f the 207 million people living in Brazil today, 42 percent are younger than 24-years-old. Within this sea of youth, nearly a quarter has gone adrift, a lost generation referred to as the “ne-ne,” those who are neither employed nor educated.
Unemployment is not, in and of itself, the problem that cripples these young societal drifters; rather, a lack of access to social and emotional education leaves them bereft of critical skills necessary for securing reliable work. Though many of them may have attended school at some point, most drop out before ever finishing high school.
Samara Werner founded Tamboro, an interactive digital learning platform, to revolutionize the way that Brazil’s youth learns traditional subject matter, such as math and writing, and social and emotional skills. The platform uses advanced learning algorithms to adapt to each user’s needs, creating targeted material that keeps each student uniquely challenged — but more importantly — engaged.
Photo courtesy of Chet Strange.
By fostering an educational experience that students genuinely enjoy, Tamboro is able to keep Brazil’s youth in school, while equipping them with soft skills that empower them to navigate valuable careers in a tense economic climate. These students, Werner believes, will be the key to unlocking a stronger economy and delivering the change the nation needs. And it begins with education.
Read the full Q&A below:
Why is it important for students to have access to tools that help train them in social and emotional learning?
SW: Growing up, especially in poor communities, children aren’t given the skills they need to deal with life’s challenges, and many of them give up in school and drop out. When you equip students with the wherewithal to endure difficulty, they take it in stride and emerge more confident and certain of their capacities.
When students enter into university, they’re lost. They know they want to have a good career, but they don’t know how. Almost 70 percent of employers say that problem solving, creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration are the skills most lacking from their employees. These are the most important skills we teach today.
Students who know soft skills are able to acquire knowledge on their own, learn to resolve problems, develop a deeper curiosity about the world and its diversity, and become more qualified competitors in the workforce. If you have self-esteem, if you have an objective, you can conquer the world. People tell us that we’ve helped them to build a better future both for themselves and for their families.
What is the link between education and economy in Brazil?
SW: I don’t think that education is the end: I think that education is the tunnel through which you pass to construct a fair country and a fair world. When we started Tamboro, Brazil faced a very difficult education system. Youth accounts for a huge portion of the population, yet so few of Brazil’s young people are in schools and universities, which depend on an archaic education model anyway.
At the same time, Brazil faces very tough economic circumstances. We cannot achieve greater development and impact our economy without overhauling these old systems and empowering students to change the country. The future of the nation, and of any nation, depends on these young people, on the students. It all begins with them.
Why is Tamboro’s approach to education unique?
SW: The new generation is connected to each other and to the internet all the time. Therefore, they behave differently and think differently. You put all these brilliant students in a room with rows of chairs and a teacher in front of them, and they get bored — it doesn’t work the same way anymore. It’s just not possible. Most schools try to forbid cell phone or technology use, rather than encourage technology in learning. We have to change the way that school is formatted today to fit the needs of today’s students.
Tamboro has decided to use technology to change the way education is addressed. We offer a highly engaging digital platform with teachers and videos and games, and we integrate it into classrooms to create an interactive experience for teachers, students, and all stakeholders of the school.
How does Tamboro impact traditional teaching roles?
SW: There is no more space for the teacher to be the only person that transmits information or math concepts or knowledge about how to speak and write. I think that you can learn this through a highly integrated platform that allows you to interact with a lot of people all over the world.
The true role of a teacher is to be a mentor, to look at you with compassion and to understand your needs. It’s not about addressing only the formal subjects: teachers are responsible for fostering social and emotional learnings for students. They have to build a very challenging environment, but a very warm environment.
By taking content off of the teacher’s plate, technology-driven platforms like Tamboro enable them to focus on their principle task: to provide support for students.
What change do you want to see in the world as a result of your work?
SW: Tamboro offers social and emotional learning for high school and college students through advanced algorithms that tailor the platform and adapt the curriculum to each student’s needs. We first wanted to bring education to our population in Brazil, whose young people desperately needed it, and now we want to take it to other countries.
We believe that education is power. An educated population is able to solve so many other problems that afflict its people. Education has the power to change lives, to change countries, and to change all of humanity. I believe in this.
I think that if students can access solid social and emotional learning, they can change the world.