Problem: Poor academic performance and the lack of interest among students between the 7th and 9th years of primary education are the focus of the Carioca Experimental Gymnasium program in public municipal schools in Rio de Janeiro. The aim is to enable students to understand the importance of their studies and to make them autonomous, active citizens, capable of planning their own future. The program was first implemented in 2011 in ten schools. Today, the network contains 28 schools.
Solutions: The four main characteristics of this program are directed study, a life project, youth leadership and elective subjects, although each school prioritizes their own characteristics to develop the methodology. For example, there is a school that pays special attention to the study of music, the GEC Samba School, which is located near the Imperatriz Leopoldinense Samba School. Another school, the GEC Polyglot, focuses more on languages and is located near the Tom Jobim international airport. There are also four units of the Olympic Gymnasium, the Gymnasium of Visual Arts and the Gymnasium of New Educational Technology. Students attend school between the hours of 8am and 4pm.
In the Experimental Olympic Gymnasia, students who have an aptitude for sports are directed toward specific activities, where they will receive the encouragement and structure needed to develop their skills in different Olympic sports. Sports practice is mixed with academic training and citizenship is encouraged. The students have to train and study English every day. They learn about health and undergo a long-term sports development routine. In the Francisca Soares Fontoura de Oliveira GEC Samba, where many students are interested in the style of music, they develop their abilities in classes with musical instruments, such as the keyboard, the guitar, drums and the recorder, while also learning about music theory and singing. The aim of the Anísio Teixeira Polyglot GEC is to teach languages, such as English, Spanish and even Arabic. Foreign languages are taught using videos and music developed by the teachers, with a focus on communication. During the classes, the students can also communicate with native speakers of the relevant language using Skype or social networks.
All students of the Experimental Gymnasia participate in Life Project activities, which seek to improve the human side of the students and to encourage the development of their potential. The course takes place once a week, with reflections on values and the promotion of important attitudes, such as our relationships with others, in sport and in life. Students also perform collaborative activities, which are monitored by their tutor, who provides personalized guidance for each student. The teachers plan the classes together in advance and use new technology and didactic subjects structured by handouts and exercises. Educators and students use the Educopedia platform of digital classes, which supports the teachers by providing class plans, pedagogical games and videos.
Exclusively dedicated to one school, the teachers go through several training protocols related to class planning, didactics and time management in the classroom. They compile information about activities that went well and pass this information on to their colleagues in other schools.
Outcomes: The students become more motivated to continue their studies and feel that school makes sense in terms of their future. In its first year of implementation, the grades of the students involved (final years of primary education in Rio de Janeiro) increased by 22% (from 3.6 to 4.4), according to the Basic Education Development Index (Ideb). This meant that Rio de Janeiro was among the five best state capitals in Brazil. Of the ten highest rated schools in the city, four were Experimental Gymnasia. This program also helped to reduce truancy levels.