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ABMES: Facing the Challenge of the Change of an Era

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Gabriel Mario Rodrigues – Chairman of the Board of Directors of ABMES

“Find out how current trends can impact learning ten years from now, and consider ways to shape the future so that new generations of students can thrive.” (KnowledgeWorks)

I have memories of my vacation with my godmother in Santos. I remember when she went to Telefonica downtown to call her husband. With the whole crowd (two kids and her friends), she would take tram 37 on Channel 1 and we would all wait our turn to be called to the telephone booth. When it rained, we sometimes waited for more than two hours.

In São Paulo, only wealthy families had a telephone, the others had to go to the corner shop, pick up the phone and spell the number for the operator to make the call. Today what once was a phone now has become “our” cell phone and everyone knows the multi-uses it has.

I exemplified the phone, but we could name thousands of handsets and services that are transforming the world. Although the educational sector is a few steps away, it is a reason for reflection when a new management of the Brazilian Association of Higher Education Holders (ABMES) started for the 2019-2022 triennium.

ABMES was created in 1982 and will soon become 40 years old, with full and magnificent work in favor of Brazilian education and institutions of higher education. During this period, it contributed much to Brazil and the sector, which presents significant numbers. Over the last 70 years, more than 19 million students graduated from the Brazilian university system, of which about 60% were from private institutions. That is, without the private sector, our country would not be one of the most important in the world.

At the moment that the new board takes over under the command of Prof. Celso Niskier, we would like to mention all previous efforts, which works shows the dynamism of the activities carried out and the reason for the prestige that ABMES has. Undoubtedly, Brazilian education owes much to the directorates headed by Candido Mendes, by Édson Franco, by myself – Gabriel Mario Rodrigues – and by this one that ends now, from Janguiê Diniz. The greatest merit of us all was to have motivation and work for ABMES to get to where it is now.

Although it has not been easy in recent years, because the country is going through an unstable period in its economy, politics and social environment, the board that leaves us very much engaged in actions that aim to give more ballast and strengthen the association. Its report, available on the ABMES website, summarizes its achievements, with emphasis on the communication sector, offering courses, consulting, events, the regional and international meetings, the Social Responsibility Campaign and the creation of the Order of Merit. But, in our opinion, the most significant was to continue the monthly meetings where the agenda was to defend our position to the regulatory and evaluating body, the Ministry of Education – MEC.

For those who have participated in our heated meetings, where many themes and ideas are presented, it is always up to the board and its executive body to put the suggestions into practice. But, in our view, the big question is how the entity can define a great purpose to mark its existence in the panorama of national education. And it was this reason that led the understanding of the last two directorates to create a strategic agency and evaluator, which is the Board of Directors (BD).

As a result of statutory change, the BD was created with the purpose of outlining the entity’s development strategies and also to approve and monitor its budget execution and work plan. Board of Directors and Executive Board are independent bodies; one thinks of strategies the other in its execution.

In this first triennium we can say that the BD did everything possible to achieve its plans. It was an unquestionable fact that 28 meetings were held with a lot of discussion and participation, and everything was due to the assiduous presence, which we thank, of advisers Antonio Colaço, Edson Franco, Carmem Silva, Manoel Barros, Hermes Figueiredo, Hiran Rabelo, Arthur Macedo, Paulo Chanan, Eduardo Soares, Janyo Diniz, Ihanmarck Damasceno and Executive Secretary Valdemar Ottani.

A number of themes have been addressed, from a project to promote the image of the private education sector, the support for small HEIs, the application of the Code of Ethics to numerous others.

Now, for the next management, whose Board members are mentioned here, we think that with new actions and more experience, other ideas will certainly come to promote the development of the sector. And the challenge, no doubt, will not be the 40, but rather prepare ourselves for the 50 years of ABMES. It is a work that the new Board should think about.

The memory of how long distance phone calls were done from Santos to São Paulo in the 1940s makes us think daily about the radical transformations which the world lives and what the future of learning will be. Reason to bring someone who has been thinking about this for a long time, KnowledgeWorks, whose purpose is to instigate society to prepare young people to learn within the changing times.

We will therefore make a summary of the manifesto they released at the end of last year (Forecast 5.0 – The Future of Learning: Navigating the Future of Learning).

We are in a new era, in which the exponential advances of digital technologies re-evaluate our relationships with each other, with our institutions and with ourselves. There are five identified causes, which are forces that combine and will impact learning in the next decade and will have meaning for Education and which are:
. Automation: Communication. Database, Artificial Intelligence and Algorithms are Changing Habits and Customs
. Civic Empowerment: Engaged citizens and civic organizations are seeking to re-balance power.
. Brains in development: People have access to communication tools that optimize our thinking.
. Pessimistic Narratives: The environment is infested with Morbid News that influences people.
. Discomfort with the Future: Communities are uneasy about transformations.
. We add the sixth force, a Brazilian one: Purpose of life: Social and moral values, Spirituality, Hope, Optimism and Great thinking.

Predicting the future is questionable, but it is the subject of international institutes thinking about tomorrow, based on the sharing of the brains that care about it.

We add one more, because it is a basic question for the country to move forward and for the educational system to be able to collaborate in the formation of more upright citizens: Respect for oneself, family, society and country – These are learned from an early age.

It is a good challenge to have for ABMES’ 50th anniversary. We leave here our contribution and commitment to collaborate even more in that purpose. We are also pleased to welcome President-elect Celso Niskier. Very lucky, because competence does not lack him, it lavishes.



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Master of Arts in Political Science, California State University Northridge. Twenty five years experience in executive functions at Brazilian colleges and universities. Writer, lecturer. and consultant is, presently, educational editor for Brazil Monitor