Increasing Social Equality and Meeting Job Market Demands
In Rio de Janeiro, a city with extreme economic and social contrasts, Franklin Coelho, Rio's Secretary for Science and Technology, seeks to level the playing field through education and training.
Dr. Coelho's extensive credentials in education and training include a bachelor's degree in electronic engineering from Rio de Janeiro Federal University. He has been both a student and professor at Fluminense Federal University in Rio de Janeiro. He holds a master's degree in urban and regional planning and a doctoral degree in history from the university. In addition to his current professorial duties, Dr. Coelho is the coordinator of the Productive Restructuring and Local Development Laboratory of the university. Before he assumed the role of Secretary of Science and Technology, Coelho coordinated the Piraí Digital Project, which provides access to information and communication through a network for voice and data transmission, and also Estado do Rio de Janeiro Digital Program.
Dr. Coelho says: "Education plays a key role in increasing the equality of opportunities for people and thus reduces social inequalities. Education inequality perpetuates existing social inequalities."
But according to Dr. Coelho, these inequalities are not just about access to education itself: "Currently, the problem is the poor quality of education and the need to know how to teach and learn in the 21st century."
Networking Academy Teaches ICT and 21st Century Skills
The need for new approaches to education extends to job readiness. Dr. Coelho explains: "The rapid advance of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) has brought an urgent demand for qualified workers for positions that did not even exist before." The demand for ICT professionals in Brazil has increased by an average of 6.5 percent per year. But the total number of graduates in the country increases by only 4 percent annually. That is where Cisco Networking Academy comes in.
Dr. Coelho continues: "Networking Academy courses have contributed not only to addressing the shortage of ICT workers, but also to developing content that is oriented to the job market, overcoming the issue of traditional curricula of the Brazilian institutions that do not meet the demands of the job market."
But technical skills are not enough for today's job market, according to Dr. Coelho: "Increasingly training must become more than simply training for job positions—it must support the development of cognitive and social-communicative skills that support the technical-operational skills. Therefore, a qualified professional is the one who, in addition to technical competence, has a professional and personal attitude regarding the reality of work relations and the world in which we live." Networking Academy teaches these 21st century skills, including teamwork, collaboration, communication, and creative problem solving.
Providing Training in the Poorest Parts of the City
Networking Academy has been implemented in Casas Rio Digital, which are computer labs located in the city's poorest neighborhoods. These local academies are integrated into the regional Networking Academy of Piraí within the state of Rio de Janeiro and are part of the ICT training program of the Rio de Janeiro City Hall.
When asked how Networking Academy is different from other ICT training programs, Dr. Coelho responded: "The quality of the Networking Academy curriculum is superior; it provides training for careers as network administrators, support analysts, and computer and telecommunication technicians. The online training component is based in local and regional academies, which guarantees monitoring and quality control, enabling public and market recognition of the Cisco networking certifications."
Students Are Now Teachers
Dr. Coelho says: "The challenge for today's teachers is to involve interactive research in the classroom—an approach based on discovery and the collective construction of knowledge." Networking Academy facilitates this approach.
Some students of Piraí, who participate in Project Instructor Student within the One Computer Per Student Program, experienced a significant change in the school-student relationship. Instructor students receive technology training through Networking Academy. Those students then teach and collaborate with students from various schools in the municipality.
Students Are Trained to Support School's Computer Network
Elementary student training is conducted by Piraí's Department of Education in partnership with Cisco Networking Academy, which promotes technical training for sixth grade students and basic network maintenance by those students. Dr. Coelho explains: "The students are trained as producers and disseminators of technological knowledge and support the networks inside the schools. This approach creates a path of technical education and incentives for professional training in ICT—starting in elementary school."
Dr. Coelho adds: "My hope is that this approach enhances the possibility of a society that is fairer socially, more sustainable environmentally, and more educated culturally—one society where we are the active agents of this construction; where the roles of teachers, students, managers, and the entire school community are revolutionized."