In the past decade, Brazil achieved sustainable economic growth, became the sixth largest economy in the world, and was also able to significantly reduce income inequality. Hence, the country was able to lift 40 million people out of the poverty and now have more than 50% of the population in the middle class. One of the sectors that has benefited the most from the major changes the country has passed on the last few years was the educational one.
The importance of educational cooperation for Brazil
Over the last few years, Brazil has achieved near-universal school enrollment and above 98% youth literacy, which is a key to develop the country. That is why President Dilma Rousseff has stated that education is the priority of her Government and she is working hard to improve the quality of the Brazilian educational system. One of the many components of the Brazilian Government’s effort to improve its educational system is increasing international cooperation, especially at the University level.
Brazil has a large number of universities of international level, is currently among the top 15 countries with most scientific publications in the world and is one of the countries where this indicator grows faster. The top Brazilian university, University of S’£o Paulo (USP), is the institution that forms the largest number of doctors per year in the world and has a yearly budget of more than USD 2 billion. Brazil also has some of the best research institutions worldwide in the fields of agriculture, bioenergy and vaccines, which have made important contributions to the country’s development in the last decade.
The Brazilian Government’s objective of improving the quality of its education passes through increasing the openness of this large educational system and the exchange between Brazilian and foreign students and researchers. The most ambitious program created to achieve that goal is the ‘Science without borders’, which is not only offering fellowships to top foreign scientists to develop researches in Brazil, but also providing scholarships to more than 100,000 Brazilian university students to pursue an academic year in top universities of the world. In this way, Brazilian students will be able both to exchange experiences and gain knowledge in foreign institutions and to establish a closer people to people rapport with the international scientific community.
Aside from the large ‘Science without borders’ program, Brazil also gives great value to educational cooperation in its bilateral relations with friendly countries. Cooperating in the field of education can not only be a source of increasing contacts and understanding between peoples, but also of economic and social development, for which education is a key component. With that in mind, a number of initiatives on education has been taken by Brazil in its relations with Pakistan, comprising the inclusion of Pakistan in its programs for exchange of students (undergraduate and graduate levels); a scholarship program for PhD studies in natural sciences; a free Portuguese language course at the Embassy of Brazil in Islamabad as well as a recently established Brazilian Corner at the Quaid-i-Azam University, which will be followed by a seminar in cooperation with a Brazilian university, and an essay contest for university students.
The Brazilian Programs for Exchange Students (PEC-G and PEC-PG)
Pakistan is the fiftieth country to be included by the Brazilian Government in the list of participants of its Programs of Exchange Students, both for undergraduate (PEC-G) and graduate level (PEC-PG). PEC-G and PEC-PG have been an extremely successful experience in Brazil for decades, and there are currently more than 3,000 foreigners in Brazil taking undergraduate or graduate level courses through these programs in Universities that are among the best of the Western Hemisphere.
In the PEC-G (undergraduate) Program, the Brazilian Government offers the placements in participating Universities with no tuition fee, and students have to cover their living expenses. Candidates must be aged between 18 and 25 and have finished secondary education or similar course with more than 60% of overall average in order to apply. Students interested must, of course, do their homework and research the best Universities in Brazil that offer the courses they intend to pursue. A list of all documents required for application and more details of the procedure can be found at the website of the Brazilian Embassy in Islamabad.
If candidates for PEC-G are not fluent in Portuguese, they must take the Portuguese for Foreigners course in the Brazilian University they are enrolled in for one year. By the end of that year, they must take the Certificate of Proficiency in the Portuguese Language for Foreigners (CELPE-Bras) exam and be approved, in order to start University. The applications for the PEC-G open every year in April, and are made through the Embassy of Brazil in Islamabad.
The second official program for exchange students opened by Brazil to Pakistanis is the PEC-PG, which offers paid scholarships for Masters and PhD programs in Brazilian Universities. More than 200 scholarships are granted every year through this program. Candidates for the PEC-PG are selected based on academic merit and should have previous acceptance to a Brazilian graduate level program. Therefore, the first step for anyone interested in doing their Masters of PhD in Brazil is to start researching the universities they would like to study in and get in touch with them. With the acceptance of the universities, the possibilities of funding and scholarships become much wider.
