Brazil’s Science Without Borders and the U.S. / by Mark Langevin

Brazil’s aggressive effort to accelerate development through educational and research exchanges, known as Science Without Borders, intersects the United States in critical ways.  According to U.S. Ambassador to Brazil, Tom Shannon, writes in Americas Quarterly,

“Brazil and the U.S., through Science Without Borders, are building a twenty-first-century partnership that will not only bring these two hemispheric giants together, but also bring huge economic and development benefits to both.”

Science Without Borders is a long-term developmental strategy initiated by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff to build individual and institutional relationships around the world through post-secondary educational and research exchanges, financing Brazilian students and researchers to study and work abroad.  It is an efficient, and promises to become a very effective method for accelerating Brazil’s scientific development for the coming generation.

According to Ambassador Shannon, one of the strengths of Science Without Borders is its reliance on the private sector.  He reports,

“it is a public–private partnership. This is not just a publicly funded educational travel fund. The Brazilian private sector plays an important role in funding and training; on the U.S. side, Boeing has pledged support for scholarships and internships as well. The private-sector focus is significant. The vast majority of the students who participate in Science Without Borders will not return to government jobs, but are instead likely to work in private companies—thus expanding Brazil’s already-growing entrepreneurial class.”

For Shannon, the program promises to contribute to Brazilian development and further advance bilateral relations with the U.S.  He forecasts that approximately half of the 100,000 Brazilian students and researchers who will receive financial assistance through the program in the next decade will come to the U.S. Already nearly 2,000 Brazilians are studying at 238 U.S. colleges and universities.  Apparently, nearly half of all Brazilians interested in studying abroad prefer the U.S.

Ambassador Shannon identifies English proficiency as the biggest obstacle for Brazilian wishing to study in the U.S.  In response, the U.S. has launched several programs to facilitate English acquisition in Brazil, including:

1. An agreement with CAPES and the Conselho Nacional de Secretários de Educação (Brazilian National Council for State Secretaries of Education—CONSED) to send 540 public school English teachers to the U.S. for training in English-language instruction.

2. An agreement with the Pernambuco state government to send 300 high school students per year to the U.S. to study English in anticipation of their entry into university.

3. Development of English3 (English cubed), an intensive English-language program that is currently offered to aspiring students within close reach of the TOEFL score needed to be accepted into U.S. universities. The first English3 students will complete the program at the end of September.

4. Collaboration with American businesses through Mais Unidos, a program sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development to fund English-language training for 1,000 students in the underprivileged areas of Rio de Janeiro.

There are many opportunities for U.S. educational and research institutions to participate in Science Without Borders; and given Brazil’s commitment to developing its science and technology capabilities, worth the effort to roll out the red carpet to Brazilian students and researchers.  Moreover, interested institutions should evaluate the possibilities of delivering up low cost English instruction to promising Brazilian students who will likely qualify for the program in coming years.  Lastly, the U.S. could further strengthen U.S. participation in this special Brazilian government initiative by continuing to make travel Visas more affordable and accessible to Brazilians, including relatives of Brazilian students coming to the U.S., to deepen the bonds that bring Brazil and the U.S. into close orbit.