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Brazil Education Facts


Large investments have been made in education during the 2000s and the proportion of children attending school has increased. However, many schools are poorly equipped and teachers often have insufficient education and poor pay. Moreover, the entire educational system is also threatened by major cuts.

The compulsory compulsory school was extended by one year in 2005, to nine years, and in 2009 it was decided that compulsory schooling should also include two years of preschool. The expansion of the preschool has dragged on over time, but a majority of the children now go at least a year before they start first grade at the age of six.

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The Länder are responsible for the compulsory school which is divided into two stages. Schooling is free of charge in public schools, but it is common for students to pay for school uniforms. After elementary school follows three years of high school.

Many poor parents are forced to let their children work instead of going to school. The situation is most difficult in the countryside and not least in the poor northeast. In order to remedy the problem, a grant was introduced in 2003 to cover loss of income if the children attend school, within the framework of the Bolsa família family support program (see also Social conditions). The program has helped significantly more children attend school. But the quality is often low and it is crowded in schools where teaching has to be done in shifts. Children are generally allowed to walk either in the morning or in the afternoon, and in some cases a third evening shift occurs. The deterioration of finances in recent years has also caused the proportion of children who drop out prematurely to rise again.

In addition, following Jair Bolsonaro’s take-over as president on January 1, 2019, decisions have been made on extensive austerity and cuts in funding for everything from preschool to university. Just a few months after the change of power, a decision had been made to reduce the equivalent of $ 87 million for primarily school books in primary schools. The universities receive 30 percent less money to cover costs, which promptly prompted several schools to face the risk of having to close down as they cannot pay their electricity and water bills. The same reduction applies to grants for students at the master’s and doctoral level, which means that tens of thousands can be forced to leave their studies.

Bolsonaro and his right-wing radical government have also stormed “left ideologies” in schools and have criticized humanistic subjects as unnecessary.

For those who can afford to pay, there are private schools that usually hold a higher standard than the public schools. Many high school students attend private schools run primarily by religious communities.

Literacy among adults has increased to just over 90 percent according to official statistics. But the reading and writing skills are in many cases very inadequate.

The education is free of charge at public colleges and universities, which are run under federal, state and municipal government. However, most of the country’s over 2,000 universities and colleges are private. Since 2012, there has been a quota system for correcting the social carpenter recruitment to higher education, which generally holds a high class.

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Proportion of children starting primary school

95.5 percent (2016)

Number of pupils per teacher in primary school

20 (2016)

Reading and writing skills

92.0 percent (2015)

Public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP

16.2 percent (2015)

Public expenditure on education as a percentage of the state budget

16.2 percent (2015)



Ambassador to Venezuela expelled

December 23

Venezuela expels Brazil’s ambassador to Caracas, Ruy Pereira, citing that Brazil acted illegally when ex-president Dilma Rousseff was deposed in August 2016. Two days later, Brazil expels Venezuela’s highest-ranking diplomat in the country.


The president does not have to resume legal proceedings

October 25th

For the second time, Temer will succeed in just over two months from being put on trial, after a vote in the Chamber of Deputies. Even now, a two-thirds majority had been required in support of a trial, but only 233 members voted in court, while 251 voted against. The rash was expected. In recent weeks, themes that have been accused of corruption and obstruction of justice have brought influential members to meetings on key issues and thus secured support. The investigation against Temer can thus be resumed as soon as he leaves the post after the 2018 election.

Former Olympic manager is prosecuted

October 19

Former head of Brazil’s Olympic Committee (COB), Carlos Nuzman, is formally charged with corruption in connection with the 2016 Summer Olympics. Nuzman is charged with money laundering, violation of currency laws and for leading a criminal organization. He has been incarcerated for two weeks but is now set free, albeit with travel restrictions. The indictment also includes a Senegalese former member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and his son, Brazilian businessman Arhur Soares, former COB employee Leonardo Gryner and former Rio Governor Sérgio Cabral (see also June 2017).

Vote for independence in the south

October 9

The three states of Paraná, Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina hold an informal vote to form their own state. The vote is organized by the independence movement “The South is my country”, which was inspired by the latest events in Spanish Catalonia. According to the movement, there is a strong desire among the inhabitants of the south to break away from the rest of Brazil with its corrupt rule.


The Renca reserve should not be opened for mining

September 25

The harsh criticism from, among other things, environmental organizations in the country and abroad leads to the government withdrawing its decision to allow foreign private mining in the Amazon-rich Renca mineral reserve (see August).

