Why English teaching is essential for growth in Brazil

Associate Professor in the Department of Applied Physics at the University of Campinas (UNICAMP) in São Paulo Leandro Tessler spoke to us exclusively about his hopes and strategies for Going Global 2014 in Miami. 

For Professor Tessler, finding ways to get more Brazilian students speaking English is the main driver:

"We will be looking for ideas about what the British Council and English speaking nations might be able to do to help us increase the competence of our students in English"

Reflecting on one of Going Global 2014’s themes, inclusivity, he observed that use of English as an academic medium of communication currently excludes less well-off students:

"The socio economic data and the admission test results of students show very clearly that out of all the subjects they have studied, English is the clearest indicator of social status. Students from better-off families are more likely to have studied English at their private schools or to have taken private courses."

Professor Tessler is speaking in a session on English as a medium of instruction, addressing the issues that prevent the widespread use of English at universities in Latin America. He gave us some background on this topic for Brazil:

"Until about 10 years ago undergraduate education was very elite in Brazil. Very few people had access to university and still only 16% of the 18-24 cohort go into higher education. I would say that the big bottleneck for progress towards internationalisation is the lack of knowledge of English. It is very rare in Brazil to find someone in the street who speaks English."

He also pointed out that a lack of English skills has prevented many good students from joining the Science Without Borders programme which aims to send nearly 100,000 Brazilian students to undergraduate sandwich courses and PhDs in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and creative industries at leading world universities. 

Read the full interview with Professor Tessler, including why he thinks it's valuable for Brazilian universities to attract international students and what Brazil has to offer in return, including an aircraft company bioethanol project and cars that run on biofuels.

Professor Tessler’s interview is one of a series of interviews with Going Global 2014 speakers conducted for the British Council by Media FHE, providers of the HE intelligence service HEi-know. Access all our Going Global interviews onthe Going Global 2014 website.