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Navigating our changing world: Brazil

Navigating our changing world: Brazil

04 February 2021

In this regular series, colleagues from across OUP worldwide share their views and insights into how their markets are navigating the changes facing our industry, and what the future has in store.


Covid-19 has exposed Brazil to unprecedented health and economic challenges. The education sector was impacted from the start with the imposed lockdown of schools, resulting in an immediate and unplanned shift to remote teaching. As a result, Brazilian learners did not attend schools in-person over the course of an entire academic year. That’s approximately 50m students in public schools, 5m in private schools, and 3m in higher education.

This unimaginable situation and the subsequent reliance on technology has uncovered deep inequalities. While 95% of higher income households have computers, they are present in just 14% of lower income homes. Even within private schools, technology readiness levels varied enormously, and many were caught by surprise. Private language schools—an important market in the English language learning sector—are facing a particularly difficult situation. Even before the pandemic, there had been a decline in enrolments as more adult learners turned to distance learning and younger students benefitted from a stronger English offer within their private K12 curriculum.

For the 2021 academic calendar starting now, schools are adjusting to hybrid remote and in-person teaching on a rotating model (meaning a maximum of 35-50 per cent of students in school at a time). It is estimated adult enrolments in education will take about three years to recover, and pre-primary up to two years. Bilingual education, which was growing pre-pandemic, may stagnate for a couple of years until primary schools accommodate the hybrid model or go back to normal.

On a positive note, the Ministry of Education has accepted online hours against the minimum mandatory annual number of teaching hours, and upper-secondary may now be delivered 100% online. In higher-education, long distance learning had already been increasing exponentially over the last decade so the pandemic will boost it even further. While we believe this will rapidly reach other student age groups, especially in the private sector, it remains to be seen whether it can be successfully adopted with younger learners.

At Oxford University Press we had already been working on organic changes to address new customer behaviours brought about by digital transformation. We recognized that a different mindset and new ways of working were required. But the pandemic has accelerated change in all aspects of our work—not just in terms of what we deliver, but how we promote our products and engage with teachers. For example, we now deliver more education services and professional development remotely rather than in person, which has opened up new opportunities for us in the region.

We have also embedded a new approach to how we manage and work with our customers. Private schools have the freedom to adopt or drop resources whenever they want so by being more mindful of where the customer is in their journey to achieve their desired outcomes we can provide more tailored support and meaningful solutions.
However, we understand the risks of being complacent. We don’t want to get the balance of in-person versus remote interactions wrong once things start to return to normal, and we are again able to choose between these modes. We are having to think carefully about how we work now, and how we could work in the future, to allocate our resources appropriately and make sure we truly meet our customers’ needs.

Whatever the future holds, it will require agility, flexibility, and a great degree of change-readiness from OUP leaders in Latin America. But by staying focused on the opportunities, we are confident we can manage the vast challenges ahead of us.

Luciane Ferreira, Managing Director, OUP Brazil and LatAm