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Thursday, August 11, 2022

The hinterland can become the sea – 07/30/2022 – Luciano Melo

This column was written for the #scienceinelections campaign, which celebrates Science Month. In July, columnists give up their space to reflect on the role of science in the reconstruction of Brazil. The writer is Marilia Zaluar Guimarães, neuroscientist and deputy coordinator of the National Science Network for Education.

How important is sleep for learning? What’s the best way to study? The ideal age to learn a new language? There are many questions and possibilities of conduct in relation to formal education. Over the years, we’ve been figuring out through trial and error what the best strategy would be at that moment.

The different attempts, however, take years to be evaluated, and are not always evaluated objectively. Can the best for one generation be valid for the next? And, in this post-pandemic period, how to mitigate losses in learning and social interaction? These urgent answers were not foreseen by 20th century thinkers.

THE science can help by shortening the time between experimentation and application, and by increasing the effectiveness and scale of educational measures. In the National Network of Science for Education (Rede CpE), we understand that different sciences are necessary to understand learning and reduce its difficulties.

The network brings together researchers from areas such as pedagogy, neurosciences, speech therapy, psychology, economics. Among its objectives, it aims not only to implement scientific interactions, but also to promote research in education, and, of course, to subsidize teachers and schools to apply this knowledge. And this is more than doing scientific dissemination: it is exchanging ideas with those who are on the school floor.

This year we conducted a survey among teachers and school administrators with the following questions: how can the network contribute to you and how can you contribute to it? What are the difficulties in accessing this knowledge and applying it? The responses of hundreds of teachers are still under analysis, but interest in the science of education is already clear.

A search on the CpE Platform (platform-cpe.org) with the keyword “socio-emotional” reveals that there are more than 3,000 researchers dedicated to the topic, one of which most professors would like to know better. And why is the subject so attractive? Research carried out by economists associated with the CpE Network shows that well-developed socio-emotional skills can be the antidote to obstacles linked to socio-economic status. That is, low-income and vulnerable children and youth who have the opportunity to develop these skills are more likely to complete formal education, enter university, and earn a good income as adults.

It is not by chance that Sobral, in Ceará, a sea in the backlands of Brazilian education, invests in the development of socio-emotional skills of its students, together with the Ayrton Senna Institute, by the way also a partner of the CpE Network. These skills are in Common National Curriculum Base, and are grouped into self-awareness, self-management, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. Teachers are not trained in this area and there is still much to be researched. How, for example, to work on these skills in a digital world?

Technologies, on the other hand, are posing unprecedented questions. Is our brain changing? Probably, yes, through a process known as neuroplasticity — the brain’s ability to adapt to new experiences and learning. This is what happened with the invention of writing.

Today we know which brain areas are co-opted to perform reading tasks, and one of them is used for face recognition by illiterate individuals. So the brain of literate people works differently from that of illiterates, just as the brain of digital natives works differently from that of digital immigrants.

The apprentice has changed. The world changed. And the pandemic widened the chasm that already separated the privileged and the vulnerable. But Brazilian science is able to expand its research and interact with the educational system to solve problems and plan for the future. For that, we need investments. Only then, who knows, the sertão will become the sea. And the CpE Network is ready to do its part.


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