Online Degree, Online Courses and Distance Learning in Brazil

About Online Degree, Online Courses and Distance Learning in Brazil

Compared to other countries of comparable size and level of development, Brazil has a very low level of online and distance education. This is somewhat surprising, since many experts see Brazil as an ideal candidate for these techniques – 20% of the Brazilian population is illiterate, the country has a massive gap between rich and poor when it comes to access to education, and the vast rural expanse in the middle of the country can make traditional educational models difficult to implement. In addition, the country has a well-developed telecommunications infrastructure that could support distance-learning programs through television, radio, and internet. All of this leads toward the conclusion that online education would be a good solution in Brazil.

The reason for the country’s general lack of distance learning programs is the rigid and pedagogically conservative system of education regulations. Brazil’s education system is highly centralized and tightly regulated, and this makes the expansion of experimental online programs more difficult. The Brazilian educational establishment tends to see online education as a cheap substitute for the real thing, so accreditation and permits are not readily available for online-online institutions.

There are, nonetheless, changes under way in Brazil. The Associação Brasileira de Educação a Distância (Brazilian Association for Distance Education, known by the acronym ABED) has been operating for the past ten years or so in the effort to increase Brazil’s adoption of distance learning techniques. ABED hosts conferences and brings world experts to Brazil to provide support and advice for the expansion of online education. They also promote these approaches politically. Since 2005, a growing number of policymakers and political leaders in Brazil have been persuaded by the message of ABED and similar organizations, and in recent years online education in Brazil has been growing exponentially. For now, the majority of online programs are “hybrid” programs that use distance learning techniques within the context of a more traditional program – students in hybrid programs do much, but not all, of their coursework online. The success of such pilot programs is convincing more people in Brazilian society and the academic establishment that online education is an acceptable solution for Brazilian educational problems.

Corporations have taken the lead in using online education. While it is still uncommon to get a degree from an online institution, there are many companies that use distance learning approaches to train their employees. Regulations do not apply to these training courses, and so they have sprouted up all over the country. Vocational training in a wide range of jobs in the Brazilian economy is completed via online methods, and distance learning is rapidly overtaking more traditional approaches in the area of job and career training.

It is likely that the coming years will see a rapid increase in online education at all levels of the Brazilian education system, including primary and secondary schools in rural areas. The growing need for education, combined with the challenge of educating a large, sparse rural population in the Brazilian interior, will lead to rapid growth in this area. If current trends continue, education in Brazil will soon become some of the most modern and high-tech in the world.

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