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School attendance in Brazil

Brazil is the largest and most populous country in South America. The Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) estimates that the population of Brazil grew to 190 million in 2008. The World Bank ranks Brazil as the world's tenth largest economy with a gross domestic product (GDP) of $1.3 trillion in 2007.

Brazil has achieved high levels of school attendance and literacy. The UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) estimates that 94 percent of all children of primary school age were enrolled in primary school in 2005, the latest year with data. The youth literacy rate, for persons aged 15 to 24 years, was 99 percent in 2007 according to the UIS. Among the adult population aged 15 years and older, 91 percent were literate in 2007. In contrast, in 1980 only 75 percent of the adult population of Brazil could read and write.

The patterns of school attendance in Brazil can be studied in greater detail with data from the 2006 National Household Sample Survey (Pesquisa Nacional por Amostra de DomicĂ­lios, PNAD). The survey collected data on current and past school attendance for all household members, regardless of age. For the analysis that follows, the levels of education in the PNAD data were recoded to match the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) of 1997. Five levels of education are identified:
  • Pre-primary education
  • Primary education
  • Secondary education
  • Tertiary education
  • Adult literacy programs
Adult literacy programs are not part of the ISCED classification but they play an important role in Brazil and are therefore included as a separate group. The graph below illustrates current school attendance by age and level of education for the population aged 0 to 30 years. The number at the top of each bar is the percent of persons of a particular age that are currently in school. For example, 97 percent of all 7-year-olds were in school at the time of the survey; the majority attended primary school but more than 10 percent of all 7-year-olds were still in preschool.

The official school ages in Brazil are indicated along the horizontal axis. The official entrance age for pre-primary education is 4 years, primary education begins at 7 years, and secondary education at 11 years. Education is compulsory for all children aged 7 to 14 years.

Brazil: Current school attendance by age and level of education, 2006
Level of education attended for persons 0 to 30 years, Brazil 2006
Data source: Brazil National Household Sample Survey (PNAD), 2006.

The PNAD data show that many young children in Brazil attend pre-primary education. Two thirds of all children between 4 and 6 years are in preschool or day care. The laws on compulsory education have the desired effect and almost all children between 7 and 14 years are in fact in school. The attendance rates in this age group range from 94 percent among 14-year-olds to 99 percent among 8- to 11-year-olds. Among children of secondary school age, the attendance rate drops steadily from 99 percent at age 11 to 74 percent at age 17. About 8 percent of 18-year-olds are in tertiary education. University attendance rates reach a peak of 15 percent among 20- to 22-year-olds.

Overage school attendance is relatively common in Brazil and many children older than 10 years are still in primary school. Persons up to and beyond age 30 attend secondary education. These high levels of primary and secondary school attendance among the older population are partly a result of a system of education that offers persons who dropped out of school an opportunity to continue their education later in life. Adult literacy programs reach a relatively small part of the population but they contribute to the high level of literacy in Brazil. About 0.5 to 1 percent of the population between 30 and 75 years participate in programs that teach reading and writing.

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Friedrich Huebler, 8 November 2008 (edited 24 January 2009), Creative Commons License
Permanent URL: http://huebler.blogspot.com/2008/11/brazil.html

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