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Education in Brazil

Education in Brazil
Ministry of Education
Minister of Education José Henrique Paim
National education budget (2009)
Budget 5.08% of GDP
General details
Primary languages Portuguese
System type Federal

Education in Brazil is regulated by the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Education, which defines the guiding principles for the organization of education programs. Local governments are responsible for establishing state and education programs following the guidelines and using the funding supplied by the federal government.


  • History 1
  • Organization and structure 2
    • Pre-school education (Educação Infantil) 2.1
    • Primary school (Ensino Fundamental) 2.2
    • Secondary school (Ensino Médio) 2.3
    • Higher Education (Ensino Superior) 2.4
  • Teacher training and qualification 3
  • Educational Statistics 4
  • See also 5
  • External links 6
  • References 7


Federal University of Paraná in Curitiba.
College of Medicine of São Paulo.

When Kingdom of Portugal's explorers arrived in Brazil in the 15th century and started to colonize their new possessions in the New World, the territory was inhabited by indigenous peoples and tribes who had not developed either a writing system or school education.

The Society of Jesus (Jesuits) was, since its beginnings in 1540, a missionary order. Evangelisation was one of the main goals of the Jesuits, but they were also committed to teaching and education, in Europe and overseas. The missionary activities, in the cities and in the countryside, were complemented by a strong commitment to education. This took the form of the opening of schools for boys, first in Europe but rapidly extended to America and Asia. The foundation of Catholic missions, schools, and seminaries was another consequence of the Jesuit involvement in education. As the spaces and cultures where the Jesuits were present varied considerably, their evangelising methods were very often quite different from one place to another. However, the society's engagement in trade, architecture, science, literature, languages, arts, music and religious debate corresponded, in fact, to the same main purpose of Christianisation. By the middle of the 16th century the Jesuits were present in West Africa, South America, Ethiopia, India, China, and Japan. This enlargement of their missionary activities took shape to a large extent within the framework of the Portuguese Empire.

In a period of history when the world had a largely illiterate population, the Portuguese Empire, was home to one of the first universities founded in Europe — the University of Coimbra, which is still one of the oldest universities in continuous operation. Throughout the centuries of Portuguese rule, Brazilian students, mostly graduated in the Jesuit missions and seminaries, were allowed and even encouraged to enroll at higher education in mainland Portugal.

College of Law.

The Jesuits, a religious order founded to promote the cause and teachings of Catholicism, had gained influence with the Portuguese crown and over education, and had begun missionary work in Portugal's overseas possessions, including the colony of Brazil. By 1700, and reflecting a larger transformation of the Portuguese Empire, the Jesuits had decisively shifted from the East Indies to Brazil. In the late 18th century, Portuguese minister of the kingdom Marquis of Pombal attacked the power of the privileged nobility and the church, and expelled the Jesuits from Portugal and its overseas possessions. Pombal seized the Jesuit schools and introduced education reforms all over the empire. In Brazil, the reforms were also noted. In 1772, even before the establishment of the Science Academy of Lisbon (1779), one of the first learned societies of Brazil and the Portuguese Empire was founded in Rio de Janeiro: the Sociedade Scientifica. Also, in 1797, the first botanic institute was founded in Salvador, Bahia. During the late 18th century, the Escola Politécnica (Polytechnic School) was created, then the Real Academia de Artilharia, Fortificação e Desenho (Royal Academy for Atillery, Fortifications and Design) was created in Rio de Janeiro, 1792, through a decree issued by the Portuguese authorities as a higher education school for the teaching of the sciences and engineering. Its legacy is shared by the Instituto Militar de Engenharia (Military Engineering Institute) and the Escola Politécnica da Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro(Polytechnic School of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro) and is the oldest engineering school of Brazil, and one of the oldest in the world.

