Coming to Brazil with kids always leads to the question: “how is their education going to be like?”. Brazil offers several options for different preferences (and pockets!). Learn what your options are and what are their advantages and disadvantages.
A general overview of the Brazilian educational system
Generally speaking, the Brazilian educational system can be divided in two main categories: private and public. If we are talking about basic schooling (primary, middle and high school), private schools tend to be better than public ones; if we are talking about technical schools and universities, the public ones tend to be very prestigious and respected.
What happens in Brazil is a switch: those students who went to private schools are admitted into public technical schools and universities while those who went to public schools end up at the private ones.
Businessmen coming to Brazil will rarely have their kids going to a public school. The main reason why is that a great majority of the students (if not all of them) will only speak Portuguese and the structure of public schools in Brazil is very poor. Problems like violence, robbery, overcrowded classrooms, lack of material and even of teachers are constantly reported.
Day care centers
Just like it happens with regular schools, Brazil has public and private day care centers. Public day care centers are mostly overcrowded and only one out of 10 children who sign for the service actually get the vacancy. Unless you have been living in Brazil for quite a while now, this is not an option as these schools have no preparation for foreign kids.
In most cases, it is hard to find a day care center with English-speaking staff, so you should try to learn some Portuguese in order to deal with the day care center. Some schools offer you the option of staying with your child for a period of time (usually from two to four weeks) called “adaptation period”.
Some expats living in Brazil complain that Brazilian kids rule their parents, who do anything they want. This means that many Brazilian kids eat whatever they want and when they want it (it is common to have Brazilian kids eating candy 10 minutes before going to bed); that they do not have a strict bedtime (most Brazilian kids go to bed late at night); Brazilians are very loud kids who yell at their parents and have temper tantrums to get what they want. Okay, this is not exclusive for Brazilian kids, but based on my personal experience with Brazilian day care centers and on the report of some expats parents living in Brazil, this is what concerns them the most.
Once your babies and toddlers are in Brazil and you need them to go to a day care center, there is no way to avoid that they will become a little bit Brazilian. They will learn to behave the way other kids behave and this is where parents start to worry. If you are staying in Brazil for a longer period of time, it is hard to avoid that your kids will get in touch with some aspects of the Brazilian culture and education, even if you take your kids to international daycare centers which, by the way, are very expensive, charging monthly fees of BRL 5.000,00.
Two major differences between Brazilians and some foreign kids is the amount of times they shower and how huggy and kissy the instructors can be. Brazilian kids are mostly very clean. In urban areas, they very rarely play in the dirt and shower every day, sometimes twice. If you have your child for a full time period in a Brazilian day care center, be sure that he/she will shower at least once a day, regardless on weather conditions. Also, the day care center staff will have your child wearing layers and layers of clothes in an 18ºC temperature.
Another cultural difference that is clearly reflected in the way Brazilians are educated is how huggy and kissy they are. It is not uncommon to see the staff of the day care center hugging or kissing your kid. The perception of how much physical contact is allowed changes a lot from culture to culture and what in Brazil is seen as a demonstration of affection can be seen as pedophilia by foreigners.
Middle and high school
Brazil has got a decent range of international and bilingual schools. However, these schools are mostly located in major cities, bringing difficulties for parents living away from major urban areas. International schools in Brazil are very, very expensive. Annual fees can reach BRL 35.000,00.
Foreigners complain that kids unlearn their grammar and tend to acquire an American accent as most international schools have Americans as their teachers. Also, as these schools are very expensive, your kids will spend a great amount of their time with the richest kids in the area, what can be both a positive or a negative thing, depending on the kind of education you want your kids to have.
With only a few exceptions, Brazilian universities have no formal assistance to foreigners. Of course, there are exchange programs, especially in public universities, but with the exception of language courses, classes will only be taught in Portuguese.
So if you have kids who are about to go to college and they have to do it in Brazil, make sure that they learn Portuguese first. In Brazil, admission is made through a test whose difficulty level varies according to the university. This test is mandatory and with the exception of some colleges, it is only available in Portuguese, so it is mandatory to feel comfortable with this language.
Those who already have a college degree will find more information in our article “Validation of foreign diploma in Brazil”.
Is an international school the best option?
First of all: there is a difference between international and bilingual schools. International schools have a curriculum equivalent to the country of origin. So, for example, if you are American and your child goes to an international school in Brazil, he/she will be able to go to college in the US. Bilingual schools are not equal to foreign schools, they only have classes taught in both Portuguese and a foreign language, mostly English, French and German.
As previously mentioned, the problem with these schools is that, besides being very expensive, the language taught here will never be the same as the foreigner’s country of origin, so expect your child to acquire a funny accent, especially because these schools tend to have several Brazilians and foreigners from different parts of the world.
Also, some schools charge an additional fee called “capital endowment fee” that ranges from BRL 2.000,00 to BRL 5.000,00. Even if your child already speaks the language perfectly, no discount will be offered.
Here is a list of some International schools in different Brazilian cities:
- Amazon Valley Academy
Belo Horizonte, MG
- Escola Americana de Belo Horizonte
- International School of Curitiba
- American School of Brasilia
- SIS Swiss International School
- Brasilia International School
- Amazonas English Academy
Porto Alegre, RS
- Pan American School of Porto Alegre
- American School of Recife
Rio de Janeiro, RJ
- American School of Rio de Janeiro
- The British School of Rio de Janeiro
- Pan American School of Bahia
- St. Francis College
- Escola Americana de Campinas
- St. Paul’s School
- Pan American Christian Academy
- The American Elementary and High School