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Expats will find that there are many different options when it comes to education and schools in São Paulo. As a multicultural melting pot, the city has a variety of schools catering to a multitude of nationalities and education levels.
Public schools in São Paulo
Public schooling in São Paulo is free to all permanent residents. Schooling is mandatory for children between the ages of six and 14. These compulsory years of education are known as Ensino Fundamental.
The standard of education at public schools in São Paulo varies. It often depends on the socio-economic environment within which a particular school is located. Children attending public schools will attend the school closest to their place of residence. Parents wishing to enrol their child in a public school need to visit the school in person to start the registration process.
Due to the demand for space, and in order to accommodate the high number of students, schools in São Paulo often run three separate school sessions per day. Children attend one session per day.
Classes at public schools in São Paulo are taught in Portuguese, so parents wanting to enrol their child in a public school will need to consider this option carefully.
Private schools in São Paulo
São Paulo’s private schools generally follow the Brazilian national curriculum. Some private schools have a Christian foundation and many offer bilingual instruction. Some expats prefer to send their children to these schools due to the higher level of education compared to public schools and lower fees compared to international schools. As classes may be predominantly taught in Portuguese, children should have at least some proficiency in the language.
International schools in São Paulo
International schools in São Paulo follow a variety of international curricula, including British, American, Japanese, French, German and Italian. They are usually sponsored in some way by their home governments. Some international schools in São Paulo are locally run and offer the Brazilian curriculum. Many of these schools also offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma. As the demand for a place at international schools is high, parents are advised to begin the application process as soon as possible.
Fees at some of the best international schools in São Paulo can be exorbitant. Added to the already high cost of living in the city, it can stretch an expat’s budget to the limit. It is therefore vital that anyone moving to São Paulo with school-aged children ensure they factor this in when negotiating their relocation contract. On top of the high fees, other expenses may include textbooks and stationery, extra-curricular activities, uniforms and school lunches. Most private schools contract private bus companies to transport children to and from school, which is an additional expense that parents will have to contribute to.
As can be expected in such a densely populated and sprawling city, heavy traffic congestion can affect commute times to and from school. Expats should therefore carefully consider their proximity to their child’s school when deciding where to live in São Paulo. The better schools tend to be in the more affluent areas, where housing will be expensive. Other factors to consider include the language of instruction, general academic standards, tuition costs, and the quality of the school’s facilities and extra-curricular programmes offered. It is a good idea to visit the school in person to request a tour and have a meeting with the headteacher to have any questions answered.
Special-needs education in São Paulo
In São Paulo, as in Brazil as a whole, state-supplied resources for children with special needs are very limited, and any support that does exist is offered in Portuguese. Such services are easier to find, and often in English, at international schools. The level of support and cost involved do vary from school to school. Parents are advised to research options thoroughly to ensure their children will be well catered for.
Tutors in Brazil
Bustling São Paulo is replete with tutors and tutor companies to choose from. 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, learn Portuguese, or maintain fluency in their mother tongue.
►Learn more about transport and driving in the city in Getting Around in São Paulo
"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.
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