One of the main possibilities of scholarships for Pakistanis wishing to obtain a graduate level degree in Brazil is the TWAS/CNPq scholarships, established in a partnership between the Brazilian Government and the Third World Academy of Sciences. Each year, this program offers up to fifty scholarships for students of developing countries to pursue postgraduate studies on natural sciences in Brazil. Through this program, 10 Pakistanis were awarded scholarships in 2011, and 15 in 2012. To participate, students have to be part of a postgraduate program in Pakistan and then be accepted in a university in Brazil. Portuguese is not mandatory for this scholarship, although it is a strong differential for candidates.
In October 2012, the Embassy of Brazil started offering free of cost Portuguese classes at its premises in Islamabad. Classes are given by a Brazilian teacher, and have the view of not only promoting the language in Pakistan, but also preparing Pakistanis who wish to, in future, take the opportunities mentioned above to study in Brazilian universities. In this way, the Brazilian Government tries to tackle the language barrier, which is still a difficulty for those willing to study in Brazil. The classes are a very successful experience, and around 60 students are regularly enrolled at the beginner and intermediate levels. Admissions for the course are made fully through the website of the Embassy and open every three months, so as to give more people the opportunity to join the classes.
Book ‘Knowing Brazil’
In 2012, the Brazilian Embassy launched the book ‘Knowing Brazil: a guide about Brazil to the Pakistani youth’, in English and Urdu, to offer a wide view of the country to the children and youngsters of Pakistan. The book, co-authored by Ms. Farhat Asif and Mr. Asif Noor, aimed at making Brazil better known among the young generation of Pakistanis and was edited also in Urdu in order to have a wider range of readers across the country. Copies of the book in both languages have already been donated by the Embassy to more than two thousand schools and educational institutions around Pakistan, in order to spread knowledge about Brazil throughout the country.
Brazilian Corner at Quaid-i-Azam University Library
In an effort to strengthen even more its educational cooperation with Pakistan, Brazil is establishing the Brazilian Corner at the Library of Quaid-i-Azam University, in Islamabad. For this project, a space with bookshelves, study tables and chairs, as well as computers, was set up in the Library, together with an initial donation of around 350 Brazilian books in English, as well as DVDs of Brazilian movies. In that way, the students of Quaid-i-Azam University will be able to study Brazilian literature, history, politics and economics, and become closer to the country. Students interested in developing academic research about the country will benefit enormously from the vast bibliography available in the Brazilian Corner.
Seminar on Contemporary Brazil
As a way to compliment the Brazilian Corner and incentive academic research about the country, the Embassy of Brazil in Islamabad is also collaborating with the Area Studies Center of Quaid-i-Azam University and the Center for International Studies on Government of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, a top Brazilian university. Together, they organized the three-day seminar â€œContemporary Brazilâ€, in which Brazilian professors, through video conference, gave insightful lectures about contemporary Brazilian politics, economics and culture. The seminar followed the inauguration of the Brazilian Corner and was attended by postgraduate students of Quaid-i-Azam and other universities in Islamabad. It was an excellent opportunity for them, to not only acquire a deeper knowledge about the country, but also to establish links with Brazilian academia, which will certainly develop into closer educational cooperation in the future.
Together with the inauguration of the Brazilian Corner and the academic seminar, the Brazilian Embassy in Islamabad also launched an essay contest with the theme â€œThe importance of diversity to the Brazilian cultureâ€, open to the participation of any Pakistani university student. The contest will give substantial prizes to the best essays: Rs. 50,000 and the essay’s publication on a magazine for the first prize; Rs. 30,000 for the second prize and Rs. 20,000 for the third prize. The contest will be open for submissions until December 15th and details of the participation can be found at the Embassy’s website.
Through these several initiatives in the field of education, Brazil and Pakistan have been successfully strengthening their ties in the recent years and bringing closer together not only the Governments, but the peoples of both countries.