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A Brazilian National Environmental Program for Teachers and Community Leaders: The Muda o Mundo, Raimundo! Project

2002, by Vera RODRIGUES

Brazil is now well known for its strong environmental movement, which has led to several improvements and changes, including the ones in the legal environmental framework. In 1988, changes were made in the Brazilian Constitution, which guarantee the inclusion of Environmental Education (EE) at all levels of schooling. This was great progress; however, a nation-wide project has actually not been implemented yet and, if good practices do exist, they still remain isolated.

In 1995, an Environmental Education program entitled Environmental Education at the Basic Level of Teaching in Brazil - Educação Ambiental no Ensino Básico do Brasil - was put into practice and applied throughout the country. This program received funds from WWF (World Wildlife Fund) and the British Department of International Development; it was also sponsored by the Ministry for the Environment and coordinated by WWF in partnership with UNESCO, IBAMA (Brazil’s environmental-protection agency), MEC (Ministry of Education) and Fundação Roberto Marinho.

Some of the most prominent Brazilian professionals were invited to participate in the process of creating an EE program that would be relevant to the cultural, educational, social and environmental diversity of the country. The process resulted in the publication of a book - Muda O Mundo, Raimundo!. The book was written for educators, in order to situate the theme with an interdisciplinary approach. It retells passages of the Brazilian history, as well as the world history, from an environmental perspective. Muda O Mundo, Raimundo! is a showcase for everything that is developing in terms of EE in public schools throughout the country, it helps deepen fundamental concepts (moral values, education, citizenship, sustainable society). The last chapter – Utility Chest - Baú de Utilidades - consists of several texts, which reinforce the importance of the concepts mentioned before. The main goal is to offer educators conceptual and methodological basis so they can develop their experiences in EE according to the reality of each school.

The first 5.000 copies were quickly sold-out. Only four months after its debut, the Fundação Roberto Marinho and the Community Solidarity Program - Programa Comunidade Solidária - sponsored the second edition (3.500 copies) of Muda O Mundo, Raimundo!. These were also sold out by mid 1999.

In 1997, based on the contents of the book and the principles of the Environmental Education project, training was given to over 1.000 educators from the public school systems in Brasília, Paraná, Pernambuco, Maranhão, Rio de Janeiro, Rondônia and São Paulo.

The Project, which includes both the book and a support for teachers during 2 years so they can develop experiences in Environmental Education, was highly acknowledged in academic and scientific circles, domestically and internationally. Social movements and the media recognized its importance and, after media exposure, demand increased tremendously.

In order to continue the work and activities and guarantee the development of EE in Brazil, the institutions and people involved in the project suggested to create an NGO. This is how the Instituto Brasil was created, in December 1997, with the support of WWF, MMA, IBAMA, MEC, UNESCO and the Fundação Roberto Marinho.

The Instituto Brasil de Educação Ambiental strives to develop, promote and support EE. Its action is based on solid educational fundaments and experience of daily practices for the natural resources protection, the improvement of quality of life and citizenship, aiming at a sustainable society. Its work consists of training, encouraging research in EE and the production of didactic material and newsletters.

Development Context

>From 1997 to 2001, 1.675 people (including those teachers who took part in the initial training/testing process) have been trained on 36 courses using Muda o Mundo, Raimundo! in nine districts. Trainees involve not only teachers and university students, but also municipal, extension and NGO staff and local communities, including poor formerly landless people that were recently given land. Two editions of the book (8.500 samples) were printed and nationally disseminated.

A communication network Rede Rodamundo was set up by the Project to enable the exchange of information and experiences among the Regions involved. This network involves 60 different institutions, among City Councils, local NGOs, universities and Unions. Five numbers of the national newsletter were printed and distributed to all partner institutions and to all course participants, documenting and disseminating good practice in the training courses and implementation of Raimundo among the project partners at the national and regional levels in Brazil.

Besides the training courses and their monitoring process, the Instituto Brasil is currently expanding its national and international partnerships, addressing the huge demand for good Environmental Education practice in Brazil. As a result of its work, for example, the Instituto Brasil has been invited by UNESCO to develop a national evaluation project, to identify the degree of integration of EE into the primary school curriculum in the whole country.

Evaluation

A WWF International Evaluation on the Contribution of Educational Programs to Conservation was made in May 1999 among WWF network. After an external and independent evaluation held in 100 countries by the Universities of Bath (England) and Griffith (Australia), Instituto Brasil was considered one of the eight references of good Environmental Education practice identified by the team of evaluators. The main criteria were that it develops Education for Sustainability, its programs are designed to be relevant with the Government Legislation (in reference to the 1998 new legislation on education that gives more autonomy to the schools systems), and it includes opportunities for training and strengthening capacity. Moreover, very good opinions of experts and beneficiaries were recorded.


Note : The name "Muda O Mundo Raimundo" was inspired on a passage of a poem written by Carlos Drummond de Andrade. The author plays with the verb "mudar", conjugated "muda", which in Portuguese means "change" and is, phonetically, found in the word "Mundo" (world) and "Raimundo" (a male name). The translation, literally, is "Change the world Raimundo". Instituto Brasil found that it conveys the message.

Source : Extract from the paper: "The Muda o Mundo, Raimundo! Project. A Brazilian National Environmental Program for teachers and community leaders", Vera Rodrigues, July, 2001.