PROFMAT provides in-depth training for teachers
* The text below was part of the application dossier from Brazil to Group 5, the elite of World Mathematics, International Mathematical Union
The report on the 2012 PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) highlighted Brazil as “the country with the largest performance gains [in the mathematics test] since 2003”. The report also emphasized that during that period “Brazil also expanded enrolment in primary and secondary schools”. While the ratings declined somewhat in the latest test, the net gain from 356 points in 2003 to 377 points in 2015 remains very significant. However, Brazil still scores significantly below the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) average and it is clear that much remains to be done.
About 40% of Brazilian school students did not reach level 1 in mathematics, which means that they do not master the four operations with whole numbers. To be maintained, this would be very damaging for the nation’s development prospects: on the one hand, the level of mathematical literacy of the society as a whole is clearly inadequate; in addition, there is a lack of professionals to occupy key positions in mathematics-based professions.
Additional official data about the performance of students just released by the Ministry of Education show that progress has stalled at the high school level, while there has been some
meaningful improvement at the elementary school level. These facts have prompted the federal government to propose a reform of high school education that is currently being implemented.
There is a consensus that a key factor for the improvement of school education lies in the training of school teachers. Several educators, both in Brazil and elsewhere, have pointed out the existence of a body of mathematical knowledge that is specific to teaching as a profession, and that cannot be regarded as a simplified version of mathematical knowledge per se.
Thus there have been vigorous calls for the development of teachers’ education models grounded on the knowledge needed for classroom practice. At the same time, the alienation between teachers’ pre-service and in-service training, on the one hand, and the classroom practice, on the other hand, has been widely denounced. In response to this scenario, various institutions and organizations, including the scientific societies SBM, SBEM and SBMAC, have been actively promoting initiatives whose goal is aim to improve the training of school teachers, both pre-service and in-service. A highlight is the nationwide professional master´s program PROFMAT.
PROFMAT is offered by a network of 71 institutions of higher education (universities and institutes), in 100 campuses located in all 26 Brazilian states and the Federal District. The SBM is responsible for the overall supervision of the master’s program, defining its guidelines, appointing its main officers, and monitoring its execution throughout the network. The associated institutions offer the courses as well as the supervision of research and dissertations, besides granting the final degree.
PROFMAT provides in-depth mathematical training for school teachers, from elementary to high school, and is funded by the high education federal agency CAPES. Initiated in
2011, it has already granted master’s degrees to more than 3,200 school teachers who are now taking on a leadership role in changing the educational landscape in the country.
Indeed, PROFMAT has become a model for similar programs in many other academic fields: Portuguese, physics, chemistry, history, geography, arts and many others.
In this way, this program is also helping bring university and school together for a dialogue that had been missing for decades, and is crucial for dealing with the challenges of education. This has materialized, in particular, in the creation of the National Association of Mathematics Teachers (ANPMat) which is led by PROFMAT alumni and aims to provide new opportunities for the training of mathematics teachers, in collaboration with the universities and the scientific societies.
Among these, special emphasis is given to the Simpósios da Formação do Professor de Matemática, a cycle of meetings organized biennially by the ANPMat and the SBM in all major regions of Brazil, devoted to the discussion of all subjects relevant to the mathematics teacher and which are held biennially on all major regions of Brazil.
Furthermore, Brazil has produced a sound body of research in mathematics education, focusing on issues that are particularly relevant to the country’s educational context, and keeps a lively exchange with the international research community in the field. There are currently more than 50 graduate programs in mathematics education in the country.