Texas Tech University.

Volume 5, Number 1; March 2013

All Things Texas Tech

TTUISD: The Remarkable Expansion of Its Program in Brazil

Written by Bob Smith and Carole Edwards

“Then—tomorrow was another day
Morning found me miles away...
And now, when twilight dims the sky above...
There's just one thing I'm certain of
Return, I will, to old Brazil.” 

From the song "Brazil" or "Aquarela do Brasil"
(1939, lyrics and music by Brazilian Ary Barroso—literally a "watercolor portrait" of a beloved home) with the lyrical English interpretation crafted by the American Sidney Keith "Bob" Russell. The song was included in Walt Disney's animated film Saludos Amigos, commissioned by the US Department of State in 1941 to support a South American goodwill tour to blunt Nazi influence across the continent.

 

The Texas Tech University Independent School District (TTUISD) English language high school diploma program in Brazil has expanded dramatically during the last year, and evidence for its continuing quality growth was gathered during a recent trip to Fortaleza and Recife in the northeast corner of the country. What has come to be known cryptically as the TTUISD–Brazil Program is also becoming an emerging model for global outreach.

 

Background

TTUISD was established in 1992, with a mission including the provision of K-12 education and particularly high school course and diploma studies, principally in nontraditional situations. For example, consider the following:

Since 1992, TTUISD has served more than 290,000 students worldwide via myriad programs such as those noted above (TTUISD Catalog, 2012-2013). Through its administrators and its more than fifty teachers and staff, courses and curricular options have been developed by teacher scholars and used in ways to ensure high-quality instruction and learning. But the rapidly expanding program in Brazil deserves additional special attention because of its recent growth and emergence as a model for educational outreach efforts in other parts of the world.

 

TTUISD Programs in Brazil

Figure 1

Figure 1. The schools represent a north-to-south span of more than 2,000 miles (from Florianopolis on the southeast coast to Sao Luis on the Northeast coast) and an east-to-west span of more than 3,000 miles from Recife (on the far east coast) to Manaus (in the Amazon region).

Dr. Smith and Dr. Edwards visit with students at Colegio Christus.

Dr. Smith and Dr. Edwards visit with students at Colegio Christus.

Dr. Smith visits with students at Colegio Christus.

TTUISD curriculum is known for its rigor, and students' enrollment in the dual-diploma program requires that they attend school from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. five days a week.

Dr. Smith visits with students at Colegio Christus.

Dr. Smith connects with TTUISD students enrolled at Colegio Christus.

Dr. Smith visits with students at Colegio Christus.

Dr. Smith offers the presentation titled, "Learning, Leadership, & The Way of Oz" to students at Santa Cecilia.

Dr. Smith at Colegio Christus

At the Colegio Christus commencement, guests were welcomed by the Brazilian Navy Band, which played Brazil's national anthem.

Dr. Smith at Colegio Christus

"The Brazilian Masked Rider" gives the "Guns Up" for graduates of the TTUISD program at Colegio Christus.

In the first paper in this series (Smith, 2012) we reported that TTUISD's English language instruction and Brazilian-based high school diploma program, which is accredited by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and now certified through the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) End Of Course (EOC) examinations, enrolled approximately 1,100 students in twenty-four schools in the fall of 2011. In just fifteen months, TTUISD offerings have expanded to include forty schools, which are serving more than 2,200 students this spring. As noted in Figure 1, the schools represent a north-to-south span of more than 2,000 miles (from Florianopolis on the southeast coast to Sao Luis on the Northeast coast) and an east-to-west span of more than 3,000 miles from Recife (on the far east coast) to Manaus (in the Amazon region).

While any parent in the world may enroll a son or daughter in the TTUISD Web-based high school diploma program, the program available in Brazil has unique structure and characteristics. The TTUISD-Brazil program in 2013 is administered as a consortium (High School Seviços Educationais) through forty schools that employ teachers who are native English speakers—typically recruited from the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Students matriculated in the program are simultaneously enrolled in a Portuguese-based Brazilian curriculum, and those who successfully complete the programs receive two diplomas. The degree certified through the State of Texas, however, could offer graduates an entree into any college or university in the United States and in many other higher education institutions in the world.

Students enrolled in the dual-diploma programs attend school from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. five days a week and receive instruction in the humanities and social sciences (including communications courses) through TTUISD curricular materials that are supplemented by glossaries prepared by local faculties for words with unfamiliar translated equivalents.

Instruction is face to face and stresses oral and written communication skills in all offerings. During recent visits to the Christus and Santa Cecilia (Fortaleza) and Damas (Recife) schools, we noted clear commitments to course rigor and quality in teachers and administrators of the programs. As in prior experiences in Vitoria and Sao Paulo, we found the Brazilian TTUISD students to be bright, mature, poised, and engaged seriously in their studies. Additionally, their English proficiency skills were excellent. These elite groups of students not only take their studies seriously but also consider it a privilege to be able to enroll in classes offered through an American program. We were stunned by their warm welcome, overwhelming enthusiasm, and pride for an institution located more than 4,000 miles away from their homeland. In fact, it is important to note that since the beginning of the TTUISD commitments in Brazil, no schools have dropped out of the program.

In Fortaleza, we offered presentations on modern learning and leadership concepts along with descriptions of opportunities for TTUISD­ Brazilian students at Texas Tech, with a special emphasis on foreign language studies. The parents of Brazilian TTUISD students who attended the presentations expressed keen interest in their sons and daughters being able to function effectively in the English-based worlds of commerce and law. The parents also offered words of appreciation for the robustness of the TTUISD curriculum, especially in the development of international understanding and communication skills. Our visit gave them the opportunity to ask us more practical questions such as necessary steps to enroll at Texas Tech, visa requirements, financial aid benefits, and scholarships. Since our return, parents eager to register their children at TTU have already contacted us.

