2008-08-30 BRAZIL

3rd National Congress of Marist Education

From 15 to 18 July, Porto Alegre served as the venue for reflections, discussions, dialogues and meetings for the Marists of Brazil. The 3rd National Congress of Marist Education and the 1st National Congress of Marist Students surpassed expectations and transformed the Papal Catholic University of RS (PUCRS) into one great classroom for discussions and perspectives on the function of teachers and students in the XXI century.

The opening ceremony involved 2600 participants who illustrated the diversity and the wealth of exchanges and the coming together of people who have a shared Marist way of life. Present were the authorities of the Marist Union of Brazil (Umbrasil), the Marist Provinces, the executive, legislative, state and municipal authorities.

Brother Antonio Ramalho represented the Superior General, Brother Seán Sammon. In his speech, the president of Umbrasil, Brother Manoel Alves, highlighted two factors which characterized this particular congress: There are two special elements to be noted: firstly, the fact that this is the first meeting promoted by the Marist Union of Brazil, Umbrasil. Founded in 2005, Umbrasil consolidates in an emphatic and innovative way the bases of Marist inter-provincialism in Brazil. The second element is the establishment of the 1st National Congress of Marist Students. To talk, think, discuss and reflect on education is to approach those who are the raison d?être of our mission. After the speeches, the function closed with the performance of the local band Nenhun de Nos.

The second day of the congress began with a conference given by a teacher and researcher of the university of Geneva and adviser to UNESCO, Abdeljalil Akkari, on the topic The teaching profession in the knowledge society: a profession and a mission. In a synthetic way, the researcher concluded by saying that the mission of educating has as its essence three verbs: to humanize, to socialize and to single out. To humanize and to socialize so that the student knows how to live with and relate to others and, at the same time, to be singled out, so that he can be himself and be different where he lives. Following this, a dialogue took place between Professor Dr. Elisabeth Rochadel Torresini (PUCRS) and Professor Dr. Ana María Eyng (PUCPR), moderated by Professor Dr. Ricardo Tescarolo, also from PUCRS. During the afternoon 15 thematic conferences were carried out on emergent and significant topics relating to the nature of the knowledge society.

On the third day we heard from Professor Dr. Consuelo Vélaz of Medrano, president of the Commission of Specialists for the formation of teachers of the Organization of the Ibero-American States (OEI). Her conference dealt with five main points: knowledge, economy and the knowledge society, the task of educating in that society, basic competences and implications for education.

Knowledge, according to her, is never anonymous; that is where the difference resides between relationship and knowledge. It is the result of a complex process carried out by the person who, through relationship, reconstructs the knowledge. Then, knowledge is a human work, and therefore it has a soul, beliefs, prejudices and theories. The topic was studied in depth through a dialogue between the researchers, Professor Dr. Juremir Machado da Silva (PUCRS) and Professor Dr. Mário Sanchez (PUCRS), moderated by Professor Dr. María Waleska Cruz (PUCRS).

In the afternoon, the professor of the University of São Paulo (USP) Nilson José Machado was the third lecturer. He dealt with the topic The praxis of transformation and the knowledge society. With regard to the teachers mission, Nilson highlighted four basic points. The educator is a mediator of conflicts and he needs to shorten the distance between what is looked for by the school and what the students want, with the intention of bringing closer the interests of both. Also during the afternoon, the Marist educators and students participated in the Forum of Experiences, an exhibition of significant projects in the educational environment. In total there were 19 experiences provided by the Marist Union of Brazil (Umbrasil), the Marist Provinces (Centro-Sul, Centro-Norte and Rio Grande do Sul), the District of Amazonia, particular institutions, municipal networks, state networks and NGOs

In parallel with the 3rd National Congress of Marist Education the 1st Congress of Marist Students took place, concerning the contribution of young people and their role in relation to the school and education. The students took part in the conferences and in the exhibition of experiences; on the last day of the congress they presented a summary of what they had discussed in the three previous days. The presentation of the students was a mixture of expressions, through which they attempted to respond to important questions: What do we, the young people, think? What do we want? What do we do? What should we do?

The answer to those questions culminated with an open Letter to the educational community that was read by the young during the presentation. In it the students talk about their responsibilities, of the educators, of what they consider true or mistaken in the belief that, to change, both teachers and students should be united, for a fairer society and a more active school.

A touching celebration and an artistic production closed the Congress of Teachers and Students.


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