- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Sao Paulo Guide (PDF)
Expats will find that there are many options when it comes to education and schools in São Paulo. As a multicultural melting pot, the city has a variety of schools catering to a multitude of nationalities and education levels.
Public schools in São Paulo
Public schooling in São Paulo is free to all permanent residents and is compulsory between the ages of six and 14. São Paulo's public education system boasts more than 1,500 schools throughout the city.
The standard of education at public schools in São Paulo varies. It often depends on the area and suburb of a particular school. Children attending public schools will usually go to the school closest to their place of residence. Parents wishing to enrol their child in a public school need to visit the school in person to start the registration process.
Due to the high demand for space, schools in São Paulo typically run three separate school sessions per day to accommodate all the students, but children are only required to attend one session per day.
Classes at public schools in São Paulo are taught in Portuguese, so parents wanting to enrol their child in a public school will need to consider this option carefully.
See Education and Schools in Brazil for more information on the country's public education system.
Private schools in São Paulo
São Paulo's private schools generally follow the Brazilian national curriculum. Some private schools have a Christian foundation, and many offer bilingual instruction. Some expats prefer to send their children to these schools due to the higher standard of education compared to public schools and lower fees compared to international schools. As classes may be predominantly taught in Portuguese, children should have at least some proficiency in the language.
International schools in São Paulo
International schools in São Paulo follow a variety of international curricula, including British, American, Japanese, French, German and Italian. They are usually sponsored in some way by their home governments. Some international schools in São Paulo are locally run and offer the Brazilian curriculum. Many of these schools also offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma.
As the demand for a place at international schools is high, parents are advised to begin the application process as soon as possible. Some schools may have vaccination requirements, so parents are encouraged to keep their children's records up-to-date to expedite the application process.
While fees at some of the best international schools in São Paulo can be pretty expensive, most of these institutions will have first-class facilities and teaching standards. Added to the already high cost of living in São Paulo, international school fees can stretch an expat's budget to the limit. It is therefore vital that anyone moving to São Paulo with school-aged children ensure they factor this in when negotiating their relocation contract.
On top of the hefty fees, other expenses may include textbooks and stationery, extra-curricular activities, uniforms and school lunches. Most private schools contract private bus companies to transport children to and from school, which is an additional expense that parents will have to contribute to.
As can be expected in such a densely populated and sprawling city, heavy traffic congestion can affect commute times to and from school. Expats should therefore carefully consider their proximity to their child's school when deciding where to live in São Paulo. The top schools tend to be in the more affluent areas, where housing will be expensive.
Other factors to consider include the language of instruction, general academic standards and the quality of the school's facilities and extra-curricular programmes offered. It is a good idea to visit the school in person to request a tour and meet with the headteacher to have any questions answered.
Special-needs education in São Paulo
In São Paulo, as in Brazil as a whole, state-supplied resources for children with special needs are very limited, and any support that does exist is offered in Portuguese. Such services are easier to find, and often in English, at international schools. The level of support and cost involved does vary from school to school. Parents are advised to research options thoroughly to ensure their children will be well catered for.
Tutors in São Paulo
Bustling São Paulo is replete with tutors and tutoring companies to choose from. Expats and locals alike can benefit in many ways from hiring a tutor. For example, even those with some knowledge of European Portuguese may not find it as easy to pick up Brazilian Portuguese as expected. A tutor is an ideal way to bridge the gap in these cases.
For students, tutors can help them 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 transport and driving in the city in Getting Around in São Paulo
"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 Sao Paulo?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Sao Paulo. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
If you’re thinking about taking out private health insurance, our trusted partner Cigna Global is very aware of all the difficulties that expats can face when it comes to healthcare in a new location, so they have created a range of international health insurance plans specifically designed for expats, which you can tailor exactly to the needs and ensure access to quality care for you and your family.
Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.