People and Society, Education
Tocantins, school falls, official primary, federal expenditures, University of Rio
Primary education is compulsory between the ages of 7 and 14; secondary education lasts for four years. Education is free in official primary and secondary schools. There was a major reform of education in 1971 that provided a basic education of eight years, with a common core of studies. Students may then continue on to pursue training for employment or higher education. Despite provisions in the 1988 Constitution decreeing federal expenditures for education, schooling remains underfunded and considerable variations exist in opportunity between urban and rural children, among the nation’s regions, and among social class.
The proportion of children attending school falls with age. While almost all children between the ages of 7 and 14 years of age are in school, the share of secondary school-aged children enrolled falls to 83 percent. Female participation in secondary education, at 89 percent, is higher than that for males, at 76 percent. The level of adult literacy is similar for both sexes. In 1950 only half of the population over 15 years of age was literate. Despite a literacy campaign begun in 1971, the current level is just 93 percent. Literacy levels vary regionally and between rural and urban areas. Illiteracy is highest—around 40 percent—in the Northeast, which has a high proportion of rural poor. The 1991 census revealed that 19 percent of the urban population over the age of 10 were illiterate, as opposed to 46 percent of the rural population.
The University of Rio de Janeiro was Brazil’s first university, created out of separate faculties in 1920. The University of Sao Paulo followed in 1934. In 1994 there were 127 universities. Each state (except the newest, Tocantins) has a federal university, and there are several in the states of Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, and Rio Grande do Sul. There are state universities in most of the states of the Northeast, Southeast, and South. The Roman Catholic Church also has some universities, and there are more than 50 private universities, many of them in Sao Paulo state.
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