10 Facts About Education in Brazil


Education in Brazil has its fair shares of challenges, but the country is taking active measures to turn around the prospects in order to improve the country’s population and future prospects.

Education in Brazil has faced its fair share of challenges, but it continues to have a hopeful outlook as the country is taking steps toward improvement. Out of all the OECD and partner countries, Brazil has one of the largest shares of adults who lack secondary education. But that doesn’t mean that its residents aren’t trying to get an education, nor does it mean that the government is not working towards reform.


Brazil is ranked #32 in the world for education, but in the form of the Plano Nacional de Edcucacao (PNE), there are 21 measures that the country is taking to increase the quality of education in the country.


While these facts may be mind blowing and some are less than optimal, the silver lining is that education is becoming globally accessible through online programs, such as what University of the People offers. But before we jump into beyond-the-border alternatives, let’s take a look at the current status of education in the country.



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1. Income Inequality and Education

With only 69% of 15-19 year olds enrolled in education and 29% of 20-24 year olds, the country is facing a crisis of uneducated adults. Therefore, when compared with partner countries, Brazil’s income equality is one of the highest. Because education is highly correlated with income, the lack of education contributes to larger salary gaps between those who have and those who have not earned their degrees.



2. Degrees Hold High Weight for Salaries

Like virtually anywhere in the world, those with undergraduate and graduate degrees earn higher salaries than their counterparts without a degree. But, in Brazil, the difference is starkly contrasted.


For example, graduate salaries are 2.5 times higher than those without degrees, and for those who didn’t finish secondary education, the salaries end up being 5 times higher. This is why the income inequality and educational discrepancies is so dramatic.


But why is the difference between those who are educated versus those who are uneducated so large? The truth is Brazil’s education system favors the rich. Even those who attend the public universities are more likely to be whiter and richer, and have mostly attended private schools in their past.



3. Government Expenditure on Education is Increasing

In 2014, Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s president, announced a new educational plan. The plan called for the country to invest 10% of the gross domestic product (GDP) towards education by 2024. But the projection is doubtful to occur because of the aftermath of the financial crisis that occured not too long ago. Even with this reform and plan, the investment in
education is lower than most OECD countries.



4. Educational Structure

The educational system in Brazil starts at a young age. Students up to three years old can attend pre-school and those ages 4-6 can enroll in kindergarten. However, pre-school is not mandatory. With that being said, they are broken up into Maternal, which are usually state funded and accept children ages 2-5, or Jardim, which are more likely to be private and accept older students at ages 3-6. The educational differences start at this young age. Jardims are more likely to focus on academics and provide a foundation for the future education of a child, and they are private. This means the publicly funded pre-schools serve more as daycares, and it’s in these early stages that the discrepancies which later cause income inequality can be seen.



5. School Types

Like most other countries, Brazil has different types of school, including public, private and international options. Public schools are free, but most expats prefer to enroll their children in private or international schools for better quality education. International schools are a form of private schools, but they are more reputable because they offer foreign education, like British or American curriculums. Therefore, they are more desirable to better prepare students to enroll in colleges in those countries upon graduation, should they choose to do so. International schools cost BRL 3,000-9,000 per month, whereas private schools can cost less than BRL 1,000 per month. It’s clear to see that the better quality of education is reserved for those with deeper pockets.



6. Large Class Sizes

Across all public and private primary education, Brazil has relatively large class sizes, which means that there are more students per teacher. Although the average number has decreased from 25 in 2005 to 22.9 in 2016, the data helps to paint the story of how many people in Brazil lack education. In comparison, the same statistic in the United States saw an average class size of 20.8 in 2016, 15.4 in Costa Rica, and 21.1 in Portugal. While there are definitely countries with bigger class sizes, Brazil also struggles with low teacher salaries which further contributes to the high demand from students, but the low supply of educators.



7. Low Teacher Salaries

Regardless of the grade that teachers in Brazil teach, their salaries are relatively low in comparison to other countries. For example, Brazil ranks 20/25 for OECD and partner countries in its salary for pre-primary teacher salaries, 25/28 for primary school educators, and 25/28 for secondary school teachers.


In American dollars, the average salary was recorded at $22,0003 for pre-primary, $22,740 for primary school, and $23,252 for lower secondary educators. Interestingly, the amount of women teaching in pre-primary schools is relatively low in comparison to other countries, and there is a high number of secondary teachers younger than age 30 and between the ages 30 and 49.



8. Brazil Under-performs Academically

Along with social and regional disparities, Brazil under-performs academically in science, mathematics and reading. In Brazil, students are more likely to repeat a secondary school grade than a grade in primary school. Of the worst 100 schools in the country, 99 are public.


The school’s infrastructure and technological infrastructure are directly related to the quality of the education. According to the research, the biggest differentiating factors when comparing the top performing schools versus the lowest were the number of employees per student, multimedia equipment per student, students per class and computers per class proved to be the most impactful.



9. Education is Undergoing Reform

Despite the somewhat dismal aforementioned facts, there’s good news. Brazil is undergoing educational reform to tackle these deficiencies. In 2016, the public got involved with demonstrations to signal their concern to the government. Thankfully, the government took notice and has tried to instill some of the familiar American tactics to tackle educational reform.


For example, there was talk of merit pay for teachers, as well as using private charter organizations to manage schools. However, it’s still too early to evaluate changes.


Additionally, reform is sweeping the countries disproportionately. For example, urban centers are experiencing innovation faster than rural locations. However, the government is prioritizing the introduction of technological infrastructure to assist in bringing the schools up to speed with the current educational and global landscape.



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10. Beyond the Borders

Along with educational reform, there are options for Brazilian students to study abroad by physically relocating. However, if that option is impossible to some, there are international online options for students to earn their education.


For example, American, accredited online universities like University of the People exist for this exact reason, namely to grant students an affordable, accessible and quality education from wherever they may be in the world, including Brazil. All they need to do is have an internet connection, and apply with proof of English proficiency and high school completion.


Existing as a tuition-free university, UoPeople offers degree-granting programs in Computer Science, Health Science, Business Administration and Education. Students from over 200 countries and territories have enrolled in its programs because they have proven to be life-changing.



Wrapping Up

Despite the challenges that Brazil faces when it comes to education, the country is making strides to improve. Whether you were born in or moved to Brazil, your educational opportunities should not be limited by the country’s offerings. While it’s not all bad news, it’s still a good idea to look at alternative options like online universities so that your degree can be of top-quality and place you in a position to be successful in your future.





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