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State Schools in Brazil

Submitted: April 2014

State schools in Brazil are funded by the state, or in the case of pre-school, by city government. Education is free right through to the end of graduate level.

Day nurseries are provided for children under the age of 2, kindergartens for 2 and 3 year olds, and pre-schools once they reach the age of 4. There are two kinds of pre-school: Maternal which are effectively playgroups, and Jardim which are more academic. Schooling is compulsory from the ages of 6-14 and is divided into two stages:

Ensino Fundamental I (primary school): Ages 6-10

Ensino Fundamental II (lower secondary school): Ages 11-14

At both levels your children will study maths, science, history, geography, Portuguese, art and PE, but at Ensino Fundamental II they must also study one, or sometimes two, other languages. Exams take place at the end of each year to decide whether your child goes up into the next year, or repeats the existing one.

After the end of Ensino Fundamental II, Ensino Médio or upper secondary schooling is optional and takes place between the ages of 15 and 18. The curriculum is the same as in the previous school, but also includes sociology and philosophy. One of the purposes of Ensino Médio is to prepare your child for entry into university or technical college. This is achieved by passing the multi paper vestibular exam. There is an additional multiple choice exam called Exame Nacional do Ensino Médio (ENEM). Some universities will use the result of the ENEM only to determine admission, most universities use a combination of both results. Competition for places at public universities is fierce, there may only be one place available for every 25 children taking the vestibular.

Generally children must attend the school which is nearest to their home. Because of the shortage of schools in Brazil, the school day is generally divided into a morning session running from approximately 7.00 until 12.00, and an afternoon session running from 12.00 until 17.00. In some cases there is a third session which runs from 17.00 until 22.00. Your child will only attend one of these sessions. So in effect there are two and sometimes three distinct sets of pupils for each school. Uniform are generally simple. This means that two children attending the same school and in the same year may never actually meet each other.

In order to register a child for school, you should go to your nearest relevant school. The following information is required for registration (matriculate):

  • Name of child
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth
  • Copy of the birth certificate
  • Names of parents
  • Address and contact details
  • Passport size photo of the child, and
  • Medical history of the child, including blood type.

The first term of the school year generally begins in February immediately after the Carnival. However the date of the Carnival is decided by the phases of the moon, so sometimes it will fall in late February or even early March. If this is the case, the term will start at the beginning of February and there will subsequently be a short break for the Carnival. The first term runs through until the end of June. July is taken as a holiday, and the second term starts in August and runs through until early December. There are two half term holidays, each lasting one week; the dates of these vary from school to school. In addition, all national holidays are also observed.

The sad truth is that most places at the public universities are taken by children who have been educated at private schools. However a law passed in September 2013 states that a large part of the Brazilian government’s revenue from the massive Libra oilfield will be spent on improving education in Brazil. This clearly has the potential to transform the state of public education in Brazil.



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