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Sao Paulo

Controversy in Brazil as digital education resources riddled with errors

New digital learning materials incorrectly said that the city of Sao Paulo was on the coast and linked brain disorders to dirty water.

SAO PAULO MAY sit more than an hour’s drive from the east coast of Brazil, but according to the new e-learning materials produced by Brazil’s most populous state, the mega-city is located on the beach.

That is just one of the eyebrow-raising errors that prompted a judge today to suspend the use of new digital learning materials for high school students in Sao Paulo state, the latest controversy for a programme already criticized by education experts.

The e-learning texts also claim that water can cause Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and depression if it is contaminated – though no such link is known to exist – and mention a discovery by French scientist Leon Foucault in 1985.

In reality, he died in 1868.

The materials are part of education reforms by the administration of Governor Tarcisio de Freitas, an ally of far-right ex-president Jair Bolsonaro (2019-2022).

After public school teachers started publicizing the errors, Sao Paulo judge Simone Rodrigues ordered use of the materials halted “until they are reviewed and brought in line with the standards established by the education ministry.”

She gave the state government 48 hours to stop using the material or face a fine of 10,000 reais (around $2,000) per day.

Brazilian media reported the state education department had corrected the errors and fired the employees responsible.

Sao Paulo announced the new e-materials policy last month, with state Education Secretary Renato Feder arguing traditional textbooks had “lost quality.”

But experts have criticized the move, saying excessive use of technology in schools can negatively affect learning and questioning the logistics of going digital in a sprawling state of 44 million people where many students have no internet access.

– © AFP 2023

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