8 A royal letter of November 20, 1800 by the King John VI of Portugal established the Aula Prática de Desenho e Figura (Practice Class for Design and Form) in Rio de Janeiro. It was the first institution in Brazil systematically dedicated to teaching the arts. During colonial times, the arts were mainly of religious or utilitarian nature and were learnt in a system of apprenticeship. A Decree of August 12, 1816 created the Escola Real de Ciências, Artes e Ofícios (Royal School of Sciences, Arts and Crafts), which established an official education in the fine arts and built the foundations of the current Escola Nacional de Belas Artes (School of Fine Arts).

Music school of Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

In the 19th century, the Portuguese royal family, headed by D. João VI, arrived in Rio de Janeiro, escaping from the Napoleon's army invasion of Portugal in 1807. D. João VI gave impetus to the expansion of European civilization to Brazil. In a short period between 1808 and 1810, the Portuguese government founded the Academia Real dos Guarda Marinha (Royal Naval Academy), the Real Academia Militar (Royal Military Academy), the Biblioteca NacionalNational Library of Brazil, the Jardim Botânico do Rio de JaneiroRio de Janeiro Botanical Garden, the Academia Médico-Cirúrgica da Bahia (Medic-Cirurgical Academy of Bahia), currently known as Faculdade de Medicina (Med School) within Universidade Federal da Bahia (Federal University of Bahia) and the Academia Médico-Cirúrgica do Rio de Janeiro (Medic-Cirurgical Academy of Rio de Janeiro) which is presently the Med School of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

Brazil achieved independence in 1822, and until the 20th century, it was a large rural nation with low social and economic standards comparing to the average North American and European realities at the time. Its economy was based on the primary sector, possessing an unskilled and increasingly larger workforce, composed by both free people (including slave owners) and slaves or their direct descendants. Among the first law schools founded in Brazil, were the ones in Recife and São Paulo in 1827, but for decades to come, most Brazilian lawyers still studied at European universities, such as in the ancient University of Coimbra, in Portugal, which had awarded all type of degrees to several generations of Brazilian students since the 16th century.

In 1872 there were 9,930,478 inhabitants (84.8% free and 15.2% slave). According to the national census made in this year, among the free inhabitants (8,419,672 people), 38% were white, 39% mulattoes (white and black mix), 11% black and 5% caboclos (white and Indian mix). Only 23.4% of the free men and 13.4% of the free women could read and write. In 1889, six decades after independence, only 20% of the total population could read and write. In the former colonial power, Portugal, about 80% of the population was also still classified as illiterate.

With the massive post-war expansion that lasts to date, the government focused on strengthening Brazil's tertiary education, while simultaneously neglecting assistance to primary and secondary education.[1] The problems of primary and secondary education were compounded by significant quality differences across regions with the Northeast suffering dramatically.[2] In the aftermath of Brazilian military rule, education became seen as a way to create a fairer society. "Citizen Schools" emerged, designed to promote critical thinking, incorporation of marginalized people, and curiosity over rote memorization and obedience.[3]

Today, Brazil struggles to improve the public education offered at earlier stages and maintain the high standards that the population has come to expect from public universities. The choice on public funding is an issue. In particular, the U.N. Development Goal of Universal Primary Education and a larger offer of education for students with special needs are pursued by Brazilian policy-makers.[4]

Despite its shortcomings, Brazil has progressed substantially since the 1980s. The nation witnessed an increase in school enrollment for children age 7–14, from 80.9% in 1980 to 96.4% in the year 2000. In the 15-17 age demographic, in the same period, this rate rose from 49.7% to 83%.[5] Literacy rates went up, from 75% to 90.0%.[6][7]

Organization and structure

Education is divided into three levels, with several grades in each level. Fundamental education (the first education level, including fundamental education I and II) is free for everyone (including adults), and mandatory for children between the ages of 6-14. Middle education (the second education level) is also free, but it is not mandatory. Higher education (including graduate degrees) is free at public universities. The students also have to use uniforms, depending of the type in each school. Public schools usually have simple ones. Some private schools have two. The old and traditional schools and the military schools usually have more complete uniforms and it is an obligation to use it in perfect aspect.