New corruption charges against Temer

September 14

The Supreme Court rejects a motion by President Temer to replace the prosecutor, Rodrigo Janot, who is leading the corruption investigation against him. The court agrees with its decision. Temer claims that Janot in the process against him violated his legal and constitutional powers. Janot formally accuses the president of violating lawsuits, bribery and leading a criminal organization. For the case to proceed to Congress, the Supreme Court must give its approval. And in order for it to be a trial, two-thirds of the Chamber of Deputies must vote for Temer to be suspended from office. At the same time, the president has record low opinion figures, as his support is down to 5 percent. FIn addition to the president, the indictment includes six other high-ranking politicians, including Temer’s chief of staff Eliseu Padilha. However, Janot will not be able to run the case himself when he leaves his post on September 18.

Many millionaires are arrested in corruption, following HD decisions

September 10

Joesley Batista, multi-millionaire and one of the owners of JBS, the world’s largest meat packaging company (see May 2017), is arrested along with Ricardo Saud, former head of the holding company J&F Investimentos, after a ruling in the Supreme Court. This is done after a decision by one of the Supreme Court judges, which cancels the immunity from prosecution previously negotiated by the parties. This is done at the request of the Prosecutor Rodrigo Janot since a new tape recording, which is believed to have been submitted to the Prosecutor by mistake, suggesting that Batista and Saud have been assisted by former Prosecutor Marcelo Miller ahead of the prosecution hearing in May. They should also have discussed crimes that are not covered by the previous settlement. Later, another JBS manager, Wesley Batista, who is also brother of Joesley, is arrested.

Prosecution is brought against Lula and Rousseff

September 5

Brazil’s state prosecutor Rodrigo Janot is prosecuting former presidents Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff as well as six other members of the Labor Party for forming a criminal organization aimed at misusing funds from the oil company Petrobras. The charges are linked to the corruption scandal involving the procurement of contracts between the country’s largest construction companies and Petrobras during the period 2002 to 2016. Part of the money has gone to bribe politicians. This is the first time Rousseff has been indicted in a criminal case while Lula has already been convicted in a case that has been appealed (see July 2017). According to the new indictment, Lula was the leader of the criminal organization, whose members have received a total of $ 480 million in bribes. Both ex-presidents refuse crime.


Reserves are opened for mining

August 24th

President Temer announces that a protected area in the Amazon should be opened for mining. The so-called Renca reserve, to the surface as a tenth of Sweden, was established in 1984 and is believed to be rich in gold and copper, among other things. The criticism of the plans will be harsh, but the government claims that neither the environment nor the people of origin in the area are threatened. After a week, the order is temporarily suspended in court on the grounds that the decision must be taken by Congress.

Ex-President Collor is charged with corruption

22 August

Senator Fernando Collor de Mello, who was president from 1990-1992, is accused of receiving the equivalent of around $ 9 million in bribes and is charged with “passive corruption”, money laundering and blackmail. The Supreme Court has unanimously decided to give the go-ahead despite the prosecution immunity Collor enjoys as a senator. Collor is the third senator to be prosecuted under the Petrobrass scandal. The crime must have been committed between 2010 and 2014 and involve transactions in a subsidiary of Petrobras.

The president does not have a trial

August 2

Congress votes against putting President Temer on trial for corruption, with numbers 263–227. A two-thirds majority was required to get the Supreme Court to raise the case. The vote is preceded by an upset debate and chaotic scenes where members were pushed and threw fake notes at each other.


Military should fight crime

July 28

The Armed Forces deploy 8,500 soldiers to fight organized crime in the state of Rio de Janeiro: They will be joined by 1,500 police. Violence has risen sharply in the state where over 90 police officers have been killed in the service just this year. President Temer has now issued a decree for the military to stay in Rio de Janeiro year-round.

Ex-President Lula is sentenced to prison

July 12

Lula da Silva (President 2003–2011) is sentenced to 9.5 years in prison for corruption. According to the judgment, his wife was given access to a luxury apartment by a construction company, in exchange for the company being awarded a contract for the oil company Petrobras. Lula denies the crime and claims that the charges are aimed at preventing him from running for president in the 2018 presidential election. He remains on hold pending the appeal. However, a judge decides that his assets should be frozen until further notice. This applies to apartments, cars, land and a bank deposit with nearly $ 200,000.

