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Joice Toyota Mendes: Improving the Quality and Equity in Education

Joice Toyota Mendes: Improving the Quality and Equity in Education

Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs. 

Hey, friends! Spiffy here, back with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Joice Toyota Mendes, executive director and CEO of Vetor-Gesto. Let’s learn what’s happening at Vetor-Gesto and how Joice is making a positive impact in the world.

Spiffy: Hi, Joice! Thanks for talking with me today. Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through Vetor-Gesto?

Joice: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! Brazil’s educational system is vast: approximately 47 million students are enrolled, considering those from Educação Básica (primary and secondary school). This whole system has 181,000 schools and 1.7 million teachers. In addition, fundamental challenges remain concerning the quality and equity of education in Brazil.  A white person has, on average, 1.8 more years of study than a black one. Inequality is even higher when we compare public outcomes with the ones of the private sector.

Spiffy: Interesting, I had no idea. What motivates you to do it?

Joice: I come from a middle-class family of Asian descent and during my teenage years we went through a rough patch, which led my parents to transfer me and my sibling from a private to a public school in my neighborhood in Brazil. There, I found a completely different reality from the one I came from: absence of teachers and violence within and outside the school. I believe governments can be more efficient in delivering quality education and changing the reality that I experienced.

Spiffy: Thank you for sharing your personal experience. Tell me more. What is the impact of your work?

Joice: We support public schools to increase their learning rates. Partner school districts that work with us improved 3x faster than the average Brazilian district at the elementary school level (grades 1-5). We also support governments to have more effective leadership that delivers quality education and civil service through programs that recruit and develop public sector professionals. We have impacted over 10,000 local government professionals so far.

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent milestone or initiative by you or your organization. What impact does that make? 

Joice: We ran a project with 7,000 school principals in the state of Rio Grande do Sul (south of Brazil) with a digital assessment and training sessions to help them improve their work. It was our largest audience so far in one single project. Throughout its course, the project helped school principals learn how to be more effective in preparing teachers and engaging the school community in children’s education.

Spiffy: Congratulations, that’s exciting and inspiring! Thanks for speaking with me today, Joice—it’s been an honor!

Joice Toyota Mendes is a social entrepreneur who believes people are the key to big transformations. She dedicates her work to develop people that can improve education and public service and build a network of leaders that will make the world a better place. (Nominated by Ana Ligia of Nova Escola. First published on the Ladderworks website on June 1, 2023.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Lindsey Brannon. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.