Your bookmarked countries have an update since your last login. View Bookmarks x


There are 3 archived country studies available. Log in to view them.



The Federative Republic of Brazil (República Federativa do Brasil) occupies an area of 8,511,965 square kilometers (about 3,287,195 square miles). It is the largest country in South America and the fifth largest country in the world, both in landmass and in population. Its population, estimated at 186,112,794 inhabitants in 2000, is also the world's largest Portuguese-speaking population and the world's largest Catholic population. It also includes the largest Japanese colony outside Japan. Its capital is Brasília and São Paulo is its largest city with Rio de Janeiro being the second largest. Its name derives from the native tree called Paubrasilia.

Brazil was discovered by the Portuguese in 1500. The colonization period, characterized by tight Portuguese control, started in the mid 1500s and lasted until 1822 with its independence from Portugal. It was followed by the imperial period (1822-1889), under the reign of Portuguese Princes D. Pedro I and D. Pedro II, until the proclamation of the republic in 1889. The republican period is divided into two periods: the first or old republic extended from 1889 to 1930 with the beginning of Getúlio Vargas's dictatorship; the second or new republic, extends into the present. Brazil embraces a democratic form of government.


Education in Brazil was initiated by the Jesuits who arrived in Brazil in 1549; its objective was to convert índios to Catholicism and give religious support to the colonizers. While elementary education was offered to the white male and the male native índios, secondary education was available only for the white male of the dominant class, with the main objective of preparing for clerical studies. Higher education was available to those who would join the clergy or who wished to continue their studies in Europe.

Portuguese influence in Brazilian education increased significantly with the arrival of the royal family in Brazil in 1808, as Napoleon's army overpowered Portugal. The French cultural and educational influence in Portugal was also spread to the colony. Brazilian education then acquired a more vocational aspect.

With Brazil's independence from Portugal in 1822, new changes were made in the education system. The dual system of education was established so that the central government and the provinces held different responsibilities over the education system. The central government was responsible for higher education, while the provinces were responsible for elementary and secondary education.

Most higher education institutions in Brazil were, until 1946, under French influence, following an education model characterized by a traditional, formal and rigid education with the emphasis on academic studies and a selected staff and student body excluding the common masses, and where the cathedra system, in which one single ruling faculty member made all decisions, prevailed.

After World War I a major shift occurred in education. Although there had been several attempts since the colonial times to establish a university in Brazil, it was not until September 7, 1920 that the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro was created; it was the first successful university to be established.

The first public elementary school opened in 1932 and approximately five years later in 1937, the Colégio Pedro II, a public institution, was established in Rio de Janeiro; it became the model institution of secondary education.

The elaboration of the education law entitled Lei de Diretrizes e Bases da Educação (LDB) (Directives and Basis for National Education) in 1948 became one of the most significant factors in the post-World War II period in the Brazilian educational system. Approved on December 20, 1961, the LDB allowed for the development of education systems from preschool to graduate studies in the formal system and from literacy classes to high technological training courses in the informal system.

The Universidade de Brasília was created on December 16, 1961 with the objective of modernizing higher education. Its purpose was to integrate teaching, research and science, and the creation of units necessary to enhance them. The major structural changes implemented at the University included the organization of departments as the smallest administrative and academic units within the university (American influence) and the extinction of the cathedra (European influence).

The 1968 University Reform Law, implemented in 1971, formally established the American influence in higher education. It aimed at offering more vacancies, better education, greater efficiency and social justice. It also introduced the concept of the "research university" to the Brazilian higher education system.

During the 1970s and 80s radical changes in elementary and secondary education were implemented. The ensino primário (elementary education) was replaced by the ensino de 1° grau, divided into 1° ciclo do 1° grau (grades 1-4) and 2° ciclo do 1° grau (grades 5-8), for a total of 8 years. The ensino secundário (secondary education), previously divided into tracks including: científico, clássico (languages), normal (teacher training) and técnico (technical), was renamed ensino de 2° grau and divided into regular, teacher training, and technical programs. Great emphasis was placed on the habilitação (professional skills training) as the diversified part of the secondary curriculum.

As of the 1996 Lei de Diretrizes e Bases da Educação Nacional, national education in Brazil encompasses Educação Básica and Educação Superior (basic and higher education).

Primary and Secondary Education

Basic Education consists of: Educação Infantil for children up to 6 years of age; Ensino Fundamental, subdivided into phase one (grades 1-4) and phase two (grades 5-8); and Ensino Médio. Ensino Fundamental is mandatory from 7 to 14 years of age and has a minimum duration of 8 years. Access to Ensino Médio requires completion of Ensino Fundamental. The 3-year program requires a minimum course load of 2400 hours. 4-year technical programs require additional hours. Ensino Fundamental and Ensino Médio curricula have a common national basis, complemented by a diversified component at the local level. In the 2010 school year the Government mandated that compulsory education would begin at age 6 (rather than 7) and the last year of Educação Infantil would become Grade 1 of Ensino Fundamental, increasing it to 9 years (from 8). However, no curricular changes were introduced and so the new Grade 1 is essentially comparable to kindergarten in the United States.

