Why Brazilian Students Are Getting Worse At Math
It's simple economics: people with math skills have higher-paying job offers than teaching.
SÃO PAULO – The percentage of students with a sufficient knowledge of math decreases in Brazilian public schools over the course of junior high school, according to a new study.
The NGO Todos pela Educacao (All For Education) compared students’ achievements in public school from 2007 to 2011. They used the results of the Prova Brasil (Test of Brazil) exam, an assessment carried out by the Ministry of Education on students in 5th and 9th gradex in urban public schools, as well as a sample from rural and private school students. The test assesses Portuguese language and math skills.
The study found that students with an adequate knowledge of math fell from 22% when they were in 5th grade in 2007 to 12% when they were in 9th grade, in 2011.
Around 88% of them were not able to calculate percentage, a plane figure's area or read information in a column graph. In Portuguese language, the decline was not as pronounced – from 26% to 23%.
One of the main reasons cited by experts was the shortage of math teachers from grades 6 to 9.
“A young person with math skills will get higher wages working as an engineer or in a bank. Few want to teach,” explains Professor Rogerio Osvaldo Chaparin, from the University of Sao Paulo. According to the Ministry of Education, there is a deficit of 65,000 math teachers in Brazil.
In 2010, Igor Willian, 17, spent an entire year at his school in Sao Paulo without a math teacher. “I still have problems with math today,” he says. “I'd like to study civil engineering, but I'm afraid of flunking in calculus.”