School and Education in Brazil


The school system in Brazil is characterized by contradictory conditions. Regarding the public schools, differences in the quality of teaching and in economic conditions are large between regions and even between districts, and in addition, the expensive private schools. Similar differences also apply to universities.

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In a three-year preschool, about 50% of children between the ages of 4 and 6 go. The compulsory schooling is eight years and basically covers the age between 7 and 14 years. 95% of children (2009) start school, In the past many quit already after a couple of years; when they were needed as a workforce at home, but since the mid-1990s, the proportion of pupils completing primary school has risen sharply. The 15-year-olds can move on to a three-year upper secondary education, but only 52% did so in 2009. The school building has had difficulty keeping up with the population growth, and a shortage of teachers and teaching materials has lowered the quality of the education. The differences between different parts of the country are still significant. Thus, schools in major cities in the southeastern part of the country are significantly better than those in other parts. The proportion of illiterate people in the population over the age of 15 has decreased and was 10% in 2008, in the group 15-24 years reading and writing proficiency is 98% (2008). As mentioned, there are private schools at all levels. Usually, any religious organization is the principal. High fees exclude less mediated.

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There are a large and growing number of universities in the country, half of which are state (federal and state). The number of students, of which the majority in private universities, was just over 6.1 million in 2009. In 1991, the number of students was just over 1.6 million. The large number of students makes it difficult to meet the requirements of qualified academic teachers and the quality of teaching is low in many places. However, at a high level of education, one can now find, as before, special schools of high international class in different areas, for example. Heitor Villa-Lobos (music) and Oscar Niemeyer (architecture).

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1979 Democratic opening

Under the Geisel government, a gradual relaxation of political life was initiated, and some progress was made in the democratic process. Despite censorship in the mass media, the opposition in the MDB in 1974 and 78 achieved significant electoral victories. At the end of his presidency, Geisel handed over to General João Baptista Figueiredo, who was also former chief of SNI. That happened in March 79. Figueiredo declared that he would allow the political opening to culminate. The following month, 180,000 metal workers in São Paulo went on strike under the leadership of Luiz Inacio da Silva (Lula). The strike ended without repression after an agreement was reached between the Ministry of Labor and the trade union. In November 79, Congress passed a far more extensive amnesty than the president had originally planned. The consequence was that the political prisoners were released and the exiles could return home.

In the economic and financial sphere, military governments implemented a monetary policy whose biting consequences became visible under the Figueiredo government. The country became increasingly indebted. Therefore, in the early 1980’s, Brazil became capital exports – solely for the reason that the country had to pay interest and repayments on its US $ 100 billion foreign debt.

According to official information, in 1985 the population was over 130 million, of which more than half lived in poverty and on the fringes of the formal economy. In the cities alone, there were 6 million unemployed and 13 million underemployed. The Labor Ministry technicians stated in July that even the average annual economic growth of 7% over the previous 20 years had not changed this situation.

Abuse of the weakest groups in society

In addition to the complicated economic situation, the government had to tackle the critical social situation and an alarming increase in crime. In Río de Janeiro alone, 350 street children were killed in 1991. The parliamentary commission set up to investigate these events calculated that over 5,000 minors had been killed in the same way over the previous 3 years. According to the Brazilian Children’s and Youth Center, there are approx. 7 million children without their own homes. The Commission found that the persecution of these children is predominantly carried out by semi-police groups financed by traders.

Similarly, the indigenous population is threatened by the progress that has resulted in epidemics, the depletion or destruction of their natural resources, pollution and a systematic deterioration in their quality of life. The causes of the extermination of the Brazilian indigenous population are manifold: deaths due to illnesses, murders and assaults by gold diggers or police, soaring suicide rates and the tendency to avoid having children due to the threat to the entire indigenous culture. The extinction is linked to the destruction of the tropical rainforest, with the purpose of exploiting its mineral and woody soils to subsequently transform it into pastures or mines – especially gold mines that pollute the rivers with mercury-containing wastewater. This policy of elimination does not include any element for the recovery of natural resources, and inevitably leads to them being exhausted. The so-called “legal Amazon” is an area that the military considers strategically important, and in 1995 it initiated billions of dollars in electronic monitoring of this area.

In September 1991, thousands of people linked to the movement started the Movimento Sem Terra(MST, The Landless Movement) march in the state of Río Grande del Sur, where 150,000 landless worker families stood without land, while 9 million hectares of land were left uncultivated. The protest march required not only land to work on, but also that the government used the 4,700 million cruzeiros allocated for land reform that year, of which only 800 million had been used until then. According to information from the Earth Pastoral, in 1992 there were 15,042 slave laborers in the countryside – a tripling from the previous year. According to information from the Federal Statistical Office, 4 million Brazilians were found in rural areas working under slave-like conditions. The marking of 20 million hectares for new areas for the indigenous population that had been initiated under the Collor de Mello government alleviated but did not solve the native’s problems.

At the end of September 1991, inflation of 400% and an increase in bank rates almost 1000% led to massive layoffs in the industrial sector. In Sao Paulo alone – the country’s economic center – more than 1 million were put on the streets.