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Naomar de Almeida Filho is IEA's new visiting professor

by Richard Meckien - published Apr 08, 2019 06:10 PM - - last modified Apr 11, 2019 02:22 PM
Rights: Original version in Portuguese by Vitor Matioli.

Naomar de Almeida Filho, Luiz Bevilacqua e Carlos Alberto Barbosa Dantas
Naomar de Almeida Filho (left) with Luiz Bevilacqua and Carlos Alberto Barbosa Dantas during an event at the IEA | Photo: Leonor Calasans / IEA-USP

Naomar Monteiro de Almeida Filho, a professor of epidemiology and former president of the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA), is the new visiting professor at the IEA-USP. Almeida, whose participation in the program was endorsed by the Institute's Board on April 5, will work on his project "Development of Innovative Models in Higher Education: Focus on General University Training in Health" until February 2021.

According to the presented proposal, the project has two main objectives: to identify, evaluate and disseminate innovative proposals for higher education capable of promoting general university education in the Brazilian public system, aiming at the incorporation of crucial humanistic and scientific values to face the challenges of the 21st century; and to promote innovative ways of organizing knowledge, curricular structure and pedagogical practice at USP, contributing to the ongoing internationalization process and consolidating the institutional leadership in the context of higher education.

Almeida is one of the coordinators of IEA's Study Group "USP facing the challenges of the 21st century" along with Luiz Bevilacqua. The group was created last year to propose actions for academic and administrative restructuring that potentially fit USP to the current demands of higher education. After a year of debates and research conducting, the group has published a document which concludes that the Univeristy should initiate studies on more appropriate education options. For the researchers, progress should preferably take place "by adopting new modalities of curricular organization, updating of thematic contents, revision of the pedagogical structure, and integration of training levels."

Training for the future

According to the study group's interpretation, Almeida suggests that the persistent advance of automation and information technologies - such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning - should update the required competencies of system operators, policies, programs, and services. According to him, this possible new scenario will require an "inter / transdisciplinary, interprofessional, multi-referenced, ethical and politically responsible, culturally sensitive and quality-enhancing" stance.

But to achieve this goal, the researcher believes that it is necessary to answer the following questions: "What socio-political and vocational profile will define this new professional? What knowledge, skills and abilities will be needed? What principles, values and attitudes will we need to develop and cultivate so that the practice is effective, resolutive and creative? How can the University respond to these new demands?"

About the new paradigm that the technological revolution imposes on education, Almeida quotes Israeli historian Yuval Harari, author of the bestselling Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind: "For the first time in history, we have no idea what to teach children at school or students at university. On the contrary, most of what today's children learn in school will be irrelevant by 2050," argues the historian.

Almeida argues that in today's world - "globalized, complex and diverse, interconnected, increasingly accelerated, lacking in solidarity and sensitivity" - it may be necessary to recover the concept of general education in higher education. For him, institutions should commit themselves mainly to the transmission of five competences (pentavium):

1. Linguistic competence - complete knowledge of the vernacular and of at least one foreign language, defined by the area of professional activity;
2. Research training - analytical reasoning and interpretation skills to produce knowledge;
3. Pedagogical competence - didactic skills necessary to share knowledge;
4. Sensitivity to social inequalities - empathy and ability to listen sensibly, with ethics and respect for human diversity;
5. Critical technological competence - mastery of the means of practice and its implications.

Almeida maintains that the present moment demands another kind of pedagogy, distinct from that which has formed the contemporary generation of mature adults. "Conventional modes of efficient and resolute knowledge transmission through educational processes based on content and protocols in order to develop skills and abilities are outdated," he says.

Naomar de Almeida Filho
Naomar de Almeida Filho: ''By neglecting the diversity of focuses and experiences arising from interprofessionalism, the impoverishment of practices is inevitable.'' | Photo: Leonor Calasans / IEA-USP

Training in health

The educational gap in the workforce (especially in Brazil) has particularly severe impacts on public health, says the new visiting professor. He believes that the Brazilian state has a social debt with the population, which will not be overcome" while there are citizens excluded from the coverage of health promotion and protection programs, and discriminated by quality and resolution differentials."

"The strength of social processes in health and education is widely recognized, but unfortunately the collective synergy has been little achieved in spite of being much promoted," he argues. For Almeida, the teaching models are still too individualistic. "The training of health professionals needs to include more powerful and more critical technological competence, not only for utilitarian reasons, but also to enable a greater reach of care practices," he says. "By neglecting the diversity of focuses and experiences arising from interprofessionalism, the impoverishment of practices is inevitable."

In this perspective, the professor believes that it is urgent to adopt innovative approaches in higher education in health so that both the educational gap and the advance of scientific borders are overcome in the near future: "Therefore, it is necessary and pertinent to advance in the planning, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of innovative training models, with teaching-learning practices aimed at overcoming inequalities in health, deconstructing social, generational, gender, ethnic and political biases; and to re-signify elements of differentiation and distinction of subjects before the right to health."

Planning and activities

The outcomes and the scientific publications of the project will be transmitted mainly by IEA's website, with the aim of democratizing the access of knowledge to academic managers, professionals and citizens. But the professor emphasizes that mass media, such as public television stations and community radio stations should be used to disseminate the results, as well as to offer dialogue opportunities to the population.

In order to guarantee the effective diffusion of the acquired knowledge, extension courses will be promoted in classrooms, and at semi-distance and / or distance learning, through participatory strategies for the exchange of knowledge such as seminars, science fairs and community workshops.

As a tangible legacy of the project, two initiatives should be implemented:

1. Courses on thematic axes / problem-themes / vectors of knowledge, coherent with the new organization of scientific knowledge in inter / transdisciplinary bases. This project will be coordinated by Luiz Bevilacqua.
2. An interdisciplinary bachelor's degree program in science at the University of São Paulo, focusing on sciences and technologies in health. The course should be conducted on an experimental basis, following the model of the molecular sciences course at USP.

Almeida also intends to publish at least four books and eight scientific articles during his stay.