Former minister is arrested on charges of corruption

July 4th

A former minister, Geddel Vieira Lima, with close ties to President Temer, is arrested in connection with a police investigation into corruption in a state-controlled bank, Caixa Economica Federal.


The President is charged with bribery

June 27

The prosecutor decides to prosecute President Michel Temer for taking bribes. He is accused of receiving money from the head of the meat giant JBS (see also May 2017). The Congress will now decide whether or not the case will be tried in the Supreme Court.

US stops meat imports

June 23rd

The US decides to stop all imports of meat from Brazil, due to concerns about the quality of the meat following the disclosures made in March. At that time, the US did not impose a ban on imports, but instead carried out strict controls.

Scientists warn of the dam construction

June 14

An international research team warns that plans to build 428 water ponds in the Amazon – three times more than what already exists – pose a serious threat to the environment. The dam construction can also pose a threat to the water resources in the region, the researchers said.

Ex-governor gets jail for corruption

June 13th

Yet another beast falls into the Petrobras scandal when Rio de Janeiro’s former Governor Sérgio Cabral is sentenced to 14 years in prison for corruption and money laundering. Cabral, who has been detained since November 2016, is a member of the PMDB and served as governor for two terms, 2007–2014. He is later convicted of a number of other corruption offenses to what total will be 180 years in prison.

Judgment gives Temer respite

June 9

The Supreme Court of Justice votes with the numbers 4–3 for not invalidating the results of the 2014 presidential election and thus President Temer can be temporarily exhaled. The opposite result would have probably meant that he had to resign, as he was Dilma Rousseff’s vice presidential candidate in the election. A few days earlier, the Electoral Court had reopened an investigation into whether illegal funding determined the outcome of the 2014 election.

The recession is over

June 1st

The economy is reported to have grown by 1 percent during the first quarter of the year, and thus the longest recession in Brazil’s history is over. Growth has been negative for two years, with the economy shrinking by 8 percent. A record harvest of soybeans has now contributed to the turnaround. But economists warn that it is too early to blow the danger: 14 million people are unemployed and the increased political uncertainty surrounding President Temer means that developments are uncertain. The stock market crashed when the suspicions against him became public.


Violent protests against the government

24th of May

The bribery charges against Temer trigger extensive protests. In Brazil, tens of thousands of protesters demand that the president resign and the election is announced, and that austerity policies are scrapped. The protests are violent, several department buildings are vandalized and the police use tear gas and rubber-coated bullets to stop the protesters. Finally, through a decree, Temer implements the military to protect public buildings in Brasilia, supported by a law-and-order guarantee that can be used when the police are under pressure. However, the decree raises strong criticism both from the opposition and from the local authorities in Brasilia, who say they have not been informed, and are already lifted the following day.

Temer tries to stop the investigation

May 20

President Temer sends a written request to the Supreme Court to close the investigation against him, which concerns corruption and obstruction of justice. His lawyers claim that the recording is of no value as evidence when edited 70 times. After a few days, however, Temer changes and wants the investigation to continue, so that he can be cleansed.

Bribery charges against Temer

May 17

President Temer is drawn into a bribe when the magazine O Globo reports that there are recordings where he discusses bribes to the now incarcerated former Speaker Eduardo Cunha for keeping him quiet. The recordings must have been made by brothers Joesley and Wesley Batista, owners of the world’s largest meat producer JBS. The President dismisses the allegations, but the very next day the Supreme Court announces that there is sufficient evidence to investigate the allegations.

Zika is no longer an acute threat

May 11

The national emergency that happened due to the zika virus ceases when the number of new cases has decreased by 95 percent compared to 2016. Between January and April, 8,000 new cases were found, compared with 170,000 in the same period the year before.

The Fundai chief dismissed

May 5th

The head of Fundai, which handles issues pertaining to indigenous peoples, gets fired. Antonio Costa himself says that the reason is that he was “too honest” and that he defended the rights of the urinals. According to Costa, he has refused to employ 20 people recommended by the government because “they have never seen a resident of their lives”. Funai has cut its budget by more than 40 percent. The Ministry of Justice dismisses the allegations and says the agency needs a “more efficient” management. Human rights organizations have raised alarms about a sharp increase in attacks on indigenous peoples in Brazil.