On November 23, we attended a Christus graduation exercise in Fortaleza. The event was held in an indoor sports court the size of the floor of the United Spirit Arena. The guests sat at round tables placed throughout the court. In a very formal setting, the tables and chairs were covered in white linen, and the guests were served soft drinks and hors-d'oeuvres during the evening. Officials, family members, and guests were greeted by the playing of the Brazilian national anthem by the Brazilian Navy Band. The ceremony included entertainment by a three-person country western band (!), skits, and various dances choreographed by student groups. Following a set of commencement speeches (including remarks by one of us, as noted in this issue of ATTT), the TTUISD graduates were awarded their diplomas along with Double T commemorative pins. As the TTUISD graduates assembled in front of the commencement stage for a session of photo taking, a special announcement was made to watch for an appearance of the Masked Rider. Shortly thereafter, a man dressed as the Masked Rider and riding atop a huge horse made an appearance complete with the sharing of the "Guns Up" salute among graduates, friends, and the Masked Rider. It was quite a show!

We learned later that the Christus School in Fortaleza has an equestrian program and the gentleman playing the role, as the "Brazilian Masked Rider," is head of the program. This particular touch was a true demonstration of their appreciation of the visit of TTU representatives: it was kept secret until the last moment to create a surprise effect and give thanks to us for the opportunities we create through our program. After the ceremony, countless students and their loved ones came up to have their picture taken alongside the provost, a very special keepsake from their graduation. We were truly moved by the kindnesses displayed not only during the ceremony but also throughout our Brazilian visit!

 

Looking Ahead

Building on the success of the two-week program that TTUISD held last summer, involving fifty-seven Brazilian TTUISD students, a three-week program is planned for the summer of 2013, which promises to involve more students as the interest for such a program is on the rise. The students this year will visit San Antonio, Austin, and the TTU campus in Junction during their stay, but most importantly, they will have chances to take mini-courses in Lubbock on topics ranging from architecture to biotechnology to drama to environmental sciences to forensics to medical sciences. And, it is our hope that during 2013-2014 we will be admitting our first set of recruits to TTU from the TTUISD-Brazil program. We are also hoping to give students a tour of the Department of Classical and Modern Languages and Literatures, a place synonymous with diversity since it is populated with many foreign nationals. We must note that some of the most successful graduate students in this department come from Brazil.

For Brazil, we continue to see opportunities for expansion of the TTUISD program, and with 180 million people and over 20,000 existent high schools, we may have only scratched the surface. Beyond Brazil, opportunities will arise in future years for extension of TTUISD programs into other South American countries.

In efforts spearheaded by Ambassador Tibor Nagy, vice provost for international affairs, we are exploring opportunities for extension of TTUISD programs into a number of Asian countries. We will know much more about these possibilities by the end of this fiscal year.

Besides the direct benefits of the TTUISD program, we are finding doors opening for related efforts. For example, during our Fortaleza high school visits, we had the opportunity to visit with President Jose Rocha and his executive team, who head the Centro Universitário Christus (CUC), which offers undergraduate and professional programs in areas such as business, engineering, and medicine, but have very limited postgraduate options. President Rocha and his executive team will be visiting TTU in 2013 to explore possible partnerships wherein CUC graduates and faculty members might benefit from graduate study in Lubbock.

We are also hoping that our graduates from the TTUISD program in Brazil will in turn become TTU undergraduates in Lubbock. Additionally, it has come to our attention that many of the high school teachers were interested in getting an ESL certificate at the graduate level. Dr. Edwards was able to showcase the many programs in which students could enroll in the Department of Classical and Modern Languages and Literatures. This visit not only allowed us to assess the success of our TTUISD program in Brazil, but it also allowed us to open the door to a fruitful recruitment. Also, it enabled us to put together an official brochure for the Department of Classical and Modern Languages and Literatures.

 

Summary and Final Reflections

In just three years, the TTUISD-Brazil program has gone from a singular endeavor in Vitoria to one involving more than forty schools covering the most populous territory in the country. The program is bringing high-quality English language instruction through a robust curriculum steeped in US history and culture, and is destined to produce graduates who can go on to first-rate collegiate experiences and leadership careers in Brazil and beyond. Thus, the program embodies elements of international understanding not found in other programs around the world. We found that all those involved, namely administrators, parents, and students, had a clear vision that in future years and in the midst of globalization, a dual education is essential. For all of its benefits, we applaud the leadership of TTUISD—including Sam Oswald, executive director; James Taliaferro, superintendent; Ethel Russell, director; and the TTUISD scholar teachers and staff—who have worked so diligently and continue to excel to make TTUISD one of the signature programs of our remarkable university.

In Brazil, we salute the man who makes the program function as well as it does: Rogerio Abaurre. He is responsible for coordinating efforts across the forty sister schools that are members of the High School Seviços Educationais. And, it is through Abaurre's efforts that standards are ensured through the hiring and continuing education of the English language teachers who serve in the consortium schools. Rogerio, as everyone knows him, was responsible for most of the arrangements that made our recent trip to northeastern Brazil not only possible but also enriched culturally. We are most grateful for his efforts and for the support of the schools that sponsored our visit.

 

Bibliography

 

About the Authors

Bob Smith is provost and senior vice president, and professor of chemistry at Texas Tech University.

Carole Edwards is associate professor of French and francophone studies at Texas Tech University.

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