands. Continue reading

Penalties and Geometry: Overcoming your deepest fears

My heart was pumping. My knees were shaking. My throat went dry. I couldn’t concentrate. But last Saturday I overcame my fears. I opened my eyes. And watched Brazil and Chile face off in a penalty shootout. All the way to the end.

Yes. Even watching penalties gives me the shakes! So what must it be like for the players? I can’t imagine! Since 1982, 221 players have lined up to take a penalty in 24 World Cup penalty shootouts. 63 have failed to score.

That’s almost 3 in 10 anxious penalty takers! Meanwhile, the OECD tells us that about 3 in 10 boys get nervous doing maths problems. In most countries, high levels of maths anxiety are closely linked with lower test results. Students who suffer from maths anxiety won’t – or can’t – even try to solve maths problems.

Penalties and Geometry

The bubble graph compares the nerves of maths students and penalty takers in the remaining World Cup countries. I’ve chosen to take boys only, since they’re the ones taking penalties at the World Cup. It’s worth noting that in most countries, girls get much more nervous than boys about maths. This is a big problem, since more confident girls in maths means (a) more equitable education systems and (b) more qualified people to take on techy and scientific  jobs.

We can see that: Continue reading

Brazil v. Mexico: Tackling shins and inequality in education

Tonight’s headline match brings together two Latin American big shots. Brazil and Mexico have the region’s largest economies and populations. Both won their opening group games against Croatia and Cameroon with some great tackles. And both urgently need to tackle inequality in education.

ImageBy the time Mexican students turn fifteen, the learning gap between rich and poor equates to about 1.5 years of schooling (62 PISA points in maths in 2012). In Brazil, the gap is almost two years (77 pts). Their World Cup competitors Chile (108 pts) and Uruguay (99 pts) do even worse.

The Inter-American Development Bank finds that, across Latin America, more than half of all students failed to reach the so-called PISA baseline. This means that they can’t, for example, use basic maths formulas (let alone basic football formations). In two of Brazil’s struggling regions, Alagoas and Maranhão, only about one student in seven reached this baseline!

Continue reading

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! Continue reading

If Education for All decided football matches

Brazil will beat Argentina in a stunning World Cup final, says Goldman Sachs. England and Japan, on the other hand, will drop out in the group stages. But what if providing education for all determined World Cup outcomes?

Based on the 2011 Education for All Development Index (EDI) and ruthlessly ignoring issues around UK/English identity, the graph below shows you that England and Japan are the World Cup’s best educators.

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It’d be a closely fought final! Japan has strength in numbers: more children are enrolled in school, and more of them reach grade 5. But the UK boasts higher rates of adult literacy. My money is on a Japanese victory – it scores much higher than the UK on gender parity. Continue reading