Education in Brazil: what foreign students need to know, getting a visa



Education in Brazil: what foreign students need to know, getting a visa

Do you wish to get an education at one of the universities in Brazil? What you need to know about the education system of the country. What documents do you need to get a student visa? Read in our blog.

What you need to know about education in Brazil

If you are thinking about moving to Brazil, you should know that the education system in Brazil is not the best in the world. It has been shown that half of the population is functionally illiterate, in other words, 68% of the population has difficulty reading and 7% are completely illiterate. In theory, the Brazilian government offers free and compulsory education for children ages 6 to 13. However, it is better to enroll children in public schools.

Education in Brazil is largely controlled by the federal government. At the regional and local levels, regions are responsible for ensuring that educational programs are properly implemented. The compulsory education system is mainly divided into primary education and higher education.

Pre-school education

This stage, known in Brazil as Educação Infantil, is not compulsory and includes nursery and kindergarten:

Nursery: A community daycare center for children ages 2 to 5 years old. It is a playground where children learn to socialize.

Kindergarten: takes children ages 3 to 6 and has a more academic focus.

The only required course in preschool education is a literacy class.

Elementary Education.

As mentioned above, school is compulsory from ages 6 to 14. Children will have to choose a second language, such as Spanish, English, or French. In Europe, students are assigned to classes according to their age, but if they are able, they can skip one class to go to the next level. At the end of each school year, students must take a test to see if they have the necessary knowledge to advance to the next year.

Elementary education is divided into two parts:

Ensino Fundamental I: ages 6 to 10. Students have only one teacher who will teach them science, Portuguese, mathematics, history, geography, physical education, and art.

Ensino Fundamental II: 11 to 14 years old. The same subjects from the previous cycle are taught to improve students' knowledge of these subjects, and another language is also taught.

There are some public schools in Brazil, some of them religious, which divide the school year into ability levels in each grade (this practice is becoming less known).

Secondary Education

School is compulsory from age 14 to 17, but secondary education is optional. It is during this cycle that students prepare for higher education, where they usually enter public universities. At the end of high school, if the grades are good enough, students receive a certificate of secondary education (certificado de Ensino Medio).

There is also the option of a 4-year vocational secondary education, which, like in Europe, is more technical to prepare students for the world of work.  

Higher Education

Higher education in Brazil is not compulsory and generally begins at the age of 17. There are many institutions: universities, university centers, faculties, etc. All students who wish to pursue higher education must take an entrance exam. This subject is studied in December and January and requires a good command of the Portuguese language.

Even if it seems controversial, public universities have a better reputation than public universities. They offer two types of courses:

- Graduacao (graduation): a basic university education, which can be a bachelor's degree (3 to 6 years) or a license (2 to 4 years).

- Pos. graduate (postgraduate education): 1 to 2 years for a master's degree, 3 to 4 years for a doctoral degree.

To study in Brazil, you will need the following documents

Your bachelor's degree with grades

Your passport with a valid visa

Your Resume

List of courses you have taken

Certificate of Portuguese Language Proficiency

Public School: Which option in Brazil?

In Brazil, we can talk about two levels of education, depending on the educational path you choose. Between private and public, your choice will be made quickly. Indeed, public school is affordable and free for all. Except that, given the number of students who need to be educated (about 58 million), the days are organized in rounds (shifts). Students attend classes only 4 hours a day, from 8 a.m. to 12 noon OR from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Classes are also overcrowded: there are about 50 students per class. Teachers have low qualifications and are not much appreciated.

This is why almost all European expatriates enroll their children in private schools, where "tempo integral" applies, i.e. a day of at least 6 hours a day. In the private sector, the attitude towards children and their well-being is completely different, and this is normal because you pay, and a lot! Children's education is a real investment in Brazil; depending on the school you choose, you can expect to pay between R$700 and R$2,000 a month! Plus school supplies, uniforms, lunches, and school transportation.


Universities in Brazil

After high school, students take an exam, which takes the form of a university entrance exam. The choice between public and private universities depends largely on your budget. 

The vestibular is a relatively difficult exam because it includes all the classes given in a student's course. Also, the number of places is limited (57,000 for all USP departments in São Paulo). Many students go to Cursinho public schools (the equivalent of our preparatory classes for grandes écoles) to prepare for this exam.

Private universities also have a vestibule, but it is easier. Because of the limited number of places at the public university, many Brazilian students turn to private universities.

1. Graduação

This is the equivalent of a bachelor's degree and an M1. It lasts 4 to 5 years, depending on the field of study. At the end of this cycle, the student receives a diploma called the bacharelato.

2. Master 

In France, there are two types of masters:

Especialização (also called Pós-graduação lato sensu): the equivalent of the Master 2 Pro degree, obtained after 2 years of study.

Mestrado (also called Pós-graduação Distrito sense): equivalent to Master 2 Research, also obtained after 2 years of study and required for admission to doctoral studies.

3. Doctoral Degree

This is equivalent to obtaining a doctorate in 3 years.

As in the vast majority of the world, Brazil has public and private institutions of varying quality, but above all with varying tuition fees. Thus, while the public sector is famous for virtually free tuition, the same cannot be said for the private sector, which offers courses that can range from one to three times the cost.

Free public higher education in Brazil

In 2021, there will be 98 public universities in Brazil, with a total of 296 public higher education institutions.  Bachelor's degree programs at public institutions in Brazil are free, whether you are a European student or not. Most public institutions in Brazil receive very substantial funding from the Brazilian government to conduct research as well as to educate students. 

Public institutions are more respected around the world than private ones, mainly because of the availability of very large funds. This is also reflected in the student body, with the best profiles necessarily going to the best public universities in the country.

Paradoxically, these same students predominantly attend public schools for primary and secondary education, indicating a higher quality of education and much better results. Selection for higher education in Brazil is what it is, so students who graduate from fee-paying elementary and/or secondary schools will benefit from free public education for higher education!

There are more than 150 other public higher education institutions in Brazil. They do not have university status and usually offer short or specialized courses in a certain field, similar to DUT, BTS, Licence Professionnelle, and other specialized diplomas.

Tuition fees at private universities in Brazil

There were 108 private universities in the Brazilian higher education system in 2012, with institutions of varying national and international prominence. As in any private sector, courses at these universities are not free, with tuition fees ranging from €500 to €5,000 per semester.

The private sector in Brazil has been very active in recent years, with an average annual growth rate of 10%. Today more than 65% of Brazilian students are enrolled in private educational institutions.

The quality of their teaching and reputation fluctuates between excellent and much less good, with many institutions being created each year to attract students who did not have access to the public sector.

Nevertheless, several private universities compete with public institutions, such as the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo, which easily appear in world university rankings such as the QS University Ranking.

In Brazil, there are more than 2,000 other private institutions without the name of "university. Offering often short or specialized courses, their number and relatively recent emergence make it difficult to gain international recognition for the courses they offer.

So give preference to universities to study in Brazil, but keep in mind that what is relevant in 2013 will probably not be relevant 10 years from now, given the rise of Brazilian higher education!

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