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Letter from the editor | 303

Education is not a privilege

One of the lasting impacts of the novel coronavirus pandemic relates to an essential area for all nations: education, which is fundamental to the future of developing countries like Brazil. In addition to the already high number of 1.3 million children and teenagers not enrolled in education in Brazil, a further 4 million students have stopped studying due to COVID-19, according to a UNICEF survey based on PNAD/IBGE data.

The country, which only recently attained universal primary education, has historically faced difficulties with truancy, dropping out, and growing differences in student education levels. These problems have been exacerbated by the pandemic and the measures taken to fight it, as explained in this issue’s cover story. According to an OECD report, the countries with the worst education levels have actually kept schools closed for the longest. Another survey showed that Germany, the UK, Denmark, and France suspended classes for approximately 90 days, while in Brazil schools stayed closed for more than 260 days.

The predictions of worsening educational inequalities in the country and around Latin America and the Caribbean are concerning. To measure the pandemic’s impact on education, the World Bank used a concept known as learning poverty. Considering the consequences of the pandemic to the beginning of 2021, including 10 months of school closures, learning poverty levels across the continent could rise from 55% to 71%.

Brazil’s National Guidelines and Bases for Education, a law passed in 1961, is one of the key legal frameworks governing education in the country. The document, which establishes the precepts of compulsory, free, and secular public schooling, was backed primarily by Anísio Teixeira, who died 50 years ago. As an educational administrator, scholar, and politician, Teixeira helped to develop and lead many of the institutions central to Brazil’s education system, such as CAPES and INEP (which today bears his name). Education is not a privilege—the title of this editorial—is the name of one of his books.

Education is one of the topics of the interview given by engineer Luiz Bevilacqua, the mind behind what has become one of the country’s most innovative new higher education institutions in the country: UFABC. The university, which is interdisciplinary in nature, has no separate departments. Responsible for civil and mechanical engineering programs in the early years of COPPE/UFRJ and a specialist in large structures and bridges, Bevilacqua also divides his time between research and the technological challenges of large companies.

As COPPE’s biggest partner, Petrobras approached the institution when it discovered oil reserves in deep waters, an area still facing major research challenges at the time. Studies related to the obstacles of oil exploration at great depths continue to bear fruit. A computational methodology that combines fluid mechanics and artificial intelligence, developed by the São Carlos School of Engineering at USP, could help manage the flow of oil and natural gas extracted by marine platforms in deep and ultra-deep waters.

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