Pre-school education (Educação Infantil)

Pre-school education is entirely optional, and exists to aid in the development of children under 6. It aims to assist in all areas of child development, including motor skills, cognitive skills, and social skills while providing fertile ground for the later acquisition of knowledge and learning. There are day nurseries for children under 2, kindergartens for 2-3 year olds, and preschools for children 4 and up. Public pre-schools are provided by city government.

Primary school (Ensino Fundamental)

Fundamental Education is mandatory for children ages 6–14. There are 9 "years" (as opposed to the former 8 "grades").[8] The current "First Year" broadly corresponds to the former Pre-School last year of private institutions, and its aim is to achieve literacy. Generally speaking, the only prerequisite for enrolling in first year is that a child should be 6 years old, but some education systems allow children younger than 6 to enroll in first year (as long as they turn 6 during the first academic semester). Older students who, for whatever reason have not completed their fundamental education are allowed to attend, though those over 18 are separated from the younger children.

The Federal Council of Education (Conselho Federal de Educação) establishes a core curriculum consisting of Portuguese language, history, geography, science, mathematics, arts and physical education (for years 2, 3, 4 and 5). As for years 6, 7, 8 and 9, one or two foreign languages are also compulsory (usually an English and optional language).

Each education system supplements this core curriculum with a diversified curriculum defined by the needs of the region and the abilities of individual students.

Fundamental Education is divided in two stages, called Ensino Fundamental I (years 1-5) and Ensino Fundamental II (years 6-9). During Ensino Fundamental I each group of students is usually assisted by a single teacher. As for Ensino Fundamental II, there are as many teachers as subjects.

The length of the school year is set by the National Education Bases and Guidelines Law (Lei de Diretrizes e Bases da Educação)at least 200 days . Fundamental schools must provide students with at least 800 hours of activities per year. The actual school calendar is set by individual schools which, in rural areas, often organize their calendars according to planting and harvesting seasons.

Public fundamental schools are funded by municipal and state governments. The education is similar to the British.

Secondary school (Ensino Médio)

Secondary education takes 3 years. The minimum is 2,200 hours of teaching over 3 years. Students must have finished their Fundamental education before they are allowed to enroll in Ensino Médio. Secondary education core curriculum comprises Portuguese (including Portuguese language, Brazilian and Portuguese literatures), foreign language (usually English, also Spanish and very rarely French today), History, Geography, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. Recently Philosophy and Sociology, which were banned during the military dictatorship (1964–1985), became compulsory again.

It is possible to take professional training along with mainstream secondary education. Professional training courses usually last 2 years and can be taken during the 2nd and 3rd years of Secondary education. Some secondary schools provide professional training in agriculture. Such schools usually have a greater amount of instructional hours per week and the complete course lasts 3 or 4 years.

Public middle schools are provided by state governments.

Higher Education (Ensino Superior)

Secondary education is mandatory for those wishing to pursue higher education. In addition, students must pass a competitive entrance examination (known as vestibular) for their specific course of study. The number of candidates per available place in the freshman class may be in excess of 30 or 40 to one in the most competitive courses at the top public universities. In some particular courses with small number of vacancies, this number can be as high as 200 [1].

As is the case in many nations, higher education in Brazil can be divided into undergraduate and graduate work. In addition to providing education, Universities promote research and provide separate classes to the community.

The standard Brazilian undergraduate degree, styled "bacharelado", is awarded in most fields of arts, humanities, social sciences, mathematical sciences, or natural sciences, and normally requires 4 years of post-secondary studies at a certified university. Students who wish to qualify as secondary school teachers must complete a separate licentiate ("licenciatura") degree course, which, like a "bacharelado", also has a normal length of 4 years, but has a stronger emphasis on teaching methods and pedagogy. There is also a graduate in technology (whose graduates are called technologists), which emphasizes professional education geared to the labor market and the development of studies in the area of technology, especially in health, information technology, engineering and management. The degree in technology normally requires 2 to 4 years of studies in a certified university or college. Technologists degrees are undergraduate diplomas as bachelor, but with academic difference in the focus.

