Education in Brazil : Study Abroad Trends

Written By Trent Lorcher

Brazilian students studying abroad in English-speaking countries is on the rise.

Education in Brazil: Study Abroad Trends

According to a survey from the Brazilian Educational and Language Travel Association (BELTA), a record number of Brazilian students studied abroad in 2018. That's an increase of more than 20% from prior years. As in previous years, Canada, the United States, the UK, Australia, and Ireland represent the most popular destinations. Additional study abroad trends include the following:

  • The top factor in study abroad choice was a favorable exchange rate, which reflects Latin America's emphasis on affordability.
  • The amount spent per student has increased by 12%.
  • Work-study opportunities play an important role in student choice.
  • Long-term professional opportunities are important--foreign language studies, international experience, the need to stand out in the job market.
  • Language studies are cited as one of the top reasons for studying abroad, with English and Spanish as the most popular. 
  • Professional course certificates and diplomas are next on the popularity list.
  • Teen summer and winter programs, undergraduate classes, high school courses, volunteer work, and internships are also popular.
  • Study abroad will continue to play a crucial role in English language acquisition for Brazilians.

Agencies play a key role in placing international students from Brazil. 14% of students enrolled directly with their destination school abroad, with the remaining 86% going through an agency. To attract study abroad students to your school, it helps to know what motivates Brazilian students. The BELTA survey reports the most important factors when choosing to study abroad.

  • Friends who have studied abroad
  • Parental influence
  • Study abroad websites and social media
  • Teachers, counselors, and other educators
  • Study abroad fairs and activities

Education in Brazil: English Language Learning 


The importance of foreign language study plays a huge role in Brazilian study abroad. Because it is surrounded by Spanish-speaking countries, Spanish is the most popular foreign language spoken in Brazil. English places second. 

In an effort to increase STEM studies, Brazil launched its Science without Borders program in 2011. As a result, Brazil's education leaders discovered a deficiency in English language skills. This led to the launching of its Language without Borders program. The program has led to broader TOEFL testing and higher interest in English language studies. The increased testing has helped educators pinpoint which aspects of teaching English need to be improved. 

The arrival of the World Cup in 2014 prompted an initiative to bring English language learning to those working in the tourism industry. The program allowed workers to enroll in 160 hours of English or Spanish language training. Brazilian officials extended the program through the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio and brought about a national increase in English language proficiency.

A recent report from the British Council reports the following regarding English language learning in Brazil:

  • 82% of those who don't speak English expressed a desire to learn English for employment advancement.
  • The top two reasons cited for not learning English are cost and a lack of time.
  • Education level and finances correlate strongly with English proficiency.
  • The financial and professional sectors require English more so than regionalized professions, such as real estate, construction, and engineering.
  • Older generations view English as a luxury. Younger generations are coming to view it as more of a necessity.

Education in Brazil: The Brazilian School System

The education in Brazil is decentralized with regions having a strong influence over the curriculum. The national government's Ministry of Education provides guidelines and funding while letting individual states enforce and interpret the guidelines.

Brazilian students go through three progressive stages.

  • Elementary and lower secondary school (ages 7-14). This is free, compulsory education for Brazilian children.
  • Upper secondary school. This level is also free, but not mandatory. Upper secondary school is required for those wishing to attend a college or university.
  • Post-secondary schools. Brazilians must complete an exam to be admitted to a university or college. Post-secondary options include technical schools.
  • In addition to the 3 progressive levels of education, preschool is popular for those ages 3-6.

Understanding education in Brazil and what motivates study abroad students from Brazil will help your school position itself as a destination for Brazilian international students.

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About the author

Trent Lorcher has taught high school English for 19 years. In addition to hosting a foreign exchange student from China, he's traveled extensively, including 18 months in Central America, 2 years in Italy, and additional time in Mexico, France, Morocco, and Spain. He dreams of one day retiring to Spain with his beautiful bride in a place big enough for their 5 kids to visit.

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