Organization and Structure

Education is divided into three levels, with grades in each level:
Pre-school education (educação infantil)
Basic education (ensino básico) is free and mandatory for those between the ages of 4 and 17.9. It consists of Fundamental Education I and II, equivalent to primary school, and middle education (ensino médio), equivalent to secondary school.
Higher Education (Ensino Superior) (including graduate degrees) is free at public universities.
Private institutions are also found in Brazil.

Child education (educação infantil)
Pre-school education is optional and exists to aid in the development of children under 6. It aims to assist in all areas of child development, including motor skills, cognitive skills, and social skills while providing fertile ground for the later acquisition of knowledge and learning. There are day nurseries for children under 2, kindergartens for 2- to 3-year-olds, and preschools for children 4 and up. Public preschools are provided by city governments.

Fundamental education is mandatory for children ages 6-14. There are nine "years" (as opposed to the former eight "grades"). The current "first year" broadly corresponds to the former pre-school last year of private institutions, and its aim is to achieve literacy. Generally speaking, the only prerequisite for enrolling in first year is that a child should be 6 years old, but some education systems allow children younger than 6 to enroll in first year (as long as they turn 6 during the first academic semester). Older students who have not completed their fundamental education are allowed to attend, though those over 18 are separated from the younger children.

The Federal Council of Education (Conselho Federal de Educação) establishes a core curriculum consisting of Portuguese language, history, geography, science, mathematics, arts and physical education (for years 2, 3, 4 and 5). As for years 6, 7, 8 and 9, one or two foreign languages are also compulsory (usually English and an optional language).

Each education system supplements this core curriculum with a diversified curriculum defined by the needs of the region and the abilities of individual students.

Fundamental education is divided in two stages, called Ensino Fundamental I (years 1-5) and Ensino Fundamental II (years 6-9). During Ensino Fundamental I each group of students is usually assisted by a single teacher. In Ensino Fundamental II, there are as many teachers as subjects.

The length of the school year is set by the National Education Bases and Guidelines Law (Lei de Diretrizes e Bases da Educação) to at least 200 days. Fundamental schools must provide students with at least 800 hours of activities per year. The school calendar is set by individual schools which, in rural areas, often organize their calendars according to planting and harvesting seasons.

Public fundamental schools are funded by municipal and state governments. The education is similar to the British.

Secondary school (ensino médio)
Secondary education takes three years. The minimum is 2,200 hours of teaching over four years. Students must have finished their fundamental education before they enroll in ensino médio. Secondary education core curriculum comprises Portuguese (including Portuguese language, essay studies, Brazilian and Portuguese literatures), foreign language (usually English, also Spanish and very rarely French), History, Geography, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. Philosophy and Sociology, which were banned during the military dictatorship (1964-1985), have become compulsory again.

It is possible to take professional training along with mainstream secondary education. Professional training courses usually last two years and can be taken during the second and third years of secondary education. Some secondary schools provide professional training in agriculture. Such schools usually have a greater number of instructional hours per week and the complete course lasts three or four years.

Public middle schools are provided by state governments.

Higher education (ensino superior)
Secondary education is mandatory for those wishing to pursue higher education. In addition, students must pass a competitive entrance examination (known as vestibular) for their specific course of study. The number of candidates per available place in the freshman class may be in excess of 30 or 40 to one in the not so competitive courses at the top public universities. The most competitive ones excess 80 or 150. In some courses with small number of vacancies, this number can be as high as 200 (medical school, for example).

As is the case in many nations, higher education in Brazil can be divided into undergraduate and graduate work. In addition to providing education, universities promote research and provide separate classes to the community.
The standard Brazilian undergraduate degree, styled "bacharelado", is awarded in most fields of arts, humanities, social sciences, mathematical sciences, or natural sciences, and normally requires four years of post-secondary studies at a certified university. Students who wish to qualify as secondary school teachers must complete a separate licentiate ("licenciatura") degree course, which, like a "bacharelado", has a normal length of four years and has a stronger emphasis on teaching methods and pedagogy.

There is a graduate in technology (whose graduates are called technologists), which emphasizes professional education geared to the labor market and the development of studies in the area of technology, especially in health, information technology, engineering, and management. The degree in technology normally requires two to four years of studies in a certified university or college. Technologists degrees are undergraduate diplomas as bachelor but with academic difference in the focus.

Five-year degrees leading to a professional diploma are awarded in select state-regulated careers such as architecture, engineering, veterinary medicine, psychology, and law. The professional degree in medicine requires in turn six years of full-time post-secondary studies. Residência, a two- to five-year internship in a teaching hospital is not required, but it is pursued by many professionals, especially those who wish to specialize in an area.

Students who hold a technology diploma, a licenciatura diploma, a bachelor's degree or a five-year professional diploma are qualified for admission into graduate school (pós-graduação). Graduate master's degrees are normally awarded following the completion of a two-year program requiring satisfactory performance in a minimum number of advanced graduate courses (typically between five and eight classes), plus the submission by the degree candidate of a master's thesis (dissertação de mestrado) that is examined by an oral panel of at least three faculty members, including at least one external examiner.

Doctoral degrees normally require four years of full-time studies during which the degree candidate is required to complete further advanced graduate coursework, pass a doctoral qualifying exam, and submit an extensive doctoral dissertation (tese de doutorado) that must represent an original and relevant contribution to knowledge in the field of study of the dissertation topic. The doctoral dissertation is examined in a final public oral exam administered by a panel of at least five faculty members, two of whom must be external examiners. Results from the dissertation are normally expected to be published in peer-reviewed journals, proceedings of international conferences, and/or in the form of books/book chapters.

There are more than 2,600 universities in Brazil, between private and public, according to MEC. Higher vocational education is in general assumed by non-university institutions and the federal Institutions for Education, Science and Technology (38 in 2008).