General strike against pension reforms

April 28

The first general strike of over two decades is held in protest of the government’s plans to raise the retirement age for civil servants, and other changes in pension systems and labor law. Schools are kept closed in many places and public transport in big cities is at a standstill. Demonstrations are also held in many parts of the country. The protest is the most widespread against the Temer government so far.

Indigenous people protest in Brasilia

26th of April

Thousands of indigenous peoples’ representatives are demonstrating in the capital with demands for strengthened rights against farmers and forest companies that infringe on their lands. Clashes with police occur. According to the campaign leaders, 13 Indians were killed in connection with land conflicts in 2016.

New bribery investigations against top politicians

April 11

The Petrobrass scandal is screwed up yet another lap when a judge orders investigations against 108 people, including nine ministers and a large number of congressmen. Among the suspects are President Temer’s chief of staff, a former mayor of Rio de Janeiro and four former presidents.


Ex-President sentenced to prison

March 30

Former House Speaker Eduardo Cunha is sentenced to 15 years and 4 months in prison for corruption, money laundering and tax evasion.

Meat scandal strikes against trade

March 17

In a comprehensive police operation, it is revealed that meat packing companies have sold substandard and rotten meat for years. As a result, China and Hong Kong temporarily halt all beef and chicken imports from Brazil, and the EU is also considering measures.

The recession the worst so far

March 7

Brazil is in the deepest decline since it began to measure, according to new figures. The economy shrank by 3.6 percent in 2016, which means it is now 8 percent lower than in December 2014. Unemployment is estimated at 12.6 percent. The country has been hit hard by falling commodity prices on the world market, while the economic crisis is frightening investors.


The Foreign Minister resigns

February 23

In yet another setback for President Temer, 74-year-old Foreign Minister José Serra announces that he is leaving his post, for health reasons. A total of six ministers and another close employee have now resigned since Temer took office.

New President appointed

February 1st

The Senate appoints the businessman and millionaire Eunício Oliveira as new president, although he is also under investigation in the Petrobras scandal. The election is a victory for Temer as Oliveira is close ally and has a central role in PMDB. Outgoing Speaker Calheiros assumes Oliveira’s previous role as PMDB’s leader in the Senate (see also December 2016).


Breakthrough in the corruption investigation

30th of January

Police seize an eager business mogul, Eike Batista, who returns to the country from New York. Batista, who has been known as Brazil’s richest man, is accused of paying $ 16.5 million in bribes to former Rio de Janeiro Governor Sérgio Cabral, who himself is in jail. The same day that Batista is arrested, it is also announced that 77 testimonies linked to Odebrecht were formally approved by HD, which is regarded as an important step in the investigation of the entire major corruption scandal. The testimony points to leading politicians from all three major parties, including President Temer. They are also believed to contain charges against two leading presidential candidates ahead of the 2018 election: Lula and Aécio Neves.

HD judge dies in plane crash

January 19

The judge of the Supreme Court, Teori Zavascki, the chief responsible for the Petrobras investigation, dies when his plan crashes into the sea off Paraty in the south. The opposition suspects that a crime could be behind the crash. Zavascki led the investigation of, among others, Odebrecht, the building conglomerate, which acknowledged that it paid $ 1 billion in bribes to secure contracts in twelve countries. The HD judge Edson Fachin is later elected to replace Zavascki as the main responsible for the huge corruption investigation. Justice Minister Alexandre de Moraes is nominated a few weeks later as a new HD judge.

Military is deployed after prison riots

January 17

Since a third violent prison riot occurred in January, outside the city of Natal in the Northeast, the government is ordering the defense to help guard the country’s overcrowded prisons. The recent outbreak of violence demanded the life of 26 prisoners. Earlier this month, around 60 interns were killed in Manaus in the Amazon. A few days later, over 30 prisoners were killed in a prison in Roraima. The violence, which has been extremely brutal in all three cases, is said to be part of a fight between criminal gangs over control of cocaine trafficking. President Temer has announced that the equivalent of $ 250 million will be invested in building new prisons.

Record trade surplus

January 2

Brazil notes a foreign trade surplus of the equivalent of $ 48 million in 2016. The reason is that imports fell even more than the declining exports, mainly of oil, cars and sugar.

Violent prison riot

January 2

Some 60 interns are killed in a very violent clash between rival gangs at a prison in Manaus in the state of the Amazon. Close to 200 manage to escape in connection with the rally, but many are soon captured again. A few days later, over 30 prisoners are killed in a similar brutal clash in a prison in the state of Roraima.

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