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The Education System in Brazil

Figure A-3. Levels of education in Brazil, by age and year of schooling: 2013

Levels of education in Brazil, by age and year of schooling: 2013

NOTE: Education levels are defined according to the 1997 International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED97). Ages represent the typical age at the beginning of the school year. Numbers in bold print indicate ages of universal enrollment (i.e., an enrollment rate of over 90 percent). Numbers highlighted represent the age at which compulsory enrollment begins through the age at which compulsory enrollment ends. No meaning should be inferred from width of subdivisions. Duration of first university degree program is generally 4 years in Brazil.
SOURCE: UNESCO International Bureau of Education, "World Data on Education: Brazil," Retrieved April 1, 2013, from
pdf-versions/Brazil.pdf; World Education Services, "World Education Profiles: Brazil," Retrieved on April 1, 2013, from


  • Common name: Educação infantil (preschool education), including crèches and pré-escolas
  • Ages of attendance:
    • Crèches—through age 3
    • Pré-escolas—4 to 5
  • Number of years: Varies, but up to 4
  • Start of universal enrollment: Does not begin in preprimary; see below
  • Compulsory: No


  • Common name: Ensino fundamental I
  • Ages of attendance: 6 to 10
  • Number of years: 5
  • Start of universal enrollment: Age 6
  • Universal enrollment: Yes
  • Compulsory: Yes, begins at 6

NOTE: In Brazil, it is mandatory for children to go to school from age 6 to 14. Children under the age of 6 may be enrolled as long as they turn 6 in the first semester. These compulsory 9 years of education are known as "fundamental education" (ensino fundamental) and are divided into levels I and II.

Lower secondary:

  • Common name: Ensino fundamental II
  • Ages of attendance: 11 through 14
  • Number of years: 4
  • Universal enrollment: Yes
  • Compulsory: Yes
  • Entrance/exit criteria: Under the state system, an exam is given to all pupils at the end of each academic year to determine whether they will move on to the next year or be held back to repeat a year. Thus, the age mixture is often quite varied.

NOTE: The normal practice in Brazilian schools, both public and private, is to mix all academic levels together in the same class.

Upper secondary:

  • Common name: Ensino médio (intermediate)
  • Ages of attendance: 15 through 17
  • Number of years: 3
  • Universal enrollment: Through age 15
  • Compulsory: No4
  • Entrance/exit criteria: A student who has completed the ensino fundamental can access secondary education without taking an entrance examination.

NOTE: Although not compulsory, upper secondary schooling is considered part of basic education. The Brazilian government separates technical education from secondary schools; thus, technical education is outside of the formal ensino médio. Students who complete basic vocational training at the secondary level receive a Certificado de Habilitaçáo Básico (Certificate of Basic Training), which enables them to take a university entrance examination, enter the job market, or undergo further technical training leading to a Diploma de Técnico de Nivel Medio (Diploma of Intermediate-Level Technician) or Diploma de Técnico de 2º Grau (Diploma of Technician of the Second Level).

Postsecondary and tertiary:

  • Common name: Ensino superior (higher education)
  • Ages of attendance: Varies
  • Number of years: Varies according to degree
  • Universal enrollment: No
  • Entrance criteria: Historically, to enter a public university, students had to take an entrance exam, known as the Vestibular (the same exam was not required for private universities). Though the Vestibular is the most traditional means to assess students' knowledge gained in secondary school, and some universities still use it, the middle school national exam (Enem) and the secondary school periodic evaluation are other ways for students to enter higher education programs. The Enem is a voluntary examination for those finishing secondary school and is now widely used for students applying to public or private universities. The secondary school periodic evaluation takes place in a progressive manner, with tests taken at the end of each secondary school grade.

NOTE: Higher education is provided at two levels of study: graduate and postgraduate. The latter includes both lato sensu (refresher courses, further education, or specialization courses) and stricto sensu (master's and doctoral programs). Higher education is provided by higher education institutes and universities. High-level training of professionals for one or more professions or careers is provided mainly by nonuniversity institutions. Universities must promote basic and applied research, as well as provide services to the community in the form of courses and other extension activities.

Common degree programs:

  • Vocational/technical certificates and degrees: Certificado de Conclusâo de 2º Grau (Certificate of Conclusion of Second Level); Certificado de Habilitaçáo Básico (Certificate of Basic Training); Diploma de Técnico de Nivel Medio (Diploma of Intermediate-Level Technician); Diploma de Técnico de 2º Grau (Diploma of Technician of the Second Level); Certificado de Auxiliar Técnico (Certificate of echnical Assistant).
  • Bachelor's degree (Graduação): 4-year postsecondary program that requires up to 2,400 study hours.
  • Teaching licensure (Licenciatura): After completing a bachelor's degree program, students can take an additional 1 year of lecture courses for a teaching specialization.
  • Professional degree (Título Profissional): 5-year degree awarded for professional careers such as architecture, engineering, veterinary science, medicine, and law.
  • Master's degree (Mestrado): Graduate programs at a university requiring 2 years beyond the bachelor's degree.
  • Doctoral degree (Doutorado): Requires a minimum of 2 years following the master's degree.


Anglo Info. Brazil: The School System. Retrieved April 1, 2013, from

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (2013a). Education at a Glance 2013: OECD Indicators. Paris: Author.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, International Bureau of Education. (2010). World Data on Education, 2010/11 (7th edition). Profile on Brazil. Paris: Author. Retrieved April 1, 2013, from pdf-versions/Brazil.pdf.

World Education Services. Brazil: Educational Review. Retrieved April 1, 2013, from


4 The duration of compulsory education is currently 9 years (ending at age 15, as shown here and in the accompanying figure A-3). However, a 2009 constitutional amendment mandated that, by 2016, compulsory education be extended to age 17. Indicator 2 reports the latter figure and so will differ from the information presented here.