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Despite concerted efforts by the local government, public education and schools in Rio de Janeiro face high exam failure and dropout rates. The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated dropout rates as classes moved online, and some students could not attend.
For this reason, as well as the fact that classes in Rio's public schools are taught in Portuguese, the majority of expats living in Rio de Janeiro choose to send their children to private or international schools.
Public schools in Rio de Janeiro
Education at public schools in Rio de Janeiro is free to all children. This includes foreign children resident in the city. All public schools are managed by the local municipality, which manages more than 1,000 schools. A standard curriculum is followed across all institutions, with classes being taught in Portuguese.
The standard of education at Brazilian public schools remains low. Schools often have issues involving overcrowding and shortages of materials and teaching staff. Due to the demand for space and to accommodate the high number of students, Rio schools often run three separate school sessions per day: in the morning, afternoon and evening. Children will attend one session per day. Occasionally, private schools in Rio may also follow this pattern.
Private schools in Rio de Janeiro
Private schools in Rio de Janeiro generally follow the Brazilian national curriculum. Some private schools have a religious foundation (predominantly Catholic), while others offer bilingual instruction.
Some expats choose to send their children to these schools due to the improved quality of education compared to public schools and lower fees compared to international schools. However, as classes are predominantly taught in Portuguese, children must have at least some proficiency in the language.
International schools in Rio de Janeiro
There are a few international schools in Rio de Janeiro which follow a variety of international curricula. The majority of these schools adhere to the British and American systems and are usually sponsored in some way by their home governments. Some international schools in Rio are locally run and offer the Brazilian curriculum. Many of these schools also offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma.
The demand for places at international schools is high. So, parents are advised to begin the application process as soon as possible. Although fees at international schools in Rio de Janeiro can be high, these institutions' facilities and teaching standards are typically excellent.
On top of the high fees, other expenses may include textbooks and stationery, extra-curricular activities, uniforms and school lunches. It's therefore vital that anyone moving to Rio with school-aged children ensure that they factor this in when negotiating their relocation contract.
See our list of the best International Schools in Rio de Janeiro
Special-needs education in Rio de Janeiro
As is the case in the country as a whole, there are limited state-supplied resources for children with special needs in Rio. Any such services that do exist are in Portuguese. Private and international schools may have more support available, though this does vary between schools. Parents are advised to research options thoroughly and encouraged to enlist the services of an educational consultant who can assist with connecting them with the appropriate schools to ensure their children will be well catered for.
Tutors in Rio de Janeiro
There are countless tutors and tutor companies to choose from in Rio. Expats and locals alike can benefit in many ways from hiring a tutor. For example, even those who have some knowledge of European Portuguese may not find it as easy to pick up Brazilian Portuguese as they expected. In these cases, a tutor is an ideal way to bridge the gap.
For students, tutors can help prepare for big exams, adjust to their new curriculum, tackle a problem subject, learn Portuguese, or maintain fluency in their mother tongue.
►Learn more about the Brazilian education system in Education and Schools in Brazil
"Brazil has notoriously bad public schools, so families of means send their children to English schools or private, Catholic schools." Read more of Jennifer's expat interview.
Are you an expat living in Rio de Janeiro?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Rio de Janeiro. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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