Post-Secondary Education

Institutions of higher education are classified as universidades, centros universitários (university centers), faculdades integradas (integrated colleges), faculdades (colleges), institutos superiores (higher education institutes) or escolas superiores (higher education schools). They are recognized by the Ministério da Educação e Cultura, under recommendation of the Chamber of Higher Education, and Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES). The creation and accreditation of courses in medicine, psychology, and dentistry require prior approval from the Conselho Nacional de Saúde (CNS) (National Council of Health). Courses in law require prior approval from the Conselho Federal da Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil (OAB) (Federal Council of the Order of Brazilian Attorneys).

Only universities may validate and register degrees and diplomas for professional certification. Therefore, all diplomas issued by any other institution of higher education must be recognized, registered with, and validated by the university in its jurisdiction.

Applicants for admission to higher education programs must be holders of the Diploma de Ensino Médio or equivalent. Further assessment tools used in the admissions process are determined by individual institutions. They may include Exame Nacional do Ensino Médio (ENEM) results, the entrance examination known as Vestibular or other.

First Cycle

Undergraduate level programs include Cursos Sequenciais (non-degree programs); 2- to 3-year technology programs leading to the Título de Tecnólogo; and 3- to 6-year programs leading to the Bacharel, Licenciado (includes a teaching component) or Título Profissional.

Second and Third Cycles

Graduate level programs are divided into Cursos de Aperfeiçoamento (professional development programs), Cursos de Especialização (specialization programs), Mestrado Profissional (professional masters), Cursos de Mestrado (masters degree programs) and Cursos de Doutorado (doctoral programs).

Professional development and specialization programs are considered lato sensus (wide sense graduate-level programs) and follow independent legislation. Such programs lead toward professional certificates, not graduate degrees. They require either 1 to 2- or 1- to 3- years of study.

In the professional masters program, emphasis is on the practical aspects of the field rather than the theoretical or research aspects; it requires a minimum of 1 year of study beyond the Bacharel.

Masters and doctoral programs are considered strictu sensus (strict sense graduate-level programs) and follow minimum national guidelines. Such programs do lead toward graduate degrees. They are usually completed within 2 to 4 years at the masters degree level and within 4 to 6 years at the doctoral level.

Teacher Training

The Curso Normal (teacher training program) remains the minimum legal requirement for teacher training for early childhood education and the initial grades of fundamental education (LDB, Law 9394/96, Art. 62). The program prepares teachers to work in the areas of Educação Infantil, Ensino Fundamental, indigenous education, youth and adult education and special education.

The Institutos Superiores de Educação and the Escolas Normais Superiores are gradually replacing the former Institutos de Educação and Escolas Normais. The program leads to the title of Licenciado in Educação Infantil and Ensino Fundamental (grades 1 to 4).

Ensino Fundamental teachers (grades 5 to 8) and middle education teachers (grades 9 to 11) are required to hold the Licenciatura, awarded upon completion of a 4-year undergraduate degree program that includes pedagogical training in its curriculum.

University teachers are required to hold a graduate degree. While many faculty members hold a doctoral degree, most of those who hold a masters degree are concurrently enrolled in doctoral programs.

Note: Any teaching qualification in Brazil has national validity and is a lifetime qualification.

Professional Education

Professional education at the basic level is informal and is not subject to curricular regulations. It is aimed at individuals with little or no education. It also aims at professionally preparing, training and upgrading workers, independent from their level of education. Students completing professional education programs at the basic level receive the non-academic credential of Certificado de Qualificação Profissional highlighting their area of concentration.

Ensino Técnico (technical education) corresponds to professional education during Ensino Médio. Students at this level may enroll in:

  1. full-time secondary level technical programs;
  2. concurrent technical and regular middle education programs;
  3. and may complete a regular middle education program.

Students receive the Diploma de Técnico upon completion of 3 or 4 years of study, depending on the program.

At the higher education level, Tecnólogo degree programs require 3 years of full-time study. Holders of a technology degree qualify to pursue graduate studies, whether the master of technology, also professional master, a terminal degree, or lato sensu graduate programs, not leading to any specific graduate degree. Credits earned in lato sensu graduate programs may later be transferred into a masters degree program given that institutional requirements are met and institutional approval is granted.

Bachelor of science and master of science degree programs are also offered in different technology fields.



Upcoming AACRAO Events

Crises as Catalysts for Transformation

Fall 2020 | virtual conference

Join us this fall for a virtual Strategic Enrollment Management Conference - Crises as Catalysts for Transformation: 2020’s Impact on Higher Education and Enrollment.

This three day, virtual conference will feature models for adapting to change, meeting challenges, and planning strategically post-pandemic.

Explore the SEM Conference
SEM_2020_1440x400 update

106th AACRAO Annual Meeting

March 28 - 31, 2021 | National Harbor, MD

AACRAO’s Annual Meeting is our largest convening of higher education professionals from around the world. Join more than 2,000 administrators in person or online as we work to address the issues facing today’s campuses, share goals and guidelines for meeting those challenges, and provide a forum for learning and sharing experiences.

Explore the Annual Meeting