Russia – Brazil: Facets of Collaboration

Russian pedagogics is renowned all over the world. The Zankov system of developmental learning is adopted as part of the national education in Norway and Japan, the Czech Republic and Moldavia and in many other countries, including Brazil. It is the Federal University of Uberlândia (or UFU), Minas Gerais, Brazil, where the associate professor of the NMSTU Department of Pedagogics, Ph.D. in Education Liudmila Guseva travelled in early May following the invitation by the UFU leadership. Liudmila is a practicing follower of the Zankov system.

Over the last two years Liudmila has been working with Roberto Puentes from UFU, who actually established a research team at UFU for research in developmental learning. Since such systems were absolutely new for Brazilian education, the UFU colleagues are truly interested in the developmental learning systems introduced by the Russian scholars Daniil Elkonin and Leonid Zankov. In May 2016, UFU saw the 3rd International Conference on Developmental Learning: Life, Ideas and Works by Russian Scholars. All the days of the Conference Liudmila was busy presenting four of her reports, giving lectures to the local teachers and students, leading seminars, and in her free time she visited Brazilian schools and kindergartens and talked to the teachers. The professor of the NMSTU Department of Psychology Maria Musiychuk also took part in the Conference, where she presented her report.

– Ms. Guseva, what is the core idea behind developmental learning?

– The Russian psychologist Lev Vygotskiy, who gained the world’s recognition for his research, is referred to as a Mozart of the 20th century. His works were translated into all the languages of the world. He introduced the concept of a zone of proximal development. According to it, a child’s development (unlike any other form of development) happens through the adoption of human experience in cooperation meaning that the child performs a task first together with an adult and then he/she performs the same task on his/her own. Before Vygotskiy’s concept the general understanding was that a child needs to first develop and only after that he/she can be trained. But what Vygotskiy said was: “A child needs to be trained so that every day he/she could get closer to his/her zone of proximal development.” This statement raised a heated discussion. The system of Zankov, who is Vygotskiy’s disciple, is adopted in many primary schools. Zankov was the first practicing teacher to demonstrate how the concept of the zone of proximal development can be implemented and how to plan the instruction.

– What is the bottom line of your trip to Brazil?

– The most important result of the trip is that a cooperation agreement was signed by the rector of the Federal University of Uberlândia (see photo) for cooperation between NMSTU and UFU. This opens door to student exchange, cooperation at the teachers’ level, joint publications, and conference participation. Separate agreements were signed with the Federal University of Santa Catarina (or UFSC), Florianópolis, and the UNESC university from Criciúma. All the universities are ready to welcome our students on a tuition-free basis under the agreements signed. And NMSTU is waiting for Brazilian students.

In the case of UNESC, Criciúma, we are seeing a very nice development of our relationship as currently the fifth student from NMSTU is studying there. More than 10 articles by the NMSTU teachers have been published in the Brazilian scientific journal Criar Educacao, which specializes in pedagogical issues of instruction. Some of the articles are co-authored with Brazilian professors.

At the end of September NMSTU is expecting a visit by a UFU professor and his research team who are to participate in a Russian and Brazilian seminar. Another professor from UFU is planning to visit our university in 2017. And also in 2017 one of the Master’s students is to come to study at NMSTU for one term.

My trip contributed to the development of international cooperation. But I also have my personal gain in that I met quite a few people of science, who offered to collaborate and combine our efforts in creating publications. I am generous to share all this with my NMSTU colleagues.

Brazilians are a very nice and sociable people. They show a great interest in Russia, in Russian pedagogics and psychology, literature and history, even in Russian steel industry (there are numerous ore mining sites in Brazil). To satisfy their interest I would show them videos about NMSTU and the city of Magnitogorsk and tell them about Bannoye, Abzakovo, the Metallurg ice hockey team, about the local environment, about our unique metallurgical giant, about the city and its people, about “Europe and Asia”.

Inessa Kim

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