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Education is focus of Lemann gift to MIT

New partnership will support high-impact initiatives aimed at improving public education in Brazil.

MIT has received a gift from the Lemann Foundation of Brazil to partner with the foundation on three high-impact initiatives aimed at improving public education for all in Brazil.

The gift will specifically support:

  • a collaboration with the MIT Media Lab to cultivate creative learning in Brazil, providing young people with new opportunities for coding, making, and learning with new technologies;
  • three fellowships for the support of MIT graduate students from Brazil or working in Brazil to study education, educational technology, and related areas of focus; and
  • a seed fund for collaborative research between MIT faculty and their counterparts at Brazilian universities and research centers.

“By pairing MIT’s focus on educational innovation and the Lemann Foundation’s expertise in Brazilian educational reform, this collaboration will create exciting research avenues for our faculty and students that will help make education more effective and engaging for learners across Brazil,” MIT President L. Rafael Reif says.

"We truly believe in this partnership as an excellent way to encourage talented Brazilian researchers who are committed to helping foster change in education by focusing their studies on educational technologies," says Denis Mizne, CEO of the Lemann Foundation.

Creative learning

The Media Lab is a world leader in the development of new technologies and strategies for cultivating creative learning. In its collaboration with the Lemann Foundation, the lab will help implement these ideas in Brazil.

For example, the Media Lab views coding as a new form of literacy. Just as learning to write is valuable for everyone (not just those aspiring to write professionally), the lab believes that learning to code is similarly fundamental. To that end, it has developed a variety of tools, such as Scratch, a programming language that enables young people to create their own interactive stories, games, and animations — and to share their projects with one another in an online community.

In the MIT-Lemann collaboration, researchers aim to promote a culture of coding in Brazil by, for example, developing new Scratch features, resources, and activities to support the scaling of coding in Brazil, especially for children.

In addition, the Media Lab has been at the forefront of developing the intellectual foundations of the maker movement and some of its leading technologies, such as Lego Mindstorms robotics sets. The lab will collaborate with the Lemann Foundation to support maker initiatives in Brazil — such as a project to adapt Circuit Stickers, peel-and-stick electronics for crafting circuits, for Brazilian use.

In conjunction with these efforts, the Media Lab will also host visits from Brazilian educators and researchers. Through the Lemann Creative Learning Fellows Program, these professionals will experience the innovative culture of the Media Lab so that they can establish similar environments in Brazil.

Finding solutions to Brazilian educational practices

The Lemann Education Fellowships support research related to education, educational reform, or technologies for education by Brazilian and non-Brazilian students (with the latter doing research in Brazil). The goal is to create a rich, multidisciplinary environment for students to find solutions to Brazilian educational challenges.

The inaugural Lemann Fellows are Bruno Santos, an MBA candidate at the MIT Sloan School of Management; Susana Cordeiro Guerra, a PhD student in political science, and Juliana Cavalcante, who is also pursuing her MBA through MIT Sloan.

Santos, the founder of a startup that works to improve democracy in Brazil by educating and engaging citizens, will focus his MIT research on the intersection between entrepreneurship, economics, and politics. Guerra was previously a Lemann Fellow at Harvard University; her experience there helped inspire her PhD work at MIT on the role that political and administrative factors play in the process of implementing educational reforms. Most recently, Cavalcante worked for the Lemann Foundation; her MIT research will focus on improving education management in Brazil with the goal of ensuring that every student in Brazil has access to quality education.

The MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI) is MIT's flagship international education program. There are 18 MISTI country programs, including MIT-Brazil. Key to MISTI is its Global Seed Funds program, which supports research collaborations between MIT faculty and international colleagues.

The Lemann Seed Fund for Collaborative Projects will support research pursued jointly by MIT and Brazilian researchers. The goal is to expand on the MIT-Brazil program to develop a community of entrepreneurs, scientists, and managers who are equipped to advance education in Brazil. 

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