Five-year degrees leading to a professional diploma are awarded in select state-regulated careers such as architecture, engineering, veterinary medicine, psychology, and law. The professional degree in medicine requires in turn six years of full-time post-secondary studies. Residência, a two to five-year internship in a teaching hospital is not required, but it is pursued by many professionals, especially those who wish to specialize in a given area.

Students who hold a technology diploma, a licenciatura diploma, a bachelor's degree or a five-year professional diploma are qualified for admission into graduate school (pós-graduação). Graduate master's degrees are normally awarded following the completion of a two-year program requiring satisfactory performance in a minimum number of advanced graduate courses (typically between five and eight classes), plus the submission by the degree candidate of a master's thesis (dissertação de mestrado) that is examined by an oral panel of at least three faculty members, including at least one external examiner. Doctoral degrees on the other hand normally require four years of full-time studies during which the degree candidate is required to complete further advanced graduate coursework, pass a doctoral qualifying exam, and submit an extensive doctoral dissertation (tese de doutorado) that must represent an original and relevant contribution to current knowledge in the field of study to which the dissertation topic belongs. The doctoral dissertation is examined in a final public oral exam administered by a panel of at least five faculty members, two of whom must be external examiners. Results from the dissertation are normally expected to be published in peer-reviewed journals, proceedings of international conferences, and/or in the form of books/book chapters.

There are more than 2.600 universities in Brazil, between private and public, according to MEC. [9] Higher Vocational Education is in general assumed by non-university institutions, the federal Institutions for Education, Science and Technology (38 in 2008).[10]

Teacher training and qualification

Teacher training is available at universities. A university degree is required however to qualify an individual to teach High School classes (i.e. grades 10-12 in the new 12-year school system, 9-11 in the old system). There are frequent programs for teachers to update their skills.

Educational Statistics

Private German school in São Paulo.

As a large middle-income country, Brazil still has several underdeveloped regions. Its education system is accordingly plagued by many deficiencies and social and regional disparities.[7][11][12][13]

As of 2006:

  • Literacy rate of 90.2% for people age 15 or older
  • 7.2 years of formal education, on average.
8.4 years for white people, 6.1 years for black people
5.1 years in the Northeast versus 7.2 years in the Southeast and 6.9 years in the South.

As of 2006:

  • The nation invests 4.3% of GDP on education. The federal government aims to gradually increase this number to 7%.

As of 2008:[14]

  • Literacy rate of 97.5% for people age 6 to 14
  • Literacy rate of 84.1% for people age 15 to 17
  • Literacy rate of 92.0% of Brazil.

The Brazilian education level is considered low compared to developed countries, especially in public schools, despite its being high in many of their private counterparts.

See also

External links

  • Ministry of Education
  • Committee of Education and Culture
  • Brief story of education in Brazil
  • Education in Brazil, a webdossier compiled by "Education Worldwide", a portal belonging to the German Education Server
  • Educational Research in Brazil, a webdossier compiled by "Education Worldwide", a portal belonging to the German Education Server
  • Vocational Education in Brazil, Brazil's Profile on UNESCO-UNEVOC.


  1. ^ Educação
  2. ^ Ralph Harbison and Eric Hanushek, Educational performance of the poor: lessons from rural northeast Brazil (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992).
  3. ^ Ignoramuses Academy, 2016
  4. ^ Plano Nacional de Educação Especial - Ministry of Education
  5. ^ Edudata Brasil
  6. ^ . Ipea. Brasília, 1999O Analfabetismo no Brasil sob o Enfoque DemográficoCOELHO DE SOUZA, Marcos Medeiros.
  7. ^ a b IBGE
  8. ^ Folha OnLine
  9. ^ List of Authorized Universities in MEC of Brazil
  10. ^ UNESCO-UNEVOC - Brazil country profile
  11. ^ Universidade de Brasília - Assessoria de Comunicação
  12. ^ Política Educacional - O Desafio da Qualidade
  13. ^ Campanha propõe investimento de mais R$ 24 bi por ano em educaçãoBRNOrdeste -
  14. ^ Education rates of Brazil - 2008
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