Education styles – Part 1 – My take on the Brazilian Education

Updated: Mar 31

January 13th, 2021

Nikolas Zetouni


I was born and raised in Brazil, in a small city of 120,000 people called Guaratingueta. I attended private school from grades 1-12, but most of my friends were from the public system of education. Then I did my BSc in a private University in another city of 310,000 people. Both were very different experiences, but they have the same cultural context embedded on them. Thus the reason for this article. I will be sharing my take on my education from back home (part 1), my education in Canada (part 2) and do a very pro and cons analysis of both experiences (part 3).

Understanding the Collective culture

As most Latin-American countries, Brazil has a collectivist culture. That means that the good of the group beats the good of one person. Or so that is what you will read in articles from North America and Europe. Reality is, the cultural standard in Brazil is… individuals SHOULD blend into the norm (for pretty much everything) or be castaways (my case most of my life :D). For example, education curriculum is the same across the country. The patterns for your typical male or female rarely vary from different states. Even what is expected from a typical student is well defined from K to PhD. The 2 things I want to focus on are the education in the Formal and Social education.

Formal education

It does not matter if you are attending a public or private school, the national curriculum, number of daily hours in school and the teachers and students expectations are the same. The positive outlook is that being good or bad at school depends only on students (since all students will learn the same thing across the board). Unfortunately, that leaves little room for variation. Students are not encouraged to explore other areas besides the national curriculum. Schools do not offer extra curricular courses. The consequence is, schools in Brazil massively manufacture students that are exactly the same. Students are responsible for being different, but they can’t be too different otherwise they will be castaways from their friends and their classmates.

A positive side is that the national curriculum is broad. Students will learn Science (physics, chemistry and biology), Humanities (national and world geography, history, literature, Portuguese and English languages) as well as Math. That makes it fairly easy for students to understand the big picture and connect the dots of different areas for a specific purpose (bio-physics is a subject and easy to understand since students learned physics and biology during high school). The same concept applies to higher education. Only a few institutions in Brazil offer the credit system as we know in North America. In my case, a biologist from a private or public university will have little, if any, variation in what is learned, because the country wants all biologists to get out of university with broad but the same knowledge. In a nutshell, Brazilian students are generalists, and can easily navigate from different areas of knowledge since they learn them all during their education.

Social education