PAST EVENT Lecture/Presentation/Talk

Film Screening of “Building Tomorrows: The Story of Sobral”

The story of how a rural municipality in Brazil achieved near-universal literacy.

Event details

Wednesday, April 10th 2024
12:00 PM—01:30 PM
LocationCERAS 101
Available toFaculty / Staff, Alumni / Friends, Students
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About the film

The scorching, arid northeastern state of Ceará, Brazil has long been known for growing cashews and coconuts. Now, it’s defied expectations by cultivating one of the world’s best public elementary school systems, despite high rates of poverty. How Sobral transformed its public school system and attained near-universal literacy offers lessons for communities everywhere.

With 85 elementary schools and almost 34,000 students, Sobral now dominates national assessments in reading and math—outscoring even affluent students in Saõ Paulo, Brazil’s financial center. In 2000, only 48% of Sobral’s second-graders were reading at grade level. By 2004, that figure had almost doubled to 92%, with an average of 95% in the years since (until 2020 pandemic school closures). Since 2014, the average Sobral fifth grader has scored not just “proficient” but “advanced” on Brazil’s national proficiency test (National Basic Education Assessment System, or SAEB).

Sobral’s story is one of system-wide transformation. It’s a tale of a community that, over many years, changed every aspect of its primary education system. It features a grand vision and bold political leadership. It speaks to the power of aligned instructional systems, deep investments in educators, and a culture of love, support, and high expectations. It’s a multi-faceted story that demonstrates the possibility of achieving near-universal literacy, even in resource-constrained environments.

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About the event

Building Tomorrows: The Story of Sobral is a 35-minute documentary film that captures the human stories behind Sobral’s success. A Q&A will follow the screening. Panelists include:

  • Gloria Lee, co-producer and lecturer, Stanford Graduate School of Business
  • Guilherme Lichand, assistant professor, Stanford Graduate School of Education, Lemann Center for Educational Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Brazil
  • Emma Dorn, senior knowledge expert, McKinsey & Company
  • Isabelle Hau, executive director, Stanford Accelerator for Learning

Lunch will be provided. Hosted in collaboration with the Lemann Center for Educational Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Brazil.