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Despite the country's largely positive economic development in recent years, public education and schooling in Brazil remains underfunded and mired in social and structural problems. This, accompanied by the fact that classes at public schools are taught in Portuguese, means that most expats choose to send their children to private or international schools in Brazil, of which there are many to choose from.
Public schools in Brazil
The standard of education at Brazilian public schools remains low overall. There are often reports of overcrowding and a lack of materials.
Parents have the option to enrol children who are under six in educação infantil. Schooling is mandatory for children between the ages of six and 14 (ensino básico). After this, students may optionally attend ensino médio (secondary school) from age 15 to 18.
Due to the demand for space, some Brazilian schools run two or three separate school sessions per day to accommodate the large number of students, with children attending one session per day.
Private and international schools in Brazil
There are several private and international schools in Brazil. They are largely concentrated in the main cities of Brasília, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
Most international schools in Brazil follow the British or American curriculum, though there are some that cater to other nationalities, including French, German, Italian and Spanish. Another popular programme is the International Baccalaureate.
Due to the higher standard of education offered at international schools in Brazil, wealthy Brazilians often choose to educate their children at these institutions. Many international schools have a multicultural student body with children from all over the world.
Brazilian private schools, on the other hand, generally follow the Brazilian local curriculum. Some private schools have a religious foundation or offer bilingual instruction. Some expats prefer to send their children to private schools due to the lower fees compared to international schools.
Best International Schools in São Paulo
Best International Schools in Rio de Janeiro
Special-needs education in Brazil
While the Brazilian constitution states that children with physical or mental special educational needs should be integrated into the public school system, there are limited state-supplied resources for children with special needs in Brazil. Those that do exist are offered in Portuguese.
Private and international schools may have more support available, though this does vary between schools. Parents are advised to research options thoroughly to ensure their children will be well catered for.
Tutors in Brazil
There are countless tutors and tutor companies to choose from in Brazil. Expats and locals alike can benefit in many ways from hiring a tutor. For example, even those who have some knowledge of European Portuguese may not find it as easy to pick up Brazilian Portuguese as they expected. In these cases, a tutor is an ideal way to bridge the gap.
For students, tutors can help prepare for big exams, adjust to their new curriculum, tackle a problem subject, or maintain fluency in their mother tongue.
►For an overview of the Brazilian healthcare system, see Healthcare in Brazil
"Brazil has notoriously bad public schools, so families of means send their children to English schools or private, Catholic schools." Read more of Jennifer's expat interview.
"The quality varies from school to school, and there are also Brazilian private schools (Notre Dame, among others). The Brazilian private schools run on a half-day schedule; the others run on a full-day schedule. There is also a wide selection of Parochial schools if one wanted, though all of these, that I know of, are strictly Brazilian/taught in Portuguese. Public schools are of very poor quality and to be avoided." Learn more about education in Brazil in our interview with American expat Heather.
Are you an expat living in Brazil?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Brazil. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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