Brazilian government to give tablets to state school teachers

Almost 500,000 devices will be distributed in early 2014

The Brazilian Ministry of Education will distribute hundreds of thousands of tablets to state school teachers in the coming year.

According to Education minister Aloizio Mercadante, more than 460,000 devices have been purchased and will be given to teachers at the start of the school year in early 2014.

The minister did not disclose how many professionals will receive the devices - but it is estimated that Wi-fi access is only available in about 60,000 secondary schools across the country.

To acquire the equipment, the governments of all Brazilian states have made requests to the federal government, who then analyzed the orders and forwarded resources for the purchases, made directly with the companies that won the tender for the tablet provision.

Exactly a year ago, the government made an announcement that it was handing over 5,000 tablets to federal university teachers and that the cash transfers for the devices destined to school teachers had been made. Brazilian manufacturers Positivo and Digibrás won the tender.

In 2012, according to the Ministry of Education, the government had paid nearly R$300 ($130) for each 7 inch tablet and about R$470 ($203) for the 10 inch version. Today, there are national tablets available on the high street that cost a lot less than that. 

According to the government, the idea is to provide tablet devices to all public school teachers, who will act as digital inclusion "hubs" and get access to multimedia content to enhance course curricula. Previously, the intention had been to distribute the devices to students.

The tablet-giving project has been criticized for years due to the apparent lack of a pedagogical strategy around how the devices would be used by the teachers.

Minister Aloizio Mercadante, who held the same position at the Science and Technology ministry until last year, said back in 2012 that the educational method for the tablets would be developed in practice. Now, the minister says there is a framework in place and that teachers will be expected to attend courses early next year to learn how to use the equipment in a pedagogical context.